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As promised, here’s the real life take on the new MainWP WordPress Network management plugin.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am finally posting a real world review of the MainWP Network Management system. The software is in full release for the WordPress populace in general. Which brings us to the first point:

What kind of systems does MainWP support?

WordPress – pure and simple. I have it on approximately 50 sites at the current time, including a WordPress MultiSite setup. I did NOT try to do the Network activate usage on there, but it seems to be working fine on the individual sites. Apparently that seems to be a favorite question – no Drupal, no Joomla or anything else.

How do you USE MainWP?

There’s two parts to the MainWP system. The management system control and the client plugins.

MainWP Management System

The WP management system itself will be installed ON a WordPress installation. Now, I’m not you, but I decided when I did this that the last thing *I* wanted was this on a production money site of any sort that might be prone to hack attempts. If someone did slither by my security – and I’m sure for a determined hacker that it’s probably NOT a huge deal – the last thing I wanted was to have a management panel there for him to immediately hack another 50+ sites in about 20 seconds by adding an admin user on EVERY site in one shot. So I added it to an obscure domain that should generally have no traffic, no boatload of plugins that might have security flaws and weaknesses down the road, no posts, no commenting – almost nothing. Pretty much an empty site – except for the management system plugin.

MainWP Clients (WordPress Plugins)

The next thing that you will do to get things moving on your new system is to start installing the WordPress client plugin on any site that you wish to control from the management console. The plugin can be downloaded directly from the WordPress repository. Just do an “install plugin” and search for “MainWP child”. Install. Then go to your management site and add new site. You will need to provide the “Friendly Name”, the URL and an admin name. There is an option for a super unique key for added security. Caveat: I am NOT sure how necessary this is. I don’t have an extra installation to try to attach to this with. My big concern if one DOESN’T use the child code is that anyone with that hacker mentality) the system may try to hook to your install by tapping in the easily found URL and username that is showing on the page posts. If you’re seriously into security, you’ve probably already got the admin username tucked away, but… just sayin’.

One nice thing here is that you can upload a boatload of sites in CSV file format. So if you have a bunch, it’s probably worth your while to go ahead and figure out the format and tap everything in and push it all at once. Additionally you can add in the “groups” and security codes to the CSV format and probably speed things up nicely by doing it via CSV. They provide a sample CSV so you can just fill in your own details.

What settings CAN you do remotely with MainWP?

Just about anything! Add/remove themes, plugins, users, pages, posts. More about pages and posts shortly. It’s great that you can modify your users and passwords easily across all sites or just a select few. You are able to determine the user role, update passwords and more. GREATLY saves you time if you are trying to setup standardized structures on your sites. You can create posts and pages to be pushed to any or all of your sites. And of course, when needed, you can directly open up the specific site WordPress dashboard for any of your sites when needed.

OTHER functionality

Backup and cloning of sites. The extremely cool functionality of being able to generate heatmaps for your site – now you do NOT see that everyday! Uptime monitor notifications. The sites can be added into their own groups. Bear with me and I’m going to tell you where this WordPress management system REALLY shines…

Even BETTER, MainWP has Extensions. Like many other WordPress things, you can push in new extensions. Right now, there are only 3 extensions – Advanced Uptime Monitor, MainWP Spinner, and MainWP Content Extension – and they’re all free right now. These are (my guess only) going to stay free. As more users jump onto this great tool, I suspect other devs will hop in with their own extensions and THOSE will probably be paid extensions.

So where DOES MainWP Really Shine?

If you caught the extensions mentioned above, “spinner” and “content” extensions – you’re probably getting the idea. Since this particular product is from the fine people at Sick Marketing – with all their SEO tools, it only stands to reason that this management system is really built around the needs of internet marketing and SEO people. That is where this WordPress network management app shines – handling Private Blog Networks (PBNs) and other internet marketing needs.

Content Creation / Content Spinning

With the built-in content spinner and “content extension” plugins – you are loaded up far as getting content out to your sites. While the built-in sources in the content extensions are not the greatest, it gives you something to work with at least. I can’t say I’m blown away by the content sources that they include – Yahoo Answers, YouTube, Amazon, Ebay, Expedia, Prosperent, Vimeo, Google News, Eventful, Rotten Tomatoes, Oodle. I would have thought that they would have included some article directories. Anyway, they do provide settings for your own private APIs/usernames for all these services where applicable. They provide options for removing sigs, anchor links (ALWAYS helpful). This may be something that they work on in the future.

The built in spinner functionality provides service from The Best Spinner (TBS), Spinner Chief, and Chimp Rewriter. You DO need an account with these services, it is not automatically included with MainWP purchase. The Generate content options allow you to enter a keyword or phrase; remove anchor links, author sigs; add images to the post from Flickr, align those images as desired. I use the Best Spinner so I popped a bit of this article in there (as I hadn’t really used the spinner in here yet) to see how it worked.

