Best Multi-site Management Platforms for Your Agency

There are plenty of reasons why your team might be in a position to manage multiple websites concurrently. In some cases, you have a major network or brand that runs disparate, but connected web properties.

In other cases, it’s because your agency or development business handles the setup, maintenance, and management of websites for numerous clients.

Regardless of the why, you’re probably interested to learn how to actually do it efficiently and effectively.

Whatever you’re doing, if it makes business sense, then you need to figure out how you can do more of it, without incurring too much “maintenance debt.”

There are likely even some major opportunities to simplify things right in front of your eyes. Are all of the sites you manage on separate hosting platforms, using different admin systems and coded with distinct frontend frameworks? Probably not, right? Then why do you find yourself reinventing the wheel every time a new project comes along?

Luckily, because many websites rely on the same mechanisms to run the backend and control what happens on the audience-facing frontend, there’s a lot of overlap in what you manage from one site to the next. That being the case, why not bring all of your websites into one platform for more efficient management of them?

In this post, we’ll be comparing the best multi-site management platforms for agencies.


WordPress Multisite

In 2010, WordPress recognized a need for multi-website management within its content management system. It was aptly named “Multisite”, and said feature allowed WordPress users to create and manage a network of websites from a single dashboard.

WordPress Multisite

Here’s what you need to know about this multi-site management platform:

  • Content Management System: WordPress.
  • Price: Free.
  • Web Hosting: Not all web hosting companies support Multisite. It’s also important to note that Multisite puts a large strain on servers. Since you manage all sites from a single installation of WordPress, all databases and files exist within it. WordPress Multisite may be free, but your hosting costs could go up exponentially depending on how many sites are added to the network.
  • Domains: By default, websites managed through Multisite will either sit on a subdomain or subdirectory of the main website. If branding is a problem, you can purchase custom domains and then map them to the network.
  • Number of Websites: Unlimited… but keep in mind the restraints of your server.
  • Number of Users: Unlimited. Just keep network admin access to those who should actually have it (i.e. each client should only have access to their own subsite).
  • Setup: Configuring WordPress Multisite isn’t something a novice user can readily do on their own, as it requires implementation of code on the backend.
  • Ease of Use: The interface is nearly the same as a basic WordPress installation, which gives this multi-site management platform a short learning curve.
  • Management Features: Create/edit/delete subdomains. Assign users and roles. Install/activate/deactivate themes and plugins on the network. Issue updates to all sites at once.

Realistically, WordPress Multisite is best for a single client or brand with a number of web properties. Local governments with subsites for different branches. Schools with subdomains for locations or departments. Publishers with unrelated brands or publications they want to connect. These are the ideal types of clients who would benefit most from Multisite.


GoDaddy Pro

For those of you familiar with WordPress multi-site management tools (which isn’t the same as WordPress Multisite), you probably know what ManageWP is.

However, after being acquired by GoDaddy a couple years back, ManageWP’s premium website management tool was essentially swallowed by GoDaddy for the purposes of building GoDaddy Pro.

GoDaddy Pro

Here’s what you need to know about this multi-site management platform:

  • Content Management System: You can manage websites that run on any content management system.
  • Price: Free, though there are feature upgrades you’ll want to buy in order to automate and enhance the level of maintenance and support you provide (e.g. backups, cloning, uptime monitoring, etc.), so you may quickly find those monthly bills adding up.
  • Web Hosting: Clients can purchase their own hosting from any provider, or you can help them get set up with GoDaddy – right from the dashboard.
  • Domains: Clients bring their own custom domains with them.
  • Number of Websites: Unlimited.
  • Number of Users: As many as you want. Plus, you can use this tool to create your client list and manage the various services you provide and that they’ve purchased from you.
  • Setup: I had a little trouble with this, as something in my WordPress security plugin prevented GoDaddy Pro’s workers from gaining access. As such, I had to connect my website as a “non-WordPress site.” It doesn’t seem to make that big of a difference, but it’s worth noting that setup isn’t necessarily straightforward.
  • Ease of Use: The dashboard itself is intuitive, and all the management features are easy to use. That said, it can be kind of frustrating once you realize how many of the features are locked away behind a premium gateway.
  • Management Features: You can run security and performance scans and create management reports for clients. You can also build a client list for more effective management of your own business. In order to unlock other management features, you have to pay per “product,” per client.

This solution is probably best for the agency whose primary offering is website maintenance services. In other words, if you’re not planning to build websites, create content or run any onsite marketing optimization experiments (at least not from the same dashboard) and your main focus is on security, performance, and SEO, then GoDaddy Pro is a solid choice.


Duda

What many agencies and developers might not know about Duda is that it’s not a website builder tool in the traditional sense. Site builders like Wix and Weebly (which are good solutions in their own right) are best for building websites one at a time. They’re not ideal for agencies attempting to scale their website building and management efforts all from one secure and stable platform.

With Duda, agencies can host, build, collaborate on, and manage a steady flow of client websites.

Duda

Here’s what you need to know about this multi-site management platform:

  • Content Management System: Duda provides its own proprietary content management system.
  • Price: Plans are available based on the size of your agency and the scope of your management needs.
  • Web Hosting: The cost of building a site with Duda includes hosting.
  • Domains: Your clients are free to purchase custom domains and bring them over to Duda.
  • Number of Websites: Depends on which plan you purchase.
  • Number of Users: You can add as many staff, contractors, and clients to each website as you like. Since this tool is meant to streamlined collaboration, too, this is an important feature to have.
  • Setup: It’s very easy to get started with Duda. Simply sign up for an account and start building your first website.
  • Ease of Use: Each website has its own dedicated space in the Duda dashboard. With an uncluttered and intuitive workspace, this platform is universally user-friendly.
  • Management Features: Build websites and configure settings on an individual basis. Add and manage users and their access to each site. Automate security and performance optimization through Duda.

Agencies and developers with plans to take on more simultaneous website projects should give serious consideration to Duda. Not only does it simplify the process of building a website, but it helps users automate a lot of the stuff multi-site management tools force them to spend a lot of time on. Also, don’t forget about the white labeling capabilities that allow you to brand client-facing information and build your agency’s reputation in the process.

Instead, with Duda, you can focus on managing websites and, more importantly, client relationships all from one dashboard.


The Bottom Line

Think about all of the websites you and your team manage on a regular basis. From the initial building of a website to the later maintenance and management of things like security, performance, and SEO, all these things take time. And they can be a serious drag on your own performance and productivity as an agency.

If you want to streamline your workflows while ensuring that all client websites are managed as well as they’re supposed to be, use a multi-site management tool to do so.

WordPress Multisite is the clear winner for managing large networks of websites for single clients in WordPress.

GoDaddy Pro is the best option for tackling the maintenance piece of client websites (basically, everything that happens after you hit “Publish”). It’s also advantageous if your agency is CMS-agnostic.

Duda is the obvious choice if you want to bring greater efficiency and scalability to your agency. By owning the website build and client management system from one platform, you can easily accomplish this.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine what goals you have for your agency and then to utilize the multi-site management tools that’ll help you reach them best.


About the author

Tim Erinwright is a UK-based web developer at his freelance gig WRightDigital, and a self-professed tech geek and writer. When he's not creating magic on WordPress, he can be found analyzing the "Song of Ice and Fire" books, and of course hiking.