Overview of Centralized WordPress Site Management

/ 29 December 2015

Somewhat following after my post regarding online security over the next few weeks I may be posting articles that branch off of that with more details about one item or another mentioned in that article.

A few days ago Mary asked me to guide her through understanding the full functionality of WordPress.com, especially given how much it has expanded its helpfulness towards anyone running self-hosted WordPress sites. No longer is it just for running WordPress.com-hosted sites, as I do none of that yet consider WordPress.com a very helpful tool. It is no joke that for lots of site management when I’m partly responsible for managing many different WP sites (over 6 different sites, all self-hosted) WordPress.com has become quite a central tool that makes many common management tasks more streamlined since it is one place I can go to accomplish many tasks even on more than one site at a time. In writing up notes to guide me in helping Mary, and to leave her with, I came to the realization that those notes may be useful to others (not the least being, potentially, some of the very clients I work with and others who may be helping to manage multiple WordPress sites either for personal and/or professional reasons). Those notes are after the break.

The WordPress.com website itself has 2 major sections that organize its core functionality, and then has some assorted other functionality:

1. My Sites

This lists all the sites, both hosted at WordPress.com and self-hosted running Jetpack with at least the Manage and Single Sign-On modules activated, that your WordPress.com account is authorized to access/administrate. Each site has the following parts to it (with some of these being only for self-hosted sites):

  • Stats
    • Shows you the most important statistics about your website
    • This includes that which Google Analytics also does, but also things like Followers and Publicize data points among many others
      • Followers are those who follow your site using their WordPress.com accounts or by email subscriptions
      • Publicize shows you the reach your posts have gotten via social media, including the like and share counts from FB, and so forth
    • Stats are viewed by ranges like Day, Week, etc. and keeps a number of data points under an Insights tab
  • Plan
    • Mostly applies to WordPress.com-hosted sites
    • But applies to self-hosted sites for premium backup and security scanning functionality
  • Under Publish are lists of Blog Posts, Pages, and links to any other post type
    • Blog posts and Pages show up in lists on WordPress.com and can also be edited and new content written right from WordPress.com
      • I'm actually writing this very post from WordPress.com rather than directly on Day by Day, just to see what doing so feels like
    • Other content types are links to the content lists on your website for management
      • My guess is that WP 4.5 will bring support for custom types to Calypso (the codename for the new WordPress.com) as long as those types allow themselves in the RESTful API
  • Personalize->Themes
    • Choose the theme for your site
    • Access the Customizer for the selected theme
  • Personalize->Menus
    • Change menu selections and options
  • Configure->Sharing
    • Set up the Publicize connections for your site
    • Change the options for your site's Sharing Buttons
  • Configure->People
    • Look at lists of both your Team (Users on self-hosted sites), Followers (WordPress.com users who follow your site), and Email Followers (those who just signed up to be sent every new blog post in email upon them getting published)
      • Search these lists as needed
    • Change details about your Team members
    • Add Team Members
    • Remove Followers and Email Followers
  • Configure->Plugins
    • Review what plugins are installed, active, inactive, have updates, for self-hosted sites
    • Activate or deactivate plugins
      • No longer do you need to have filesystem access to forcibly remove a problematic plugin if you cannot access the local admin area to deactivate it
    • Set plugins to be automatically updated by WordPress.com as updates are released
    • Add new plugins
    • Remove existing plugins
  • Configure->Settings
    • General has these options
      • Site Profile (name and tagline)
      • Visibility (search engine settings)
      • Jetpack (monitor email settings and follower migration tool)
      • Related Posts (settings regarding if and how related posts are shown below post content)
    • Writing has these options
      • Default categories and formats
      • Press This bookmarklet
    • Discussion has these options
      • Default article settings
      • General comment settings
      • Email notification settings
      • Moderation settings
    • Security has these options
      • Whitelisting of IP addresses for Jetpack Protect
      • Jetpack Monitor settings
  • Configure->WP Admin
    • Takes you to the site's local admin Dashboard

A handful of these site-specific sections are exposed for bulk management of multiple sites when All My Sites is selected, these are:

  • Stats
    • Useful to compare the stats on your sites to each other
  • Publish
    • Blog Post and Page lists, organized by status and either just your content or content authored by everyone
  • Personalize->Themes
  • Configure->Plugins

2. Reader

This is essentially another RSS reader, but one that has special treatment for when you Follow a WordPress site (self-hosted WordPress sites will need to manually add a Follow button while WordPress.com sites have it built in) as your WordPress.com user, but generally just pasting a connected WordPress site’s URL should get WordPress.com to recognize the site as one to Follow rather than use its RSS Feed. The main advantage of Following versus using the RSS Feed is the option to automatically receive new blog posts in email as they are published. It is only logical for a service that started out as a content creation platform to also contain a way to read content that is published across the internet.

There is a section for what you’re following, and ways to manage your subscriptions. Each post and site is formatted quite simply with a decent white background and simple fonts, making the content wholly match the WordPress.com aesthetic. Anyone who has used any RSS reader will feel familiar with Reader.

There are two sections of content discovery: 1. A curated Discover area with content the WordPress.com staff have found and put together; 2. A Recommendations area that recommends new content based on what you’re already following and perhaps also using what you write as another feeder into its determinations.

