September 2, 2019// Category: Digital Marketing
So you want a website. Excellent!
In all of your careful research, you decide on WordPress as your CMS of choice. Awesome! Great pick.
And now the question is, which web host do you pick for your super duper amazing WordPress site to be? You begin browsing through search results and see:
“The Best Hosting for WP Sites”
“#1 Best WP Host”
“Recommended by WordPress”
“FASTEST & BEST WordPress Web Hosting” (seriously, I’m not making this up)
There’s got to be a better way than closing your eyes and pointing to one on your glowing computer screen, right? The answer is yes! Keep reading.
Before diving into this ocean of options, you’ll need to be equipped with the Glorious Gear of Web Host and WordPress Knowledge: +5 to intelligence checks in making your WordPress web host selection. Allow me to bestow this magical item upon you.
Whoa… what now? Here’s a great article explaining the differences between all of these options.
Since I have yet to stumble across a web host that doesn’t offer at least a handful of plans under each of these categories (with one notable exception, as you’ll see), this section won’t appear in the breakdowns below. However, it’s important for you – yes, even you – to understand the pros and cons of each type of hosting. Particularly if you’re planning on taking other people’s money with an ecommerce site, the extra security, speed, and stability of a VPS plan or above is highly encouraged, if not a necessity. With a shared plan, you never know who else sharing your server home might bonk the box with a malformed regex (it can happen) or decide to snoop around on the server, possibly through someone else’s insecure website, and break into other accounts, including your own. While you’re still technically sharing a machine with a VPS plan, it gives you and your site some extra layers of protection and customization. And when you’re the one controlling your server resources and processing power, you’re one step closer to ensuring that your pages aren’t loading slower than a snail in molasses, potentially causing you to lose out on sales.
Whether you’re running ecommerce or not, I would personally suggest that you still cough up the dough for at least a VPS account if possible. I mean, who wants to live in a thin-walled apartment building? And you can get VPS plans starting at around $20 to $30 per month, which, if we’re honest, we all spend at Starbucks in a typical week or two.
And speaking of coughing up dough…
Kinda obvious, right? Money makes the world go ‘round, and the World Wide Web is no exception. What you’ve got will limit what you can get.
Besides the upfront plan prices that are shown in big friendly numbers when you sign up, some web hosts gift you with extras like it’s Christmas Day while others will nickel and dime you for every add-on. These extras include things like SSL certificates, domain names, and faster access to customer support.
If you’re going to trust someone with your super duper amazing site, you’ll need to know that they can deliver the goods. A website is no good if no one can see it, and whether a server goes down for planned maintenance or unplanned technical difficulties, it’s still down.
In this era of lightning-fast connection speeds and a universe of information at our fingertips, we expect everything to be available, and to be available now. The bare minimum acceptable uptime, or time that a website is available, is 99% these days, with consumers on average tolerating less than 0.05% downtime. And as I mentioned previously, especially with ecommerce sites, speed matters. Long gone are the days of 2400bps modems, when consumers were patient enough to allow several minutes to even connect to the Internet, let alone wait for a page to load.
Simplifying the WordPress installation isn’t really a necessity thanks to WordPress’ famous five-minute install, but I have to admit, it’s awfully nice to have a web host that allows you to install the thing with just a few clicks, as opposed to futzing about with zip files. With some web hosts, you don’t even have to futz about with a few clicks anymore; WordPress is just there for you, like that corner store down the street that always has your favorite energy drink.
Also, while many if not all web hosts offer some sort of specific WordPress hosting plan these days, some take the experience a step or two further. There’s WordPress glam available out there that you never knew you needed.
Now that we know what we’re looking for, let’s examine and compare some popular web hosts:
Uptime and page speed stats are provided courtesy of Down.com, as measured by Pingdom.com.
Perhaps the first brand to pop into most people’s heads when they think of Internet-related things, GoDaddy strives to be a one-stop shop for the online needs of every modern business. And as the world’s largest domain registrar with almost nineteen million customers, their efforts seem to be paying off. From web hosting to domain registration to virtual phone lines to marketing consultation, you can find it all on their friendly website with the somewhat strange but totally chill dude logo.
GoDaddy hosting prices run the gamut from $5.99 per month for the simplest shared hosting plan to $179.99 per month for the beefy superhero dedicated plan with 32 GB of memory. (Read the fine print on the prices, though; they all increase significantly upon renewal.) For an initial monthly price of about $25 per month, you get a VPS account with 2 GB of memory, 60 GB of storage, and three dedicated IP addresses.
Remember the bit earlier about nickel-and-diming on extras? Depending on your plan selection, you’ll either have to pay separately or upgrade your plan to get such things as an SSL certificate, multiple websites and SQL databases, and on-demand site backups.
The WordPress-specific plans at GoDaddy are shared hosting accounts, so take that into consideration. I still recommend at least a VPS account, but if you want WordPress to be as easy and cheap as razzleberry pie, I can’t blame you.
