How to Choose Your WordPress Web Host

How to choose your WordPress web host

If you’re moving from Blogger to WordPress or just considering changing hosts, it’s important to carefully consider your host before choosing.

Web hosts are generally split into two categories.

There are a lot more than two categories if you want to get super specific, but for the sake of this post, let’s highlight two of them:

  1. Budget hosts
  2. Premium hosts

Just like with anything in life, you get what you pay for.

The “budget hosts” are the ones you see for like $3 to $10 per month. A lot of new WordPress bloggers go with these hosts because they’re super cheap and they don’t understand the difference. Budget hosting does have its place in the world, you just need to understand what you’re getting.

Because budget hosts are cheap, you need to expect a lower quality of service.

With a budget host, you’ll be crammed onto an unoptimised server with hundreds (or thousands) of other people.

These are the two big things.

If you’re on a budget host that isn’t specific to WordPress, then the server is going to be built for generic web projects. That means it may not be set up to run with WordPress in the best way possible because the host needs to cater to people who may not be using WordPress at all.

And secondly, budget hosts are all about maximizing profits. In order to do that, they put as many people on a server as possible.

Let’s compare this to a real life situation. Imagine two different buildings that are exactly the same size. One has 10 large, spacious suits. The other has 300 small, closet-sized rooms.

  • Which one will feel crowded?
  • Which one will be noisier?
  • Which one will be budget friendly?

Those two buildings will have two very different price-points, but they’ll also have two very different levels of comfort and service.

Hosting works the same way.

With budget hosting, you can expect:

  • A slower website.
  • A ton more people on the same server. That means it’s more likely one of those people will start hogging resources.
  • Possibly more frequent downtime/problems.
  • Possibly a lower level of customer service (less knowledgeable/helpful staff).

Now despite these downsides, you don’t ALWAYS need to go for the more expensive hosting.

Budget hosting is a decent option for you if…

  • You’re just starting out.
  • You don’t make any money from your website (it’s just a hobby).

Here are a few examples of budget hosts:

  • BlueHost (from $3.95 per month)
  • GoDaddy (but please, for the love of god, do not choose GoDaddy)
  • HostGator (from $5.56 per month)

Let’s look at the other end of the scale: premium hosting.

There are many different levels inside premium hosting… there are Virtual Private Servers, dedicated servers, managed shared servers… so many different levels! I have another post that explains the differences between those but for the sake of this post, I’m going to use “managed WordPress hosting” for our “premium hosting” label.

What is “managed WordPress hosting”?

With this level of hosting you should expect to pay between $15 and $50 per month (or more if you get a large number of page views).

Different managed hosts have different features, but most of them generally have these awesome things in common:

  • Fewer people on each server.
  • The servers are optimised to work for WordPress specifically. This will make your site BLAZINGLY FAST and possibly more secure!
  • The host handles all WordPress updates for you.
  • Their customer support staff is usually knowledgeable in WordPress and more likely to help you out with WordPress related problems.

And most managed hosts have these more negative things in common:

  • You only get one website for each plan. If you want at second one, you have to buy a second package.
  • The pricing tiers are built according to page views. So if you get a lot of page views each month you may be forced into a higher tier.
  • Some managed hosts do not allow multisite installations or require that you be on a higher package.
  • Certain plugins may be prohibited (but ultimately these are disallowed for your own good!).
  • Email is usually not included. You’re often encouraged to go with a dedicated email provider like Google Apps.

Managed WordPress hosting is a good option for you if…

  • You don’t want to deal with installing WordPress or handling updates. The host will probably take care of that.
  • You want someone else to handle all the techy stuff.
  • You make money from your website. Site speed and reliability are incredibly important for e-commerce/profit websites because every extra second of load time means a drop in revenue.
  • You want a support team you can get some WordPress help from.

Here are a few examples of managed WordPress hosts:

Do your research and know what’s best FOR YOU. But also understand what you’re getting.

