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Best Plugins for WordPress Multisite

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. How Plugins are Used
  3. User Plugins
  4. Site Plugins
  5. Performance Plugins

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Welcome to the guide for the best plugins for WordPress multisite. I want to give you, as a multisite admin, the tools to better manage your sub sites, users, plugins, etc.

So, in making this list, I made a few assumptions.

The first assumption is that you’re already running, or currently setting up a multisite installation.

There are a ton of decision factors that go into deciding to run a multisite or multiple individual sites, but for the sake of this list I’m going to assume you’ve already made the decision to go with multisite.

The second assumption is that you’re looking for plugins to make your life as a multisite admin easier. It sounds silly, I know, but many lists of this sort just list a bunch of plugins.

But, this article is the best plugins for WordPress multisite (and pretty much only WordPress multisite).

I should note: some of them can be used with regular installs, but they’re functionality really shines with multisite.

If you want a list of all the plugins I use for any WordPress site, you can see that here. And, while I recommend you also use all those plugins to run your multisite, I’m not going to list them in this article.

How Plugins are Used

Before we get in to the actual list of plugins, lets take a step back and talk about how plugins are used.

With WordPress multisite there is an additional user role: the super admin.

The super admin can install plugins on the multisite network.

The plugins can then be activated across all sites, or not.

If they’re “network activated” they will automatically be activated on each site, with no option to be deactivated.

If they’re not network activated, they have the option of being activated or deactivated on a site by site basis.

Because of this functionality, there are a lot of use cases on WordPress multisite that simply don’t exist in regular WordPress.

In theory each site has its own admin or admins.

But perhaps, as the super admin, you fill this role of admin as well.

These admins can activate and configure the plugins they need for their site, while the super admin can force some plugins to be activated all the time.

As the super admin, it’s important to understand the effect of plugins being activated or deactivated.

Most importantly, if your theme relies on plugins being activated they need to be network activated.

I’ve broken this list into a few different types of plugins: user plugins, site plugins, content plugins, and performance plugins.

Each of these play a different role in managing your WordPress multisite (and some may play no role at all).

Let’s take a look.

User Plugins

User plugins can be defined as plugins that help manage users in any capacity.

Sometimes that means cloning a user from one site to another.

Sometimes that means changing user permissions.

Regardless, here are the plugins that make managing users much easier on your multisite.

User Switching

Have you ever needed to switch between user accounts to test permissions?

Perhaps you just want to see if you’ve setup another account correctly.

The user switching plugin makes this super simple.

By default this plugin only allows super admins to switch between users.

User Permissions

The user role editor plugin allows you to easily add or remove permissions from any user role.

This plugin is also only available to super admins, but can be used on a per site basis.

Unbeknownst to a lot of people, WordPress has hundreds of permissions for every site.

By default, user roles are assigned access to some of these permissions and not others.

But, you may want to change that.

For example, perhaps you don’t want to let the editor role add new products, but you do want to let them add and edit posts.

Be sure to check the box that says “Show capabilities in human readable form” to make it really easy to understand what each permission setting is allowing.

The user role editor plugin makes it really easy to manage permissions across themes, plugins, users, custom post types, and every other category.

User Syncing

One of the most annoying tasks can be adding and updating users to other sites. Especially when you have dozens of sites.

The user syncing plugin makes this task super simple.

This is a very simple plugin, but you can easily sync users across sites in one click.

Note: I typically don’t network activate this, unless I need to run some kind of clean up of users.

Site Plugins

There’s not much that falls under the site plugins category, save for one plugin.

Cloning Sites

This is perhaps the biggest headache when it comes to WordPress multisite.

Copying sites, to ensure no information is lost, and users are all retained in their exact roles can often result in a mess.

Perhaps the hardest part is making sure your theme settings remain in tact.

Enter, the NS Cloner plugin. The best plugin for cloning any sub-site on your multisite.

The plugin maintains every single aspect of whichever site you’re trying to copy. Even the theme settings.

If you’re going to install a single multisite plugin, it’s this one.

Content Plugins

Cloning an entire site may be over kill in some instances. We might want to move just the content.

Or perhaps you just need to move the content over to an already existing site.

The best plugin for moving content is the Content Copier.

This plugin makes it really easy to move all aspects of your content: categories, custom taxonomies, etc.

Performance Plugins

I generally recommend optimizing your site without plugins, but there are just some times where that won’t work.

Before using any plugins for multisite performance optimization, you’ll want to make sure you have a good WordPress multisite host. Otherwise, everything else will be moot.

WP Rocket or Perfmatters are generally what I prefer for performance plugins.

Perfmatters requires a license upgrade if you want it to work on WordPress multisite, though.

Database Cleanup

While I haven’t found a performance plugin for WordPress multisite specifically, the main source of slow pages on multisite’s are usually over loaded databases.

Old revisions, media, pages, posts, etc. can all really clog up your database.

If you let it happen on a lot of your sites, it can cause them all to slow down.

You should make sure you prune, and clean your multisite database with Advanced Database Cleaner Pro (trust me, the license is well worth it).

If you’re using a backup plugin, make sure you switch this to the host level (WP Engine & Kinsta make this a sinch).

If your entire site is being backed up daily, that’s a lot of file and database bloat.

The same goes for redirection plugins.

In Closing

There are a ton more plugins for WordPress multisite, but these are the ones I’ve found that make the biggest difference in managing a multisite specifically.

You should still follow WordPress best practices when it comes to WordPress performance optimization, and security considerations.

A lot of this can be done with a good WordPress multisite host, and this stuff will be a breeze.

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