WORDPRESS MULTISITE FOR PUBLISHERS
HELPING A PUBLISHER MANAGE ITS BRANDS AND INCREASE ENGAGEMENT WITH WORDPRESS MULTISITE
Help Bonhill Increase engagement across its websites and combine them into a single easy to manage platform
What We Did
Built a WordPress Multisite Platform for Bonhill with a new front end visual and features to engage readers for longer.
WordPress Multisite lets you run lots of WordPress sites from a single install of WordPress.
Bonhill Group PLC are a large provider and publisher of business and investment related content. Their content is presented both nine and in a series of print magazine that they distribute world wide to their subscribers.
Alongside their editorial and news content Bonhill provide deep research into the UK small business sector and have an events arm that seeks to engage UK business leaders in meaningful conversations about their businesses and their growth potential.
As a media group that had evolved over time Bonhill had picked up a number of different content management systems that didn’t work well together. Some sites were using a proprietary system from an old provider, some were on WordPress and others managed in completely different ways.
Further, ad revenue on their network of websites was declining. They hadn’t updated their design for sometime and their bounce rate was increasing, their ‘pages per session’ rate was declining and their overall pages view. Part of this was just the network of sites looking out dated but also how difficult the old sites had become to read as they had been tweaked and updated over time. With pay rates for adverts declining across the web and advertising platforms this drop in traffic Bonhill media was experiencing was troubling.
This wasn’t the first time Bonhill had tried to solve this problem. They were understandably concerned about the project and its potential outcomes. They had trouble unifying the sites before, producing an all encompassing platform that was easy to use for all their editors has turned out to be a difficult problem.
Using WordPress Multisite to power a group of publishing brands
With guidance to Bonhill’s strategic goals we set about solving their problems.
The core solution implementation we built for them is a WordPress Multisite heavily customised to meet their specific needs.
Now all of the Bonhill sites run off a single WordPress installation that is configured a single time. Only one site needs to be updated when WordPress is updated and one set of plugins taken care of when that time comes. Otherwise, dozens of sites may need updating independently.
Customisable, Brandable Theme that encourages engagement.
The presentation layer on top of all their sites is a custom theme that retains the same design language across all of their online properties. This theme is powered by Twig and Timber with support for the WordPress Customiser Built In.
The WordPress Customiser is a strange feature for us to use in a project. It’s meant to be used by generic theme authors to provide customisation options for purchased themes and reduce the need for private theme customisation frameworks.
We built all kinds of nice features to increase over all engagement with the site and increase the Pages Per View that Bonhill gets across their network. Clever use of Infinite Scroll on Archive and Post pages moves you through relevant content easily – increasing the consumption and reducing the discover effort on the part of the user. Google Analytics is integrated with these features to make sure that every possible interaction and page view is accounted for.The Question and Answer sections of the site adds a sticky element that encourages return visits and user generate content for the site. Invaluable in helping Bonhill plan future content and swelling the pages against which they can advertise.
Campaign Monitor Integration
Bonhill engages in a lot of email marketing. We helped them simplify a massive amount of Campaign Monitor Lists into a few key lists with better segmentation. These lists reflect the email subscriptions that users sign up for by adding and removing them from defined segments within Campaign monitor depending on actions they take on the Bonhill network of sites.
The Campaign monitor integration is total, as users update their information in the Bonhill profile or in their Preference Center. Their information is also updated in Campaign Monitor allowing them to be segment further and further for incredibly targeted and specific email delivery campaigns.
Some content deserves more coverage than others. Sometime a story is valuable and important, sometimes it just has a great click through rate and you want to make the most of it. We’ve provided Bonhill’s Editorial team with Tools to Keep great posts available longer with “Editor’s Picks” and other featured content systems.
WooCommerce, Subscriptions & Groups to provide members only content.
Along side their stand alone brand and freely published content Bonhill published members only content that customers subscribe to receive. The way WooCommerce subscriptions normally work we would have had to generate a separate installation of WooCommerce for each and every site all with individual products and subscriptions. We didn’t want this, that would’ve been expensive for Bonhill to maintain and promote.
Instead, our WordPress Multisite has a core eCommerce site where users purchase their subscriptions and other Bonhill Media products. These subscriptions place them in membership Groups that can be accessed by every site in the multisite, allowing central control of user subscriptions across the entire network of sites from a single location.
Global User Management
Adding to the complexity of the WooCommerce Subscriptions and Groups solution is the need for a global user database. This is provided by WordPress multisite. We can assign editors to roles on a site by site basis but we made the ordinary members of the site global across the network so a registration on one site was a registration on every site.
We used Gravity Forms’ mature user management plugins to provide the user profiles and registration forms. This was to provide easy integration with other service providers that Bonhill uses, rather than reinventing the wheel. Unfortunately, Gravity Forms doesn’t play well with Multisite out of the box so we developed a solution for this, allowing form re-use across all of the sites grouped into the multisite.
To further increase engagement and meet sales goals we helped Bonhill develop a series of custom widgets for WordPress. These widgets covered a series of use cases from their Custom Newsletter sign up as part of the Campaign Monitor integration, to pulling related products from the central WooCommerce store into each page page view.
We also provide Advertising Widgets and a custom popular posts widget. Popular Posts widgets are a common thing but they are resource intensive, particularly when used on high traffic sites. They are all banned from the Managed Host Bonhill is running their platform on. So we had to custom create a widget that met the strict requirements from their host.
Importing Massive amounts of Posts
Bonhill had amassed massive amounts of content across various platforms and sites that were all managed separately. Each site has about 10 years of content and around 20,000 posts.
We managed to import the content from the different systems by writing a custom extension to the WordPress Importer that mapped taxonomies, fetched images, merged categories and created rewrite rules so that the old links would continue to work and Search Rankings Built over the years would not be lost.
As an ad funded site we integrated a variety of advertising features for Bonhill across their network.
Their primary advertiser is Google Doubleclick for Publishers. We provided tools for them to introduce Adverts in sidebars via widgets, in their content via Shortcodes, in their post archives via placements, in their grids and globally in defined places around the site.
We also integrated more native advertising via Nativo and several other providers.
Because the site uses so many extra engagement features we have to be careful to fully trigger all the adverts so that impressions are counted correctly. Particularly when the infinite scroll is involved as we do not have a standard “page view”.
A Unique Solution
As you can imagine, there aren’t that many WordPress Multisite installations in the world. This is a unique solution to Bonhill, It has many lessons to teach other publishers and those with multiple brands to update regularly.
By taking this approach we vastly streamlined their processes and helped increase their productivity while also reducing support and maintenance costs. A huge thing for us was managing to import that content from their databases without having to resort to massive manual adjustments to the WordPress database to get it to work.
The provision of their custom, customisable theme was a huge addition as well – this saved them from having to have multiple themes or a parent and multiple child themes to manage and update. When new functionality is added to the Bonhill theme it is immediately available to all of their sites with minimal configuration and updating.
Summing It Up
This project was incredible – we were privileged to work on something so vast with such a huge impact on the organisation.
Over the course of the project we have helped:
– Save them expensive hosting costs
– Reduce their ongoing site maintenance costs
– Increase their editors productivity and reduced the time it takes to train them
– Increase the number of adverts that an average user is shown and the number of pages that a user views per visit
– Increase their daily revenue and helped to make them more attractive to new advertisers
All in all, we helped Bonhill overcome some serious issues within their organisation and move forward into the next ten years of digital publishing.