Budget hosting is a good option for hobbyists who don’t want to pour a lot of money into their site. Just understand that the lower price point does come with lower quality/optimisation and a lower level of service.

Premium, managed WordPress hosting will give you a speedy, kick-ass site. But there can be some extra limits (which are ultimately for your own good though) and you have to pay for each individual site. These are things you need to be prepared for before you dive in.

Quick hosting comparison table.

Budget Hosting Premium Hosting
Monthly price $3 – $10 $15 – $50+
Number of sites allowed. Unlimited (within reason) 1 (more costs extra)
Optimised for WordPress No Yes
Tech set up Usually basic, using Apache and lower-cost servers. More advanced, premium hardware (like SSDs), and typically more WordPress-friendly Nginx/HHVM/Varnish combos.
Typical support level Varies. Support may be good, but usually not knowledgeable with WordPress. Excellent. Support is usually trained in WordPress specifically.
Set up difficulty You have to take care of it yourself, including installing WordPress. Easy—WordPress is usually installed for you.
Email service Included Not provided
Recommended for Hobbyists Businesses, e-commerce shops, and for-profit websites.

Let’s talk about hosting!

Based on this post, which one do you think is the best fit for you?

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I'm a 27 year old California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). I like to inject a little #girlpower into the WordPress development community by teaching women how to be coding badasses. more »

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34 comments

  1. Hi Ashley! I started following you a week or so ago and I do have some questions that I can’t seem to get anyone to answer…I have a website http://www.thelindenchronicles.com which is for my husband (Patrick Jones the author) but he has no clue…so have been dinking along learning WP on my own. So my host is ipage but I am on WP.com and have my WP.com site mapped to my website where I think I loose a lot of SEO’s. I took the WP learning classes from ipage and learned a whole lot and started out just having the ipage site but couldn’t get the blog to come over to the ipage…so started blogging on WP through ipage. Have learned a lot but the SEO’s are not makin’ me jump up and down. What do you think and I wonder how much your services are to fix me?? Interested but he is a poor author, want him to rock as an author! Thanks so much! Sandy Jones P.S. The post I picked had the most views on WP and I don’t know why? Is there a ping-back think I am missing?

    1. Hi Sandy!

      It looks like you’re having some confusion about the difference between WordPress.com and self hosted. The problem is you don’t use a web host (like iPage) AND WordPress.com. If you get a web host then you move off of WordPress.com and move your site onto iPage instead. It looks like you’ve left off that step.

      So right now your hosting account through iPage is going to waste because you’re not actually using it.

      If you’re not sure how to complete the process I suggest you consider hiring WordPress.com to do it for you. Under Tools > Export in the WordPress admin panel you should see an option for “Guided Transfer” where you can pay them to migrate you to your new host.

      Here’s my recent post on SEO if you want to take a look: https://www.nosegraze.com/ridiculously-simple-seo/

      Right now your SEO wouldn’t have changed because of iPage because your site hasn’t moved. It’s still on WordPress.com.

      1. Well…I originally did that but wasn’t getting the ability to blog so learned all of the WP stuff over at ipage and then went to WP.com…so I am already set up on ipage but couldn’t figure out how to get the blogs up on WP.org so went to WP.com…it is too confusing. So I did merge the two within WP.com. Will call ipage today and talk about going back to .org but don’t want to loose the WP.com blog contacts. That is my dilemma…originally I had it right. Thanks so much…glad you understand this SEO stuff! Looking forward to reading more of your posts and looking at your templates. Take care!!

    1. There are two big problems with GoDaddy:

      1) They don’t use standardized set ups. They try to be different. That in itself isn’t a terrible thing, but this results in GoDaddy sites having a lot of quirks and problems. For example:

      Some GoDaddy sites (I think it depends on your plan) have super fierce caching. That isn’t a bad thing, except for the fact that the “Purge Cache” never seems to work. So, for example, if you make a change on your WordPress site (edit widget settings or change the appearance) you won’t see the changes right away. You have to wait like an hour for them to show up because the “Purge Cache” just doesn’t work.