GoDaddy’s uptime stats are impressive. An average of 99.960% and low score of 94.720% puts them close to the top of the list. And in Section 7 of their Hosting Agreement, they guarantee a 99.9% uptime per month. (You might want to closely read the provisions of that section, though.)
However, their page speed is a solid meh at an average 2.81s, with the worst measurement topping out at an agonizing 37.97s.
No futzing about with zip files or multiple clicks here; GoDaddy specifically offers a WordPress-up-front plan (although at a slightly higher price per month than its non-WordPress sibling). Click, boom.
In addition, they have special prebuilt themes with preselected plugins that you can choose, but you can also wander off into the WordPress theme store all by your onesie and grab that sweet theme your uncle built five years ago.
GoDaddy is basically the Amazon of web hosting: they’ve got all the options you could want. However, their pricing and page speed aren’t the best the industry has to offer. Also, while customer support is not specifically addressed in this article, I’m just going to suggest real quick that you go Google some reviews before you take the plunge. But if you just want a tried and true machine of a web host, go to GoDaddy.
This little upstart based in Utah has claimed a foothold in the market with its super low prices and friendly customer support experience. As the name would suggest, Bluehost is a bit more focused on hosting than the many-tentacled GoDaddy.
About those super low prices I just mentioned: Bluehost shared plans start at $2.95 per month, with their premium dedicated plan at $119.99 per month. However, there seems to be a recurring theme with prices going up after renewal. $30 per month for a new account will get you a VPS account with a dual-core processor, 60 GB SSD, 4 GB of memory, and two dedicated IPs.
To be honest, the cheapest shared Bluehost plan doesn’t offer you much. But from there on up, you get a free SSL certificate, unlimited websites and domains, easily scalable storage, and lots more.
As with GoDaddy, the WordPress plans are shared.
Bluehost performs just slightly worse than GoDaddy in the uptime category, with an average of 99.940% and a low score of 84.930%. I have heard tell of a mysterious 99.9% uptime guarantee, but if that has ever existed in writing, it has faded into the mists of time. On a personal note, I have never experienced a downtime issue with Bluehost.
When it comes to page speed, their average is 2.90s, which is also slightly behind GoDaddy’s, but their worst measurement is far better at 9.17s.
Just like GoDaddy, Bluehost also offers handy dandy WordPress accounts; all you have to do is sign up, and WordPress automagically appears before your eyes. Their basic WordPress plan is the same price as their non-WordPress equivalent, and they offer a couple of other options besides: an ecommerce plan bundled with WooCommerce, which is one of the most highly-used ecommerce platforms with WordPress, and a new WP Pro plan, which comes with some sweet marketing and analytics tools and integrates the management of your WordPress site into your Bluehost dashboard.
It’s worth noting here that Bluehost is one of the hosting solutions recommended by WordPress itself.
While they may not have all the options that GoDaddy does, Bluehost knows WordPress hosting and they do it well, at a lower price.
You just can’t go wrong with Snappy the sassy blue alligator. HostGator with its bright and happy graphics has clamped its teeth down on its own share of the hosting market since being founded in Florida in 2002, and maintains the outward feel of a small, friendly startup.
Just when you thought we couldn’t get any lower, Snappy shows up to chomp the competition. Starting at $2.75 per month, HostGator beats out even Bluehost by a smidge. The Snappy 2000 VPS plan, which starts at $29.99 per month, offers a dual-core processor with 2 GB of memory, 120 GB of storage, and two dedicated IP addresses.
With all plans, you get free SSL, 24/7/365 support, and unlimited backups, FTP accounts, subdomains, MySQL databases… I have now met Santa Claus, and his name is Snappy.
HostGator wins this round across the board, with an average uptime of 99.970% and a low score of 97.000%, as well as average page speed of 2.71s and worst measurement of 15.02s. It’s basically a greased lightning dream. They have a 99.9% uptime guarantee for shared and reseller servers.
Another one-click wonder, and they offer WordPress hosting in both DIY and managed flavors. But there’s not much fancy WordPress-integrated customization, like Bluehost’s dashboard or GoDaddy’s custom themes.
Important note: HostGator falls a bit short when it comes to PHP; as of the moment I’m typing this sentence on my laptop, they are one of the few web hosts to only offer up through PHP 7.2.
The slightly outdated PHP version is really the one troubling factor in Hostgator’s otherwise solid solution. But if you like the simplicity, rock-bottom prices, and nearly flawless uptime and page speed, I say go for it.
No, not really. Just wanted to make sure you’re still paying attention. But in case you’re curious, I’m gonna be real short and sweet here. Speaking from nightmarish personal experience helping clients get away from Yahoo! Small Business: don’t do it.
Unlike the jazzy sites we visited above, InMotion immediately presents itself as a businessy business for businesses. Since its inception in 2001, InMotion has prided itself on being a top-notch provider of online solutions for small to mid-sized businesses.
