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Why Google Chrome is my Favorite Multi-Blog Management Tool

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on October 24, 2012 in Blog Management, Writers' Resources
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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  • Upgrading any out of date plugins I've installed
  • Updating themes when new versions are released or old code becomes outdated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.)


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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:

Speed Dial Chrome Extension

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.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.


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18 Comments

  1. Cathy Miller October 24, 2012 Reply

    This boggles my poor, little brain. I’ve never heard of the Speed Dial. However, admittedly, I know I do not use Chrome to its full potential. In the beginning I tried finding some ebook, site or whatever that was a simple Google Chrome for Dummies-type, but didn’t find any that suited my needs. One more thing to add to the growing To Do list.

    I haven’t looked for a while. One question – do you ever have load or connection issues? I seem to have it more with Chrome than others.

    • Jennifer Mattern October 24, 2012 Reply

      “Poor, little brain” my ass Cathy. You’re brilliant and you know it. :P

      I’m pretty sure Chrome lets you add a few of these thumbnails by default — just not enough for these purposes, especially if you want other sites you regularly visit there (for me those are things like Twitter, Hootsuite, and Hulu). Speed Dial just lets you have more flexibility.

      Chrome has another interesting option if you only have a few blogs to manage. You can use the built-in settings to have more than one home page. That means when you open your browser in the morning, it will automatically open all of your blog admin tabs for you. I have a “few” too many for that. And it could get annoying if you regularly close your browser. That’s why I opt for Speed Dial instead.

      As for the e-book, if you can’t find one, why not write one? Spend some time figuring out neat tricks in Chrome for writers and sell us an e-book about it. :)

      • Cathy Miller October 24, 2012 Reply

        I’ve thought of it, but it’d be nice to have a starter that didn’t take forever to get up to speed. And the list goes on. ;-)

        • Jennifer Mattern October 24, 2012 Reply

          Trial and error is always a good tactic with these things. ;) There are so many extensions out there, there might even be better options than Speed Dial. I just go with what I know after doing my own experimentation with a few in the past.

  2. Sharon Hurley Hall October 24, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for sharing this system, Jenn. I was intrigued when you mentioned it the other day. I’m not managing a lot of blogs at the moment, but I can see how this would work well. I don’t use Chrome to remember passwords, though; I use LastPass instead. The beauty of that is that I can get at them easily from any device (which I know you can also do with Chrome if you login).

    • Jennifer Mattern October 24, 2012 Reply

      No problem Sharon. Does LastPass auto-fill the info for you? As long as it does, you should be able to use it alongside Speed Dial without any problem. :)

      • Sharon Hurley Hall October 24, 2012 Reply

        Yes, it does. I’ve used Speed Dial 2 but not the original. I actually wish Chrome would just incorporate that functionality.

        • Jennifer Mattern October 24, 2012 Reply

          Seriously. It’s been out for quite some time, so it’s surprising they haven’t done something similar. I’m just a control freak at times, and I like full control over that new tab screen given how often I have to look at it.

  3. Chimica October 25, 2012 Reply

    I’m the same way! Our systems are super similar. I ,however use opera which also has a Speed dial feature. I have 62 active blogs and 14 more are in the process of being built… all niche focused and require daily check ups to make sure they aren’t getting spammed like mad and to place new content onto. I’m not even counting the static sites I have as well. I have a TON of websites and blogs … Without speed dial.. I’d go nuts. I’m sure your readers are so glad that you shared this hush hush gem that niche site builders use all the time. :)

    • Jennifer Mattern October 25, 2012 Reply

      It’s definitely a great tool. Even if readers don’t run a lot of blogs and other sites, it’s helpful to have your most visited sites there. It’s where I keep other productivity tools too — like HootSuite to manage multiple Twitter accounts and e.ggtimer.com which I use to break up my working time some days. I’d be lost without speed dial. :)

  4. Amandah October 25, 2012 Reply

    I never heard of Speed Dial. I’ll check it out.