      2) GoDaddy support is notorious for being rubbish. Sometimes they just don’t listen to you, other times they try to blame you and your site for any problems (insisting it’s not their fault, when actually it is), and other times they’re just blatantly wrong.

      I once had a problem redirecting a client’s Blogger blog to WordPress. The problem was GoDaddy had some security measures in place that were blocking the redirect. I knew EXACTLY what the problem was and how to fix it, but I didn’t have permission to do it myself. I had to contact support and have them do it.

      Even though I provided the EXACT problem AND exact solution, they insisted that I was wrong, I wasn’t following the right tutorial, and tried to pin the blame elsewhere. It took about a solid week of back and forth emails before they finally agreed to do the thing I told them in the very first email… And what do you know, it immediately worked.

      I know a lot of designers who actually have it in their contracts that they will not work with clients who use GoDaddy, because GoDaddy is such a pain to work with.

  2. Thanks for sharing this! I heard so many horror stories about GoDaddy, even before blogging, lol. The host I use isn’t listed – but I am 99% sure it’s dedicated to WP. AND, is cheap. πŸ™‚

        1. From what I can tell, the server isn’t optimised to use the most efficient technologies for WordPress (they’re using Apache, for example, and Nginx is better for WordPress).

          But that doesn’t mean they’re not a good host. Also from what I can tell, they look like a pretty small company. Honestly, the best hosts are typically the small companies because they care more about giving their clients excellent attention/care and the servers typically aren’t as crowded, which can mean better performance.

          Bluehost actually used to be an AWESOME host because they were a small company when they started. But as they grew, it became more about profits and less about individual customer care.

          So I bet that’s something Safe Shark have going for them! πŸ™‚

          1. I had this problem. I went to sign up for BlueHost and they said that their payments were monthly which worked for me but when I went to check out I found that I couldn’t because I had “insufficient funds”. I contacted customer service and they told me that I would be charged by year not by month. No where on the site did this information pop up. It was super frustrating.

            Emily Hughes recently posted: Half Breed Queen Review
            1. Yeah Bluehost advertises their prices as monthly on the homepage, but then you I think can only actually pay for the full year! O_O

  3. I do use a budget host, although I am in this for fun, not to make money. But I have to say, Tiger Tech has always been amazing to me. They have a WP setup wizard that’s basically one-click and their support has been outstanding, very proactive and helpful. Back when I used to use Livefyre for my comment system, there was a comment post-back issue where the comments posted using Livefyre weren’t being posted back to the WP dashboard. Tiger Tech support worked with Livefyre support for 3 weeks over the holidays to troubleshoot the issue. Now do I believe they were working on it that whole time? Of course not, it was the holidays lol. But they didn’t have to troubleshoot the issue at all, since it was plugin-related. I’ve always really appreciated that about them and I don’t think they get enough “press”. πŸ™‚

    1. That’s awesome of them!!

      I believe the best web hosts are the smaller companies. Bluehost used to be a great small company. Then it got huge and popular (thanks to WordPress) and it became more about profit. Thus they went downhill.

      But small companies tend to go further out of their way to help their customers. πŸ™‚

      1. I have Bluehost and I must say I’m quite happy with their service. I haven’t had downtime on my blog (at least that I noticed) and the only time I needed their support they were great. Even though my blog is only 6 months old and I don’t have a lot of traffic. Maybe in the future if my blog grows I’ll need a premium host, but for now I’m quite happy with Bluehost.

        Rosa @ Cat Lady Confidential recently posted: Cat Art & Design Picks – October 2015
  4. I almost went with Bluehost when I was choosing, but then I kept hearing really mixed reviews. I heard they weren’t as fast as other hosts etc.

    I ended up going with Arvixe and quite honestly I’m not sure if I’ll be staying with them. Every 10 days or so I get a warning from Jetpack that my site has gone down for 10 minutes or so, usually at night. Also, I find that my site doesn’t load as fast as others.

