Multi-Site Approach: Save, Scale, and Build Loyalty

November 30th, 2022

How can an organization support thousands of websites with a small team, improve brand loyalty, and reduce inefficiencies and resource costs?

Utilizing a multi-site approach (using one code base for multiple websites) makes this seemingly impossible feat a reality. There are some important considerations regarding this approach, like:

  • The impact brand consistency has on loyalty – and how multi-site improves brand consistency when working with many different sites
  • Why establishing the right partnerships is necessary to multi site success
  • Key factors for a successful multi-site
  • Ways to optimize a multi-site platform for the biggest “wow” to the ideal audience
  • How to get buy-in for a multi-site platform from internal decision makers

This article provides expert insights on those topics, based on the greatest hits from a webinar with our partners at Acquia and Princeton University’s Office of Information Technology.


“Taking Multi-site Management at Scale to the Next Level”

For a deeper dive into this topic, be sure to check out this on-demand webinar, presented by Kara Hall (Senior Product Marketing Manager, Acquia), Jill Moraca (Senior Director, Web Development Services Software and Application Services, Princeton University Office of Information Technology), and FFW Solution Consultant, Mandee Englert.

Consistency Greatly Impacts Brand Loyalty. Multi Site Makes Consistency Easier.

A single user will interact with your brand in multiple ways, and depending on the size of your platform, they’ll likely interact with multiple websites and subdomains. Sometimes these platforms are disconnected from one another, leading to an inconsistent experience for users interested in the brand. How can a user really build loyalty toward a brand when every experience and marketing channel looks totally different? They won’t really be able to understand the brand or what excites them about it if the experience is disjointed.

Organizations that have several subdomains, like many universities and multi-brand enterprises, will often deal with problems around brand consistency. A single university brand may have hundreds if not thousands of sites within the university umbrella. So wrapping each experience in that single branding and keeping consistent workflows can be a huge challenge.

Getting multi-site management right is not very easy. It requires:

  • Forming the right partnerships with technology partners
  • Understanding those marketer and content owner goals
  • Improving disjointed experiences
  • Collecting the right data for marketers
  • Being able to act quickly in critical moments in time


Establishing the Right Partnerships is a Crucial Step

Building a solid partnership with content owners is integral for creating uniform brand experiences. You need to find out who that content person is and understand their goals. Partnering with the team who really owns the brand will help lead to content governance and determine exactly what your content and platform owners are going to need. Sometimes even a simple change can make a world of difference for building consistent experiences – like a header and footer that’s consistent across every website.


Benefits of a Multi-site Approach

Multi-site allows for consistent content creation, data integration, and sharing – with the ability to spin up new brand-compliant content very quickly and seamlessly. It is basically one code base, and in that code base, there’s editable and untouchable branding elements. This allows for a sweet spot of enough flexibility for the layout and theme, balanced with the rigidness of brand consistency.

Multi-site allows consistent data integration across many sites. For example, with universities, there’s a need to pull in data about classes and courses and their titles, descriptions, and structures. The universities want that data coming from an authoritative source to avoid editors entering outdated course information, misspelling things, or adding their own descriptions. That base is already there anytime it’s necessary to create a new site, so there’s no need to build it in.

Consistent content sharing reduces duplicative entry of news and events. With multi-site, you’re able to enter content in one site and share it collectively among other related sites. Enter it once, then publish it everywhere.

According to Princeton University’s Office of Information Technology, a multi-site approach using Acquia Site Factory is supporting the team in development and supporting the university as a whole.


Some benefits of using multi-site through Acquia Site Factory:

  • One code base used by nearly 1000 websites
  • Allows for lean development team to support many websites
  • Manageable deployments
  • Can consolidate multiple Drupal 7 codebases into Drupal 9 code base
  • Develop new features and roll them out to all websites
  • Content editors/marketers have the same editing experience for different websites


Optimizing your Multi-site Platform

The fun really starts once you’ve established your multi-site code base and are seamlessly outputting consistently branded content. Now you can continue to scale by adding layers of data and personalization.

The first step is putting together your platform roadmap. At FFW, we summarize this with “Own, Operate, Optimize”.

Own: Every company should be in control of their digital platform. Using a cloud based solution like Acquia Site Factory makes this possible.

Operate: Which platform features and functionality you can leverage that will empower you to operate at scale.

Optimize: Multi-site platforms are living, breathing products. Building a strong roadmap ensures that you’re constantly optimizing as you’re learning more about your users over time.

Creating a roadmap for optimizing your site can look like monthly product meetings to continuously improve it and examine if it’s operating the way marketers and content editors need it to. What new features do people want? What bugs are people complaining about the most? Reviewing these questions, prioritizing and working on them, and then rolling them out on a monthly basis is a way to ensure your site is being optimized consistently.

Personalizing audience experiences is where it really gets interesting for marketers. Connecting data from multiple sources to understand the full journey of any user segment drives repeat engagement and loyalty for the brand.


How to Get Buy-in from Decision Makers

When beginning the conversation with decision makers about a multi-site approach, the potential cost savings is a great place to start. Having a single code base for many sites can help dramatically cut costs in multiple ways:

Can roll out new sites quickly and painlessly: The ability to roll out many websites quickly with a consistent brand and infrastructure can save money and resourcing. A small team can support many sites. Marketers and content editors are able to learn just one single platform. And new employees need to learn just one platform to edit different sites.

Reduced hosting costs: Hosting hundreds or thousands of websites individually can get very expensive.

Consolidated support: Support teams can work with all sites because they have a consistent set of features and the knowledge of things that can go wrong. They don’t have to troubleshoot many different issues. If something is wrong on one site it’s likely wrong on 900 other sites. They can easily fix it and roll out fixes to other sites.


Dealing with hundreds or thousands of websites? Let’s talk.

Multi-site is our bread and butter; scaling and optimizing a multi-site platform even more so. We’ve helped some of the world’s top brands navigate how to consolidate disparate sites to create homogenous experiences, and ultimately build stronger brand loyalty.

Contact us to start the conversation on how we can help turn your digital dreams into a reality.