    The only problem I have with Google Chrome is I always receive the message “waiting for cache.” Ugh! This slows me down, and I usually end up having to shut down. I try to clear my cache so I can avoid the problem, but it doesn’t work. I’ve considered going back to Firefox or dare I even say, Internet Explorer. I know I’m not the only one who receives the pesky “waiting for cache” message. I hope and pray that Google fixes it. :)

    • Jennifer Mattern October 25, 2012 Reply

      That’s so weird Amandah. I’m a heavy Chrome user, and I’ve never seen that error before. It’s possible that I just clear my cache enough to avoid it. I clear it several times a day to make sure I’m seeing all of my design and coding changes take effect when I’m working on various sites. Can you set it up to clear the cache every time you close the browser or something? That might keep it from backing up. I’d also check your Chrome version just to make sure it’s up to date. You can also apparently limit your cache size so it never grows too big and slows things down. This might help:

      http://www.ghacks.net/2010/10/19/how-to-change-google-chromes-cache-location-and-size/

  5. Michael Wilts October 25, 2012 Reply

    I’d like to think of myself as a “solid” multi-tasker but YOWZA. How in the heck do you find the time to MANAGE 50+ blogs?

    And yes I read the post. regardless of what application you use to keep yourself current, you must have invented another day in the calendar somewhere.

    To say I’m shocked would be a massive understatement. I give you full credit but how do you manage to keep yourself sane and why isn’t your profile picture capturing you with your head spinning?

    I’ve started “A” blog and am currently working on a 2nd, possibly thinking of a 3rd but that may or may not be pushing it. HOLY! Impressive! You ARE a Jedi! :)

    I do use Google chrome but haven’t uncovered the layers as of yet.

    Kudos to you Jennifer! Nice post.

    • Jennifer Mattern October 25, 2012 Reply

      In the grand scheme of things, 50 installations isn’t even that much. I have clients who run far more — hundreds in some cases. I feel bad for their webmasters.

      The admin isn’t the hard part. It’s content creation. And sometimes designs slow me down a bit (I generally buy premium themes and customize them myself after plenty of bad experience hiring designers and coders). Hubby is in software development and moving into plugin development which is an increasing help. And my hope is that he’ll be able to take my designs or purchased .psd files eventually and custom-code some new themes for me. But for now, that’s all on me. (I love it though, so it’s all good.)

      The content is a simple case of not doing things alone. The vast majority of my sites are set up to be authority-style sites — not just crap content thrown up for SEO purposes. And that’s the challenge. So I have to spread my time around. And I have contributors to several of the sites. Here I have four regular contributors who keep the blog going, so even if I need a week off from posting, we’re good to go. I alternate posts with a regular contributor to my small business blog. I have an assistant who largely creates starter content for my new blogs (she just took care of starter content for two new ones for me).

      In the end it’s about three things:

      1. Figuring out what makes you most productive — your work location, schedule, the right brand of caffeinated goodness…. ;)
      2. Delegation — you have to be willing to let people help you.
      3. Realizing you can’t do everything — sometimes projects will get pushed back, you’ll fail occasionally, and you have to realize that’s okay. All those little mistakes and failures are stepping stones toward building something bigger.

  6. Anne Wayman October 25, 2012 Reply

    Youza for sure… love chrome… didn’t know about speeddial, it’s installed now… will see how to use it shortly.

    How do you find your co-content creators and how do you pay them?

    • Jennifer Mattern October 25, 2012 Reply

      I find contributors all over the place. Most are here on this blog and I simply knew them as colleagues. Rebecca was actually a part of this blog back when it started as a group blog at SixFigureWriters.com. Dan Smith I knew as a colleague and he used to write here. Now he posts to my small business blog regularly. I hired my cousin as my assistant, and she puts together starter content for some of the new sites. Some of my former contributors for a blog / directory simply came from a job ad. And I plan to tap my network of writers and reviewers for an indie site I’m hoping to finally launch next year. But for the most part, they’re people I knew through my network. Most are paid via Paypal at the start of the month before they write (in one mass payment so they don’t get hit with fees). And my assistant gets paid more sporadically based on whatever projects I have her working on at any given time — depends which site is getting ready to launch.

  7. Singing Dogs November 1, 2012 Reply

    It wold be a lot more efficient if you just had 2-3 different WordPress Multisite installations on separate hosts.

    I think Chrome is a terrible browser since I have tried it on several devices and it always crashes. I prefer Firefox!

    • Jennifer Mattern November 1, 2012 Reply

      I rarely have issues with Chrome crashing anymore (since the last update). And Firefox has gotten much slower over the years. It used to be my go-to browser.

      WordPress multi-site isn’t the right option for my situation. All of my business decisions are made in a very calculated way. They have to consider everything from management issues to privacy issues (my sites aren’t all associated with each other, and that’s for good reason). And while WPMU might be a good option if you run multiple blogs, it’s a bad fit for my business. There are reasons my sites aren’t tied together as a network. And for others who have a similar need to keep things separate, this system works well and it’s very efficient.

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