    I would love to hear from anyone with experience hosting with Arvixe.

    Liselle @ Lunch-Time Librarian recently posted: Top Ten Tuesday – 10 Wishes I’d Ask The Book Genie To Grant Me
  5. How difficult is it to switch hosts? I’ve been with RFE since I first migrated, but their customer service is appalling, and I can never get a straight answer out of anyone except for “Google it or pay us $$$$ to fix your problem.” But because I’ve bought domain/s through RFE, does that mean I can’t use another provider?

    1. There is a migration process. You have to move all your content over to the new host. As long as your domain name is 60 days old you can transfer it to a new host (there’s a “transfer” option with domain names).

      Keep in mind that unless you’re paying for a premium host (more money per month) then most of the things I’m assuming you’re asking RFE actually aren’t their problem. For example, if you’re asking them questions about WordPress, plugins, themes, or anything not directly related to the server or your hosting account, it’s not actually their job to answer them.

      If you want that level of support you have to expect to pay more money monthly for a support team who’s willing to answer WordPress questions.

    1. Hi Luna πŸ™‚

      You’ll only benefit from choosing a local host if the server they’re putting you on is also located locally.

      So if you’re in Chile and the server your site is on is also in Chile, then it will load faster for you.

      If you’re in Chile and your website is on a server in New York, it won’t load quite as fast.

      But you might want to ask that because it’s quite possible for the hosting company to be based in Chile but use servers that are located elsewhere in the world.

      And another thing to keep in mind: if you live in Chile but 90% of your readers live in the United States then it might make more sense for you to put your site on a server in the United States so it loads nice and fast for the majority of your audience.

      Just some things to think about.. πŸ™‚

  6. This was informative. I actually have BlueHost and used to have GoDaddy. Though the latter has excellent tech support, I didn’t feel as secure with them as I do with BlueHost, but I would like to find out more about the Gator one, so I’ll look into that. I’ve been doing a monthly renewal with BlueHost b/c they went way up on me. that $3.95 you show is for the new users, only. But thanks for this info. I’m gonna research the other folks. πŸ™‚

    1. A lot of budget hosts (HostGator included) will have tricky pricing like that. Look out for the asterisk next to the price. Then if you find the fine print at the bottom of the site, it will say something like:

      “Prices reflect discount on first term”

      (That’s a quote from HostGator.)

      So just be careful to read all that fine print. πŸ™‚

  7. I really wish I had seen this post before I bought a 2 year subscription from Godaddy. That’s a bunch of money down the drain. But at least I haven’t shifted over yet. So definitely not going to shift over then.

    This is an awesome post btw. πŸ™‚

  8. This post is wonderful, answered a lot of questions I had. But is that normal that BlueHost changes its monthly price everytime you open up a new chat and ask another question? One chatperson told me 3,95 /month for a 12 month contract incl. tax, the next told me that would be 5,95 /month for the 12 months term. And since you canΒ΄t go any further to see a real pricelist without stepping right into the ordering process, I am a bit confused. And why is it exactly that you write about GoDaddy but ask not to sign up there (for the love of god?)? (I am just curious :-))

    1. I think they just started a sale or something. They don’t change the price just because you ask a question. But their price is certainly subject to change over time.

      If you choose Bluehost make sure you carefully read the terms. They like to discount their packages for first time buyers, but once your term expires, the price usually doubles. So you pay $3.95 per month the first year, then when it’s time to renew, the price goes up to $7.99 a month.

      GoDaddy is awful.

      1) Their support sucks. They might be nice or try to be helpful, but they often lack knowledge or like to insist that you’re doing things wrong, even if it’s actually *them* that’s doing things wrong.
      2) Their interface sucks. They try to be “different” or “user friendly” but it just ends up bulky and confusing.
      3) Their sites are often slow.
      4) There are plenty of designers who refuse to work with clients on GoDaddy. It’s actually written into their contracts.

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