It's no secret that I manage multiple blogs. Currently I have 50 active WordPress installations -- large blogs, small blogs, author sites, business sites, and several in various pre-launch phases. Every work day I have to manage these blogs, including the ones that haven't launched yet. What does this include?
- Approving comments that are in moderation queues
- Deleting spam comments
- Upgrading any out of date plugins I've installed
- Updating themes when new versions are released or old code becomes outdated
- Upgrading WordPress installations when new versions are released
This could be a royal headache every morning. But it's not. That's because because I use Google Chrome and a highly organized system for taking care of these blog administration tasks. We've talked about Chrome and other multi-blog management tools before. But today I want to show you exactly what I use and why Chrome is the perfect tool for me.
Why I Don't Use WP-Specific Multi-Blog Management Tools
There are plenty of tools out there these days that are designed to help you manage multiple WordPress blogs. These can be online services where you enter your login information for each blog once. Or they can be WordPress plugins that tie different blogs together for group management.
I don't think there's anything inherently "wrong" with these tools, and if they work for you I think that's great. But I prefer not to use them for several reasons:
- I've been a victim of hacking before, and I know what a royal pain in the ass it is to get things safely back online after an attack. Because of that, I don't like the idea of having a single website save my passwords for all of my blogs in one place. If that single password were hacked or phished, someone would have easy online access to all of my sites.
- I intentionally host my sites in groups. This way if one is hacked, a hacker can't access all of them. They can only get to ones in that hosting account on the VPS and under that specific IP address. I have my sites split into around eight groups currently (with this blog standing alone). Because I've gone out of my way to split my sites up for added security, I don't want any site or plugin tying them together.
- On a couple of my sites, third parties are authorized to have administrator access to handle certain tasks. A plugin-based system for multi-blog management could then potentially give them access to other sites where I don't want them viewing or using the admin panel.
- I don't like the idea of oversimplifying things where I might accidentally update something I shouldn't. I run a lot of highly customized sites. They're not usually out-of-the-box themes, so I can't run theme upgrades without knowing exactly what files were updated. I even customize some of my plugins to make them do things a bit differently, so again, I have to be careful about automatic updates. I can usually run them. But I wouldn't want to do so en-masse or risk accidentally clicking the wrong site in a simple blog list. The same is true with WordPress upgrades. I take this process a bit slower than most because of the drastic customization to some of my sites. I simply prefer the added peace of mind of accessing every site separately when going through this process.
- I choose not to use plugin-oriented blog management tools because I don't want to bloat my sites with plugins any more than absolutely necessary. And some of my sites are already more plugin-heavy than I'd like (such as All Freelance Writing, where plugins allow us to have major features like our job board, writer's market directory, and writing forum).
- Frankly, my system is about as quick as any of the more automated solutions I've seen. With 50 installations, I'm finished most mornings in around 20 minutes, 30 on a slow day. The only times I take longer are when there are complicated upgrades (like platform upgrades I need to check compatibility issues on) or when there are more comments than usual that I need to respond to. I don't consider that a bad investment of time for the day-to-day management of that many sites.
Now I want to show you what I use to make Chrome the ideal multi-blog management tool for me.
Using Google Chrome for Multi-Blog Management
The key to using the Chrome browser as a multi-blog management tool is an extension called Speed Dial. (There's also Speed Dial 2, but I prefer the original as I don't use it to access Chrome Apps.)
The Speed Dial extension allows you to set up visual bookmarks on your "new tab" page in Chrome. I have 72 bookmarks on mine. Most people probably have far less. Any more and you won't be able to read the site names. I already had to tweak my zoom settings in Chrome for the new tab page to make it work. Fortunately Chrome saves that setting so I don't have to repeatedly adjust it.
Here's what my new tab page looks like using Speed Dial:
The first five rows you see there, and the first five thumbnails in the sixth row, are all my current WordPress installations. As you can see I haven't bothered saving thumbnails for all of them (and they'd just look like the WP admin screen anyway, so it's not a big help to have them). But normally you would do that so you could use it more visually than having to rely on site names.
What the Speed Dial extension does is give me access to every WordPress admin area through just one click, from a single master location. So all I have to do is click the new tab button in Chrome, then click the site I want. It takes no longer to do this than to visit a website or other main blog management location and then click on a blog from your list there.
I also make life easier by allowing Chrome to save all of my WordPress usernames and passwords for me. And I tell WordPress to "remember me" so I'm almost always logged in automatically (and if not, the form is pre-filled, so I just click a single button). Is it a perfect solution? Of course not. But I prefer having passwords saved on my own machine than on a third party website in this case.
With this simple setup, my morning blog admin work is pretty quick and easy. Here's the gist of what I do:
- I work with one row of blogs at a time.
- I click a few things in rapid succession -- site A, new tab button, site B, new tab button, etc.
- They all open pretty quickly (another perk of using Chrome).
- I go back to the first blog in the set I'm working on and deal with comment approvals and spam deletion. If there are no upgrades that day, I then close it out.
- I just do this down the line. It's usually just a few clicks and possibly some comment responses.
- Then I move on to the next row.
Easy peasy. My bigger sites are near the top so I get them out of the way first. A few have custom admin tasks to deal with (like this one where I check for new posts to the writing forum and I check the job board admin area). Most of the small sites have little or nothing to worry about -- maybe a few spam comments to delete, but they don't regularly have plugin and theme updates.
It probably still sounds more difficult than it is. But if you have multiple WordPress blogs (or even blogs on other platforms), I encourage you to try it out. Actually, it would be perfect if you use different content management systems for different sites because you don't need a special management tool that can operate cross-platform.
Do you use Speed Dial for Chrome? Have you used it in a similar way to manage multiple blogs? If not, give it a try and come back to tell us what you think of it.