How can I use different domains on a WP multisite install?

Leonard Zakoor
Leonard Zakoor used Ask the Experts™
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I want to offer my clients WordPress websites, but want to use WP multisite. I've read multiple articles on using a plugin, not using a plugin, etc.

My clients own their own domain names and want me to host/manage their sites. So I'll be using my main website as the install abc.com.

When you visit one of their sites like client1.com or client2.com, I don't want the domain name to be a subsite.client1.abc.com. I need them to stay on client1.com or client2.com.

I did find a lot of tutorials, but most are with a plugin and some are reporting buggy behavior.  What I've done so far is setup the multisite on my main domain. I've added an external domain(I own it) and pointed that DNS to my server.

I've never done a WP multisite install before so this is my first attempt. I need to know the following:
 - Do I need to install WP into a folder/directory for each hosted domain?
 - Once DNS is pointed to my server, how does client1.com know what to show?
 - I host on Godaddy so should I setup each client as a subdomain?
 - For each sites content, is that managed by each sites individual dashboard?

Any and all help is appreciated.
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Terry WoodsIT Guru
Most Valuable Expert 2011

Commented:
1. No, WP Multisite just needs one Wordpress installation.
2.
3.
4. Yes, each site can have its own admin user and gets its own dashboard. There is also a Network Admin dashboard which allows Themes and plugins to be loaded and made available to all sites. Plugins that are "Network Activated" from the Network Admin dashboard become active on all sites and can't be deactivated for any individual site.

Hopefully someone else can answer your 2nd and 3rd questions.
Leonard ZakoorSenior Front-End Developer

Author

Commented:
Thank you Terry, I appreciate your time.

Hopefully someone has experience with this and can answer.
Web Applications Developer
Commented:
Muti-site set up requires a couple of addtional processes

1) set up wordpress for multisite
2) for custom/vanity urls you will need a plugin https://wordpress.org/plugins-wp/wordpress-mu-domain-mapping/
- this plugin maps your internal url e.g.: mysubsite.server.com to www.mysubsite.com, the DNS for subsite.com will also need to be configured to point to your WPO install server
3) sub directory vs sub domain can be a big discussion, I prefer sub domain, but it depends on your implementation
- this might help https://premium.wpmudev.org/forums/topic/subdomain-vs-subdirectory-for-multisites?utm_expid=3606929-101._J2UGKNuQ6e7Of8gblmOTA.0&utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.ca%2F
- there is also a prefered method when merging multiple existing sites into a single wp multi-site so as to avoid potentiai url conflicts
4) the primary install is the network, there can be only one network admin but additional admins with the network settign, each sub site of wp will have its own admin, set when each sub site is created

things to watch out for  - there is only one users table in a multi-site install, there is secondary information in the user meta that identifies to which sub site that user has access, a user can have access to one or more sub sites with a single login, but they usually have to log in to each one separately depending on the sub-site setups

Note: i did my last multi-site set up about 3 years ago, so some info may have changed since then

a network eample (very simple)
Main WP install (network)
- controls site creation
- master control of users (form what i remember only those with admin privs on the network can actually delete users, sub site admins can remove them from the sub site, but not actually delete them
- control sub site names and redirects
- can determine must-use themes and plugins
- can limit allowed themes and plugins

there are a few other things, but i am doing this from memory and it has been a while
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Leonard ZakoorSenior Front-End Developer

Author

Commented:
So the very first thing I have to do is get a root level domain install going. I'm going to be putting this to the test this week James!

Thanks for the detailed answer. I'll post back here ASAP!!
Leonard ZakoorSenior Front-End Developer

Author

Commented:
@James:
Thanks for that. I got the root domain setup and multisite installed. I added the plugin you suggested. However, when I map a new domain, I'm getting a 404. I ended up setting a wildcard(*) subdomain, but ultimately I want an external domain to point to my WP installs.

Thoughts?
Leonard ZakoorSenior Front-End Developer

Author

Commented:
Hi everyone,
Just wanted to say that I am hosting on Godaddy w/Cpanel. I've pointed an external domain over to my server, however, it's not resolving. Does the fact that I'm hosting w/Godaddy have anything to do with it?

Please help!
James RodgersWeb Applications Developer

Commented:
you might need to add the domain on your cpanel as a reference to your site
Leonard ZakoorSenior Front-End Developer

Author

Commented:
Hey James,
You mean add it as an "Addon Domain"? Godaddy cPanel isn't the greatest. Apparently I have to get access to WHM because I'm not allowed to add any addon domains.

That's really the only thing different from the instructions you've posted. But it's still not working the way I thought it should. I can't believe a multisite install like this either hasn't been done, or doesn't have a much better process in place. I've been trying to do this for almost 4 weeks now.
James RodgersWeb Applications Developer

Commented:
yea, i have done multisite install but they were self hosted so not sure about godaddy settings

have you reviewed this
https://ca.godaddy.com/help/enabling-wordpress-multisites-6143

also, try calling or emailing them
Leonard ZakoorSenior Front-End Developer

Author

Commented:
Thanks for that James.  Yes I did setup everything for multisite.

I guess my next course of action is to call Godaddy.
Leonard ZakoorSenior Front-End Developer

Author

Commented:
I had to call Godaddy and after much talking figured everything out! Thanks for the help!

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