No HostGator or Bluehost prices here; the lowest shared plan with InMotion starts at $6.39 per month, with the highest dedicated plan costing $519.49 per month. (You’d better believe that’s one monster of a server you’re getting, though.) The VPS-1000HA-S plan, starting at $29.19 per month, comes with 4 GB of memory, a 75 GB SSD, and three dedicated IPs.
When it comes to WordPress hosting and dedicated servers at InMotion, options abound. Seriously, the WordPress plans range from shared Portland cat lady personal blog to dedicated Hollywood-series-starring-Betty-White-as-the-cat-lady corporate website.
InMotion isn’t quite as generous as Hostgator or Bluehost. But all plans do offer free SSL, support whenever you need it, and even free SSDs.
Welp, InMotion doesn’t make such a great showing here, with an average uptime of 98.850% and a measured low score of 0.000%. Ouch. As for me, I’ve only experienced one noticeable downtime with this host, and it didn’t last long. According to their website, they promise 99.9% uptime, with the SLA (Service Level Agreement) for Business Class Pro accounts held to a 99.999% standard.
Their page speed averages at 2.89s, with the worst measurement of 14.12s. Could be better, but could be worse.
Once again, we’ve got the option to have WordPress automagically installed. InMotion also offers free access to content such as Post and Page Builder by BoldGrid, the Personal or Professional version of JetPack depending on your plan, and various premium themes.
The uptime percentage as presented is a little concerning, although as I mentioned, I haven’t experienced any drastic issues myself. And if price is your biggest concern, InMotion isn’t the place for you. But InMotion’s technology backbone is substantial, and their service is definitely one I’d recommend to a startup or other smallish business.
We’re back to jazzy-looking sites. SiteGround is a worldwide hosting company that offers resources supporting not only WordPress but other content management systems like Joomla, Drupal, and Magento.
SiteGround’s shared hosting starts at $3.95 per month. From there, plans range all the way up to $729 per month for a dedicated server with technical specs that more or less rival the computing power of an entire small country.
Their specialized WordPress plans are shared, and also start at $3.95 per month.
No free domains here, which is rare. But SiteGround does offer unlimited subdomains and SQL databases for all plans, as well as around-the-clock support, free SSL certificates, and something called Friendly Site Tools.
I was unable to gather uptime or page speed numbers for SiteGround. However, they pride their platform on 99.99% uptime, and even have a place for you to check your own site’s status.
SiteGround offers super-fast WordPress installation, as well as other helpful features like automatic updates, pre-installation of the WP command line interface, and their own migrator plugin for moving all of your scattered WordPress sites to their platform.
Like Bluehost, SiteGround is also on the WordPress recommended hosts list.
Nothing about SiteGround stands out to me, frankly. Their pricing, features, and overall offering all feel fairly middle-of-the-road. But especially given their backing by WordPress itself, they’re not a web host to be ignored in your research.
This one’s a little different. Instead of an all-encompassing web host that supports WordPress as part of its bag of tricks, WP Engine is focused on providing enterprise-level WordPress solutions. From development tools to site launch readiness consultation to lead referrals, this Texas-based company partners with your business throughout the entire website building process from start to finish and beyond.
As a host that caters specifically to business customers, WP Engine’s laser focus extends to their plan structure. Accounts start at $29.17 per month (billed annually), and extend up to custom enterprise pricing.
All customers have access to their 24/7/365 customer support, as well as free SSL, daily site backups, three development environments, and other awesome features.
As with SiteGround, I was unable to collect uptime and page speed stats for WP Engine. But in their Service Level Agreement, they guarantee 99.95% uptime, excluding scheduled maintenance and the like.
You might expect a WordPress-centric company to have lots of nifty WordPress stuff… and you’d be right. Most notably, all WP Engine plans come with StudioPress themes and the Genesis Framework. No, it isn’t like the Genesis planet in Star Trek, although you could possibly draw some parallels in bringing a dead website back to life. The Genesis Framework by StudioPress is a super simple yet powerful way to build a custom WordPress site, and it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen if you’ve already done some mucking about in WordPress theme files. It takes some getting used to, but once you’ve got a handle on it, you can do some pretty amazing things.
Again, WP Engine isn’t for everyone. If your cousin wants a website for blogging about escape rooms, one of the less expensive web hosts will do just fine. But if you’re a business customer in search of a world-class WordPress solution, take a serious look at WP Engine.
The moral of the story? There are a lot of fine picks for WordPress web hosts out there.
However, pulling ahead by a nose in this review for their pricing, stability, and ease of use is Bluehost. I’ve seen Bluehost used by individuals and small businesses with great success, and recommend them with two enthusiastic thumbs up to you, dear newly web-host-savvy reader.
Happy host hunting!
We have a great network of vetted local talent that we use for white label work, and we would love to talk shop over coffee.