Can and Should I Run WordPress in Parallel with my Existing Site?

Andy Schaff Oct 6 2015

Rocket Bug
This is a question I get asked a lot as senior developer at Portent. A client, new or existing, has an established site running on some platform, and wants to add on a blog, a microsite, or the ability to easily control top-of-funnel marketing content. Technically, “in parallel” means WordPress (WP) is set up to run alongside your existing site, hosted from the same server. Ideally, we set up WP to live under our top-level domain, which Portent’s SEO team recommends for better link authority.

What does WordPress do for you?

As one of the most popular content management systems in the open-source market, WordPress allows clients to update their content in real-time, avoiding the dependency of a developer and the overhead involved. Clients are able to adapt quickly to events, sharing thoughts, ideas, and promotions, in a matter of minutes. Additionally, WP has a strong community of developers, enthusiasts, and supporters who help with anything from extended functionality to general support. Let’s say you want to add lead capturing forms, a photo gallery, or a community forum. WP makes it super simple.

As a client, why do I want this?

I need better blogging capabilities on my site.

WordPress was originally designed as a blogging web application. It has come a long way since its beginnings to offer a much more complete content management system, but its origins lie in blogging. This is probably the most popular use of running WP in parallel, as many sites have WP installed in their “brandname.com/blog” sub-directory. Many times, this makes the blog look and feel different than the rest of the site, and there is nothing wrong with that.

I need to run a digital campaign or microsite.

Your company has a large legacy site that has been around since that mega site redesign back in 2012. It took a year to design and develop, and processes are well in place. It works well, but lacks the flexibility to create an exciting marketing campaign advertising your company’s latest endeavor. You want similar branding, but a sexier grab-your-attention look. Something new. Something fresh. WordPress can offer this capability while leaving the main site alone, allowing a simple and easy-to-use solution and a dynamic platform where you can go “full-marketer”. This is just one example of why a client would want to use WP alongside their current site. Whether it’s flexibility in a site for a specific promotion, the need for a new look and feel, or the combo of the two, there are plenty of valid reasons to have microsites running alongside your corporate site rather than letting them sit fully separately.

I need full control of all my top-of-funnel site content for marketing.

Web applications have been built to function in a very specific way. Online retail, information processing, report generation, wikis, and webmail are just a short list of all the specialized web apps out there. Many of them gave no forethought to marketing content and SEO concerns, which may be a reason you are reading this article now. WordPress can be installed in parallel to solve this issue, giving you the reins on your content and SEO capabilities.

So, can you do this?

Simply put, most of the time, yes you can.

I say this because there are basic requirements that are necessary to host WordPress, but most hosting environments fulfill them. It is highly likely your site is served by Apache or Windows IIS. Ask your server administrator to find out if your hosting environment has these technologies:

  • Apache, IIS, or nginx
  • PHP 5.4 or greater
  • MySQL 5.5 or greater
  • mod_rewrite Apache module or equivalent

Are there any downsides?

Running WordPress in parallel will most likely cause a dip in performance, as it requires more resources from your server. However, if kept in check, it should only be a small hit. Of course, having a second system requires you to manage and maintain both — and it is important to keep WordPress up to date for security reasons. Also, if you mimic a design for the WordPress install and need to make changes, they will have to be done in two places. Maintenance and updates definitely create more overhead with each additional parallel application put into play.

Other Solutions?

If you’re not installing WordPress on the same server as the main site, there is really only one other solution that tandem applications accomplish, and that is configuring the existing setup to serve WP via reverse proxy under a virtual sub-directory. The idea is that you have a sub-directory (like “brandname.com/blog”) serving a WP application that is hosted on a separate server, maintaining the SEO benefits with URLs that are under the top-level domain. This is an advanced solution that requires the aid of smart server administrators, but it is possible. Personally, I have only configured this solution in a dev environment with the main site being hosted on nginx.

If you’re in a pinch or just roadblocked on being able to set up WordPress in parallel, a sub-domain microsite is an alternative solution. This would allow you to host the site anywhere because you can point a sub-domain (or new domain) to any IP you want. From an SEO perspective this is not ideal, as link authority is lost because most search engines like Google treat sub-domains uniquely. Technically, this doesn’t qualify as running WordPress in parallel.

Conclusion

This may not be an ideal solution, but it can prove to be the best choice for companies and marketers in situations like the ones discussed in this article. When budgets and timelines come in to play, it is definitely worth weighing, especially for companies that recognize they need to adapt and catch up with best practices. It is important for companies to work with developers who understand the need to be agile to handle the needs of marketers. And yes, for the record, we’ve run into a handful of scenarios where it made sense to help clients go this route, rather than waiting years for a full site overhaul.

tags : Developmentdigital marketingweb development

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing some thoughts Andy. This is a super simple way to explain the pros/cons to a non-technical person.

    I did this on a recent site. As you mentioned, one of the greatest annoyances (not really difficulties) was replicating the UI to be consistent whether the “original site” or the WP site was loading. Once that was there, no big deal. It was mostly remembering that when a UI change was made, I had to update the WP templates as well.

    I also wanted to work in a “recent posts” sidebar “widget” on the original site, but as you said, there are tons of developers out there so finding a solution wasn’t really that big of a deal. Greatest concern with those cross overs was security.

    My number one concern with installing WP alongside an existing site is if it’s done on the same server. I know a lot can be done to lock down and protect a WP installation, but WP security vulnerabilities along side an existing site make me nervous.

    • Andy Schaff

      Andy Schaff

      Thanks Jon! I definitely agree that keeping up with WP updates is of even greater importance when installed in parallel. That really goes for any application, but I understand the hesitation. As long as you follow the WP security best practices and actively update, however, it should be just fine!

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