Once you have a WordPress.com account and are logged in to it on your computers nearly all the time (as I now am, and would recommend for pretty much anyone who uses WordPress in any way as the account is free) you’ll begin to notice what other sites across the web use WordPress by seeing either your admin bar above all WordPress.com-hosted sites, by not needing to further identify yourself when leaving comments, or by recognizing things like the Like button on sites and posts. Reader also has a section called My Likes which brings together all the content across the web that you have liked.

You have the ability to further organize what you follow into lists. Perhaps you’d have a Family list, a Politics list, and a Technology list. The way you choose to organize is entirely up to you. Rather than just following sites you can also choose to follow tags as a way of following specific topics that interest you.

Assorted other WordPress.com site functionality

  • Post Editor accessed from the new post button on the right of the admin bar
    • Select a site and you're instantly taken to the post editor interface on WordPress.com
  • User profile accessed from your avatar (managed with logging in to Gravatar using your WordPress.com account) on the right of the admin bar
    • Profile information
      • Includes defining a list of your websites, be them WordPress sites or otherwise
    • Account settings
      • Includes selecting your primary site (the site other WordPress.com users follow when they follow your user) and other general website settings that will also end up applying to any site you visit that is hosted at WordPress.com
    • Manage Purchases
      • For paid WordPress.com services
    • Security (the usual suspects)
      • Change Password
      • Two-Step Authentication using either standard 2FA app or the WordPress mobile app
      • Connected Applications
      • Checkup
    • Notifications (see next assorted functionality for more details)
      • Choose which kinds of notifications you get from each site, what notifications you get from comments you leave on sites using your WordPress.com user, promotional email from WordPress.com, and defaults for your Reader subscriptions
      • Extremely granular controls for where what notifications from what sites get sent to (email, WordPress.com, each of your devices)
    • Next Steps has suggestions for what next to do with your account and sites in order to spruce things up
    • Help is the WordPress.com help center for any questions you may have
  • Notifications drawer accessed from the bell on the right of the admin bar
    • Notifications you've gotten from sites based on your aforementioned settings
    • This same drawer will appear on any WordPress.com, or self-hosted site with the Notifications module of Jetpack active, when you're logged in to an account associated with your WordPress.com user account
    • Click on a notification to see its details and act upon it
    • Notifications are organized into categories along the top as tabs and show up chronologically

WordPress Mobile App

Has all the same functionality of the website, packaged onto your mobile device, with the additional benefits of geotagging posts and being able to take pictures right into your posts, among other things. Good for on-the-go comment management as well. Receives push notifications for all Notifications you let WordPress.com send your device. Definitely worth installing if you regularly post to any WordPress site, though for easiest setup and operation you’ll need to first install Jetpack to your site and link your local site account to your WordPress.com account.


A plugin provided by WordPress.com for self-hosted WordPress sites to get many of the same features and benefits that WordPress.com-hosted sites get. To me it increasingly feels basically like a given that all self-hosted WordPress sites, be them personal or professional, have no to very little excuse not to be running Jetpack. This is due to these among many other features:

  • For visitors:
    • Social network (including WordPress.com) sign-in for commenting
    • Infinite scrolling
    • Social sharing options, including those tied to the WordPress.com community
    • Connects site to the larger WordPress community and ecosystem of sites
  • For site managers and authors:
    • Single Sign-On
      • Even if you don't turn on 2FA for your WordPress.com account you still ought to get into the habit of always logging into your WordPress sites via WordPress.com (there'll be a button to do so on your site's log in screen) because where you type your username and password will be encrypted while the majority of websites today, and virtually all of the WordPress sites I help maintain, that people like us run aren't yet using a secure connection themselves
      • Also, 90% of the time you won't be challenged for any credentials because you'll already be logged in at WordPress.com
      • You connect your local site account to your WordPress.com account from your User Profile on your site
    • Protect
      • A cloud-powered network run as part of WordPress.com to block brute force login attempts that will instantly blacklist IP addresses from being able to even attempt logins on all connected WordPress sites if they try a brute force attack on any single WordPress site
    • Monitor
      • WordPress.com continually checking your site's reachability and will send you an email if the site goes down and when it comes back up
    • Manage
      • Well, the whole My Sites section above explains why this feature of Jetpack is so beneficial
  • Lots more for both visitors and site managers

WordPress.com as an emerging community

Overall WordPress.com has really become a community in the past few years, more so than I think it was at its inception, thanks to these features. When anyone logged in to WordPress.com can comment on nearly any WordPress website with no effort whatsoever (as can anyone logged in to Facebook, Twitter, or Google), no need to re-identify themselves, you begin to build a community feeling around this 25% of the internet. Reader, and tagging content being able to bring together these topics from across the internet, begins to push content into new heights of interconnectedness and community. Since Reader exists we also have WordPress.com not being merely for content creators, but also for content consumers, and as such may also be a simple blog content reader to use for anyone who is starting out in the community of blogging by running or being a part of a WordPress.com-hosted website. I’ve begun to place my WordPress.com account as not hugely far behind my Google account in its standing as a overarching account under which many of the things I do online fall, because well, with so much of my consulting work and personal website work utilizing WordPress almost all of those I access using this one account. Even if you only are a part of one WordPress site that is self-hosted, taking a dive into having a WordPress.com account would both make logging into that site more secure and let you explore more fully the emerging community of websites that WordPress is well on its way to being.