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A Little Background

I've been running a blog for 4 years that discusses just about anything I feel like writing. My car, backpacking trips, my church, marketing strategy, WordPress code, movies I see on the weekend, etc. I have also been running a separate blog for a little over a year focused primarily on creative writing. I have a third blog that serves as my professional portfolio.

I realized the other day that this is a huge convoluted mess, and I want to clear things up.

The Problem

Some people come to my main site looking for WordPress tutorials. Others come looking for spiritual essays. Others come because they can't remember the link to my portfolio and are trying to find my resume. It makes it hard to attract feed subscribers when my content seems to be all over the place, but offering category-based subscriptions feels too limiting.

Ideal Endgame

What I'd love to to is build a kind of personal network of microsites. My three blogs are already a Multisite network, that's not the issue. But I think I need to split them into more than three sites. Maybe one site for tech stuff, one site for religion, one site for personal stuff, one site for fiction, one for showing off my portfolio, etc.

I'd also like to fully integrate my Facebook interactions and my Twitter community ... without duplicating content in multiple places (my last attempt at Twitter interaction re-created all my Tweets as custom post types within WordPress ... too much clutter).

The Question

What is the best way to structure a blog network with a single author that covers so much disparate content? It needs to be as easy as breathing to move from one part of the network to another - making content discoverability high. Completely separate WP sites don't quite lend themselves to that, but spinning off categories doesn't keep the content separate enough.

Should I add other domains to the mix and try to push visitors from one domain to another, or is that too much distinction between the sites? Think of CNN, where you have a landing page that mashes up everything, but iReport, the tech page, the political blogs, and local pages are almost their own websites.

The interaction between Gizmodo, Lifehacker, and their other sites is also a great example of the idea I want to accomplish ... but a horrible example of the design behind it (not a fan of their new designs).

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1  
I'd personally just try to organize a single blog with appropriate categories and sub-categories. Though, I'm inexperienced with multi-site setup so I'll be curious about these responses. ;) –  Zack Mar 9 '11 at 18:33
    
Does this really have anything to do with WordPress ? It's basically a general and reasonably tricky IA question. –  anu Mar 10 '11 at 9:46
    
@anu It has to do with blending separate sites in a WordPress Multisite environment. –  EAMann Mar 10 '11 at 15:18
    
I don't really agree - this is totally about how you want to structure the content, the user journeys, etc, and until you work that out the underlying platform deosn't really have much to do with it. Isn't really a criticism, but I'd change the focus away from WordPress for a while, sketch out some site maps and some wireframes and then work out how to do it in WP. –  anu Mar 10 '11 at 15:35
    
Part of it is structuring the content, but the crux of the problem is structuring the sites and their interaction with one another. @Rarst's answer is a great example of ways the cross-site interaction can be done, and @andrea_r suggests some quality plug-ins for doing it. –  EAMann Mar 10 '11 at 15:47

5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted
  1. Your sites look nothing alike. Open those three links - and there is not a single element that binds all three sites together. Network of sites can benefit from consistent looks.

  2. You could use global "about" page that covers all of your activity and not just bits in context of specific site. Consider building landing page that will summarize yourself, your network of sites and topics they cover, means of contact, etc. Plus recent activity from Twitter and your network.

  3. Have capable and prominent search through all of the network. It's easy to build with Google CSE and will immensely help people that landed in the wrong place.

  4. Make good use of related posts. Consider what visitor sees when finishing article - is there something that he seamlessly continue to or is it surrounded by completely unrelated posts? On other hand it is probably harder to implement for network, than in context of single site that covers multiple topics...

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If I read correctly, it's already a WP-multi site right?

Maybe:

  • create one main theme that will be used on all the sites
  • create a child theme for each site that varies the color, or logo, or whatever to make it distinct.
  • Use common widgets to pull in twitter feeds, etc.
  • To increase the cross pollination of posts, use a special category that corresponds to each of the other sites in the network. (i.e. in a post on the personal blog, tick the checkbox for the religion blog).
  • Write a function that extends the regular loop to check the other blogs for content in xyz category. So query_posts() has something like query_posts($query_string.'&extendednetwork=true')
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In my opinion, one of the most perfect examples (even when content isn't that far spread) is the landing page of Sergej Müller.

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Make the main site the landing part of the whole "You Network". Use this plugin to pull them all there:

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-mu-sitewide-tags/

or this one:

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/list-recent-sites/

which is similar to what I use here atypicalife.net for a family network of blogs.

Chunk op the sub-sites according to how you want. Export & Import posts around. Use a plguin like http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/threewp-broadcast/ or http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/multipost-mu/ to push posts.

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I also had a few blogs and sites spread over, mainly running on WP and other open scripts. Then came WPMU.

Since then i have collected my posts and data from all over the places to one single domain Goelji.com. Following are the rough sum-up of the steps i took:

  1. converted/ported my all Open scripts (wp,blogger,classiscripts,phpbb etc.) data to WP blogs.

  2. classification and creating a data structure.

  3. installed WPMU on Goelji root. created sub-domains for main categories i.e. entertainment, tech,life-style,classifieds,kratika.

  4. installed all the plugins needed to create all the features.

  5. created subcategories in all the sub-domains i.e. tech>softwares tech>internet tech>wordpress entertainment>lyrics entertainment>hollywood entertainment>videos lifestyle>world lifestyle>health lifestyle>recepies and so on...

  6. imported all my blogs into sub-domain blogs.

  7. created a main theme for my blogs on sub-domain and a child theme for Goelji.com

  8. right now working on a magazine style home page for Goelji.com

Have a look over it. http://goelji.com/

:) i genuinely tried to keep it short...

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