Using the Page/Post Functionality

I pasted some content into a “New Post” window, selected my target site (you can select any/all as well as entire groups of sites) and selected a proper category. The content was spun and left in spintax in the editor window. I clicked Publish and about 15 seconds later, I was notified that the post had been made. And indeed it had. However, with TBS, you have a tendency to get some gibberish and this was no different. It’s probably going to be spidered and indexed, but if someone lands there, mmm… I don’t think I’d want it on a money site. Perhaps integration with a more intelligent spinner such as WordAI that seems to take things into account like actual usage/placement to make better choices about replacement / spun phrases. But that can wait for another review. REGARDLESS, if you want to post a bunch of articles based on a non-spun article (not really recommended) or a GOOD spintax based article, THIS is the bomb and pretty easy. Being able to slap up the category and all is a great help.

If you were to do the same thing with SENuke for example, the articles would just go under the default category and take more setup than the 30 seconds to do it with MainWP. And with the cool group features, you can post a new article on blue widgets on ALL your widget sites in no time at all, in the proper category and TO the proper sites without manually having to go through and select which of your sites to hit. Just select the right group and BAM, you’re ready to go.

The interface to post to your network is the normal WordPress Page/Post interface and thus all the features that you expect to find are there. Want to setup a bunch of posts ahead of time and schedule them via the normal WordPress method? You got it. Status, Visibility. The downside is that when you select catgories, you get one big list of categories for ALL sites selected. This could present some issues IMHO. Unless you have standardized categories across ALL your websites (unlikely), you will likely end up with some oddball categories selected. Or if you have one situation where you might want something to go under “vinyl siding” and another under “replacement windows”, and they both exist… you can see where this could be a problem if you’re strictly trying to control your categories. Though you could always do things in smaller groups or even save your spintax and do it one by one.

You have the ability to sort your sites out by group – for example (if you are using PBNs), Home Improvement sites, Medical sites, Internet Tech sites, etc.

MainWP – Room for Improvement

There is always room for improvement and I suspect that is why this software is still listed as “Beta” – improving features/interfacing/etc.

One thing I *would* like to see is the ability to make a post/page, go back and do it again and again as needed. Once the post has been made, there is no way (other than copy/pasting the content into a local text editor) to save the content and do successive posts. You can NOT go back a screen, return to the posts/pages interface and select a new site to post to. Functionality just doesn’t exist.

A good solution would be to SAVE that post content WITH the spin locally in the WordPress installation for future usage. I don’t want 10-15 posts to appear in one shot necessarily. Might be nice to be able to go back and schedule them to come out across a few days without having to go to each site and modify the post time setting. I would LOVE to see a crapload of previous posts stashed away under local categories (Computer Articles for example) that I could go back to and post to either a new site or with a new spin on it. Wouldn’t it be great to have a whole library of saved spins that could be called up at will and posted in seconds when you wanted? Maybe even have an associated list of sites to which that article had already been posted. Selecting on an article may bring up an interface showing that the article had been posted on ComputerSite1 on Oct 1, 2013, ComputerSite2 on Oct 3, 2013, etc.

Conclusion:

MainWP is indeed pretty awesome – particularly at the current price point. $69 for the PRO version while they are still listing MainWP as “Beta”. You can also get the free version for up to 5 sites, Standard version for $19 for up to 25 sites, Enhanced version for $39 to handle up to 100 sites, and then, of course, that Pro version at $69. It’s a pretty strong beta, but my guess is that they’re working on new/different features still and maybe still tuning up the existing ones. The ones that they have in place are pretty solid. My two cents is that there are some screens in place here that could be improved. It feels like (based on my experience as a programmer) that they HAVE all the data being collected that is needed, it’s just a matter of how to best pull it out and present it. Some screens seem like they could be better integrated and/or combined into far more useful SINGLE destination pages.

As far as handling mass amounts of sites for updating plugins, themes, core installs, etc – depending on YOUR needs – MainWP (formerly Sick Network) IS highly acceptable. It is NOT as production oriented as InfiniteWP IMHO. That’s where I think the real difference lies. IF the only thing that you’re really interested in is mass updating plugins and WordPress cores on a ton of sites, then InfiniteWP is currently IMHO the better choice. If on the other hand, you’re trying to run a ton of sites primarily for SEO, Internet Marketing, Private Blog Network management, etc, then MainWP is the way to go. Be aware that this is a sort of gray area.

You can get the functionality in InfiniteWP to do a lot of the things that are native in MainWP, but they are all paid addons to do that. Making pages,posts; manage users; backups, clone sites. For example, if I wanted to do backups, manage users, clone a WordPress install, monitor uptime, publish posts and pages… with InfiniteWP, that would be the base FREE install and then several plugins that would cost you about $390. With MainWP – they’re all there with no additional addons needed for that base price above. So if you have over 100 sites, you are still paying just $69. A far more economical choice – and if you have even fewer sites? For the cost of just ONE of the addons for InfiniteWP, you can have ALL the possible functionality in MainWP.

My true choice? Both – LOL. I like the simplicity of the plugin updates via InfiniteWP. The update screen is a long list of sites that you can just easily click – “Update All” plugins/themes (or do them one by one if desired) right down the line. It’s just much easier to do updats on a long list of sites efficiently. If on the other hand you are wanting to make some posts regularly – with an eye towards SEO and all that type of functionality, I prefer MainWP.

Either way you go, IWP or MWP – or BOTH, using a WordPress Network Management system will allow major time savings for ANY busy webmaster.