Microsites vs Multisites in WordPress

Microsites vs Multisites: Which One Is Best and Why?

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What's the difference between microsites and multisites in WordPress? We show you the differences to help you choose the best option for your new site, and how you can even use both together.
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Do you want a more effective way to manage multiple sites?

When using WordPress your two main options are going to be creating a microsite or using the built-in multisite feature.

The option you choose depends on your needs and ultimate goals for your project.

Below we’ll explore WordPress microsites vs multisites in-depth, so you can decide which route is going to be the best for your website needs.

What are WordPress Microsites?

Microsites are a relatively new concept in the WordPress ecosystem. To make things simple, microsites are part of an existing website that uses a separate domain and content.

They share the same WordPress site installation and will be managed from the same WordPress dashboard.

Essentially, a user will type in a separate URL to visit a section of your website. This can include a unique layout, content, navigation, and design, and are generally pretty focused.

To a visitor, it will appear as if it’s a totally separate site.

There are a lot of reasons to use microsites, but here are some of the most common:

  • Creating a small site to target a new audience with a product or service
  • Creating a site that serves different regions of your market
  • Creating landing pages for physical or digital products

In general, microsites are a great way to save time and money on new projects you’re launching. Instead of having to create a new WordPress site every time you want to launch a new product or marketing campaign, all you have to do is buy a new domain and create a new page on your site.

There’s no need to create a new WordPress site from scratch, instead use a plugin like Domain Mapping System and follow a few easy steps. We’ve covered the plugin in detail in a dedicated Domain Mapping System review if you’d like to learn more about it before reading on.

What is WordPress Multisite?

WordPress multisite lets you extend the core features of WordPress to create a network of blogs or websites. For example, if you have six separate WordPress websites, then you can run all six of these sites through a single WordPress dashboard, rather than having to manage them separately.

The first website you install becomes the main site, and every following site is a subsite in the network. These subsites function as entirely separate websites.

You can enable and manage multisite directly from your WordPress dashboard.

For example, universities can use WordPress multisite to manage multiple department websites under a single dashboard. This still gives each department its own site, but you can also share resources and manage user permissions across every site.

WordPress also supports WooCommerce multisite, which lets you manage multiple online stores from a single WordPress dashboard.

Microsites vs Multisites: What’s the Difference?

You might be wondering, aren’t WordPress microsites and multisites the same thing?

Now both can be used to create and manage multiple WordPress sites, but they aren’t exactly the same.

With WordPress multisite, you can create an entire network of WordPress sites that are all controlled by one super admin account. Every WordPress site is independent and has its own theme, plugins, and configuration.

The big distinction is that microsites will share the same plugins and theme since they’re essentially a domain alias. They might look different, but this is done through the use of a WordPress page builder to help you create custom pages.

Now for your visitors, their experience will be the same. They’ll simply type in a domain name and see a separate site.

In general, microsites will be much smaller in scale, hence the name. Sites on a multisite network are sites that have enough resources and content to be standalone sites.

The Advantages of Using Microsites

One of the biggest reasons to use WordPress microsites is that every single site you add shares the same WordPress resources. This makes it really easy to manage all of your sites from a single location.

Here are a few features that make microsites stand out:

Domain Mapping to Pages, Posts, and Custom Post Types

Domain mapping makes it so you can group parts of your site so they can be accessed through different domains, subdomains, or subdirectories. You can also assign different categories of content to a new domain name.

It’s valuable for WooCommerce stores since you can assign each product category, or brand, a microsite that only features that product.

Beyond domain mapping, microsites rewrite all of the internal links too. That means all of the internal links, images, and other resources, will share the microsite domain name. Visitors will never know they aren’t actually on the microsite domain.

Pass on Query String Parameters

When doing marketing campaigns, using affiliate links, or analytics tracking you’ll be using query strings. The query parameters remain intact, even when visitors view different pages on your microsite.

Unique Favicon Support

Favicons help to make each microsite more distinct and improve brand awareness and engagement. When users are moving between tabs on a browser they’ll be able to more easily spot your site. This might seem like a small thing, but every little detail works together to strengthen your brand.

Best of all, you can do all of this with a single WordPress plugin. The Domain Mapping System plugin makes it easy to create microsites in as little time as possible. Simply install the plugin, configure your domain name, and adjust the settings.

Domain Mapping System plugin microsite
You can create and launch new microsites by changing the plugin settings.

The Advantages of WordPress Multisite

WordPress multisite really shines in its site management abilities. You can easily install themes and plugins, make updates, and modify user permissions across the entire network of sites. So, if you’re running multiple websites, then this can make managing them much easier.

You also get greater control over user permissions and roles. From assigning roles to controlling which sites certain users get access to.

For example, The Wall Street Journal uses multisite to manage all of the sites under its brand including its video site, podcast site, and additional sites that cater to multiple languages.

Another advantage of multisite is you can allow users to create their own websites or blogs. This is how WordPress.com functions and lets users create free blogs and sites on the platform.

Microsites and Multisite: How to Use Both Together

Most of this post has been about comparing WordPress microsites and multisite. However, with the Domain Mapping System plugin, you can actually utilize both together.

Since Domain Mapping System integrates with a WordPress multisite installation, you can have microsites within each site on your multisite network.

This unlocks the benefits of being able to quickly deploy microsites, while still managing a larger overarching network of sites through multisite.

Depending on how large of a network of websites you manage this scenario lets you efficiently manage multiple sites, while giving you the freedom to map additional domains to those sites.

Microsites vs Multisites: Which One is Best For You?

In general, both microsites and multisites have their place. It simply depends on the needs of your project.

For example, if you want to create a simple landing page for a new service you’re launching with a separate domain name, then creating a microsite is going to be the easiest option.

While, if you want to operate an entire network of sites, complete with their own blogs, then WordPress multisite is going to be better suited for the task.

It’s not as much of a microsites vs multisites showdown, as it is, what’s the right option for your project?

Currently, microsites work better as more static websites that are quick and easy to deploy. However, as development continues expect the applicable use cases to grow.

Remember, you also don’t have to choose between multisite or microsites. You always have the option of creating microsites within your multisite setup.

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Kevin Wood

With over 10 years of hands-on WordPress experience, Kevin excels in making complex WordPress topics more accessible. From hosting, and plugin selection, to best practices and expert tips, he’s here to help readers make the best decisions for their WordPress sites.

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