Mixing mapped domains and sites

Mixing mapped domains and sites

As you may already know, this blog is a domain mapped blog on a WPMU site. So is ronandandrea.com, our consulting site. It's very handy to login with the same username, and only have one codebase to deal with.

We do have other domains, client sites, & sites under dev on the install, but I'll leave it at those two for the mentions for now.

One question I get asked is if you can use the domain mapping and multi site plugins together on one install. Sure you can! In fact, some of our time was taken up recently by moving my personal blog which has over three thousand posts, and my mom's blog, which also had a number of posts and attachments. Both of these were separate WordPress installs in the same server, both in subfolders.

A quick overview:

  • backups. Lots and lots of backups. I backed up both databases, both wp-content folders from both sites. I also grabbed Export files from the backend using the Advanced Export plugin, because like I said above, there was a LOT of content.
  • since I was already a user on the new system, I didn't have to add myself.
  • made a new Site in WPMU
  • since the old site was live with traffic, and the new site needed a LOT of work that was going to be done here & there, I added a record to my computer's hosts file to the IP of the new site. This means that after adding the Site in MU, the only person who could see it, access it, or even know about it was me. Each time I needed to go back to the old site for something, I had to un-do that hosts file edit. I tried to plan accordingly and do things in batches.
  • I imported the main site domain's posts first. We had some technical issues with uploads, so we wound up using the database backup. Good thing we'd already done this! While we were in the SQL, we cleaned out post revisions, spam comments and tables from plugins long since deleted. I like to use an interface, so I imported the entire database into a local copy of phpmyadmin. I was able to rename the database tables under the operations tab when browsing each table. Ron ran through the database changing the image upload paths, because we knew they'd change. He also imported these new tables into the new site, replacing the empty ones.
  • I then checked the blog. Sure it had the default theme, but everything was now there. I moved over the themes and plugins, skipping the ones already in the new install. I did the other blog's themes & plugins folders at the same time, since I was already logged in to the server via ssh. It was much more efficient to transfer large amounts of data this way, from one server to another.
  • Once my blog was up and running, we did the same database changes to my mom's blog. On the new site, I added her blog from the backend so we'd know what the blog ID would be. once again, I double-checked everything.
  • when all seemed moved over, I went to my domain registrar and changed the DNS records to point to the new site and went to bed. in the morning, after making sure my local hosts file was adjusted to show me the live site, I checked to make sure it really was live on the new site - and it was! 😀

My old blog was installed in a subfolder called 'blog' with the index file of the site calling in wp_head. This time, it's technically the "main" blog, but to maintain links, I changed the setting under Settings -> Reading to show a different page on the front and to use the "Blogs" page to show the posts. The only extra I did was make a blank Page called blog. I still want to make a home.php page for my template to let visitors to the main domain know about other blogs under AtypicaLife.net.

Now I can add new blogs to my second site with a click of a button. The signups are closed to the public, but since some of my family members were already users, or newly added, I've allowed them to set up new blogs as well. Since then, we've started one for my oldest daughter to relate her tales from her first year at college, a group blog with recipes, and there are plans for a genealogy blog for my uncle and mom. This way, users of one blog don't interfere with the management of another blog. I could have had a multi-author blog and strict categories, but this saves user from accidentally posting to the wrong area. They also have their own space and can change themes and play with plugins and widgets all they like.

Yes, this was quite a bit of work to get moved over, partly because of the established blogs. But? It has been SO worth it. The amount of time doing this would still be less than maintaining half a dozen separate installs of WordPress.

I'll be going over this in detail at one of my sessions at WordCamp New York. Will I see you there?

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  • Clint Lalonde
    Posted at 16:05h, 03 November Reply

    Excellent article! Thanks so much. I am just in the process of doing this exact same project with 5 stand alone WP blogs I maintain, so this is really timely.

  • deuts
    Posted at 01:56h, 04 November Reply

    I just hope though that the multi-site capability would be incorporated into the core of WPMU.

  • Jerry Helms
    Posted at 09:46h, 04 November Reply

    I recently installed the multi-site plugin and it works well. I went though many of the same steps for the install. I was also able to copy over multiple instances of the Atahualpa theme by retrieving the appropriate theme options from the old blog using SQL and then importing the theme options to the new blog with some SQL edits. A forum post for Atahualpa shows the necessary SQL.

    Even after reading the docs provided with the download, I’m still no clear on the difference between the domain mapping and multi-site plugins.

    Jerry Helms
    Non Stop Portals

    • andrea
      Posted at 10:05h, 04 November Reply

      Domain mapping = one blog with its own domain.

      Multi-site = one blog with its own domain AND member blogs under it.

      This blog uses the domain mapping plugin. Users can’t have a blog at wpmututorials.

      The atypicalife blog uses the multi-site plugin. User CAN have a blog on that domain.

      that’s the difference.

  • Hervé
    Posted at 13:07h, 08 November Reply


    This is a very interesting article, but sadly my technical skills are not enough to fully understand how wpmu works.

    This is why I’d like to ask a question, if you don’t mind.

    I’ve a small network of websites (15) and I would like to expand my business in 2010 by building let’s say 50 sites (and this means 50 different domain names), based on wordpress.

    They will be hosted on 10 different hosts.

    Is wpmu the best tool to help me maintain and manage my future network and will there be problems if my sites are hosted on different IPs ? I’ve understood that I should have one wpmu install per host, so this means 50sites/10hostings = 5 wpmu installs…Right ? Or is it possible to manage everything within one wpmu install ?

    Thank you for your blog, I had interesting readings here.

    All the best.


  • Maria
    Posted at 09:53h, 14 December Reply

    Hi Andrea! I seem to see you in a lot of places helping others so I thought I’d ask, in case you are able to help me. 🙂

    As a background I’m not a very techie person although I understand some bits and pieces. I can manually install single WP or MU site and can move a single WP blog using phpMyadmin but that’s about it.

    I just had a problem helping someone who has an MU blog. We transferred it from Godaddy to Hostgator. I don’t normally do this kind of MU stuff. I prefer just the normal single WP move.

    The problem we noticed is that the main blog site comes up right with the theme and all, but the other blogs don’t have the theme. We cannot access the backend of the other blogs either. I’ve already checked the htaccess.dist with the one in http://trac.mu.wordpress.org/browser/trunk/htaccess.dist and it’s the same.

    Is there a way to fix these? If you can point me in the right direction, that would be great! Thanks!

    • andrea
      Posted at 17:26h, 14 December Reply

      Can you visit the permalinks on the main blog? Do they work right? (this is a quick test to see if other things are working correctly)

      What format are the blogs in, subfolders or subdomains. I did see your forum thread as well. 🙂

      • Maria
        Posted at 10:29h, 15 December Reply

        Thanks for your attention! I really appreciate it. 🙂

        Yes, I can visit the permalinks on the main blog and they work right, except that the theme is gone and I can’t access the backend for the other blogs except for the main. The blogs are in subfolders.

        How I backed up the blog was using the instructions I found at http://thoushallblog.com/the-way-i-transfer-my-wordpress-blog-to-another-host/. I’m not sure if that applies to WPMu though since I normally do it for single WP sites and they seem to work fine for me so far.

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