Unsure how to go about choosing the best shared host for your new WordPress blog? If you’re new to blogging and looking to build a WordPress website , the choice of providers – and advice – can be daunting.
As a blogger with years of experience using three of the most popular shared hosts – Bluehost, GoDaddy and Siteground – I’ve learned a thing or two about what makes a good web host for bloggers on a budget. Here’s the skinny on what to look for, what to avoid and what I now recommend.
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Understanding the types of hosting packages
As a WordPress user, there are basically two main options available to you:
- Shared Hosting – Rented space on a main host’s servers to house your website’s files. It’s cheap (from around $3-4 per month), but you’ll be sharing these resources with hundreds or thousands of other users which can slow things down considerably and you will also need to manage your own software updates, website security and backups. The support provided may be limited to technical assistance only and may not extend to WordPress specific issues.
- Managed WordPress Hosting – where you lease a server to yourself. Depending on the level of administration you choose, all the techie stuff is taken care of for you, including security, updates and backups along with lightening fast servers, storage and dedicated WordPress support. There will be no issues if your site is very media heavy or if something goes viral and you experience a surge in visitors. The downside? It’s not entirely entry level (from around $30 per month).
At first glance it’s natural to assume that the Managed WordPress Solution is the ‘better’ option. Even more so if you’re not technically minded. The thing is, unless your site is well established and experiencing a lot of traffic, it’s probably not the most budget-friendly option from the get go.
The reality is many probloggers tend to work their way up from shared hosting to more expensive, dedicated solutions with all the whistles and bells as they grow. Some reputable managed WordPress hosting providers are Studiopress and WP Engine.
Unless you’re expecting a lot of traffic very quickly then I’d recommend starting with a shared hosting provider. There are some great deals to be had on plans that allow you to grow your biz without busting your budget.
However, before diving in there are some important things to bear in mind when considering which shared host is best for your WordPress blog.
When Unlimited hosting isn’t really unlimited.
Just about every host will try too woo you with the promise of ‘unlimited’ storage, bandwidth and the option to build unlimited websites. Even with plans as cheap as just $3 per month and a domain name thrown in for free. It probably sounds too good to be true, right? The truth is – and I’ve learned this the hard way – that well, it kind of is.
The thing is, there’s more to shared hosting than meets the eye. Shared website hosts do indeed have ridiculous amounts of storage and capacity, but they’re relying on the fact that the vast majority of their users aren’t running ‘heavy’ websites or making a big drain on resources.
Once you start adding resource-chugging things to your website such as videos, file storage (for sharing) or other things that can potentially create a drain on RAM and CPU resources, your visitors may experience serious page load issues, or worse, downtime. Factor in if something goes viral and you can really come unstuck.
Check the small print.
What most subscribers fail to notice in the small print of their hosting contracts is caveats that require you to adhere to ‘fair usage’ of the hosting service. Even seemingly tiny sites can chew up your allocation and it can be hard to figure out what’s draining your resources.
To make matters more complicated, each host tends to allocate different caps to the various processes. So unless you’re pretty technically proficient, it can be tricky to ascertain when, or if, you’re likely to hit a wall. I’ve noticed certain plugins, for instance, can be problematic with one host, but not others. This is due to the drain on CPU resources as your site gets bigger.
It’s always a good idea to keep your WordPress site as ‘clean’ as possible when using a shared hosting plan. This means using a well-coded HTML5 theme (I use the Genesis framework with a Hello You Designs theme), avoiding using tonnes of plugins and limiting things like downloads and heavy files.
Even if your hosting plan allows for ‘unlimited’ websites, bear in mind that the more websites you run, the more likely you are to run into issues because you’re still only allowed a finite amount of usage per account.
The bottom line is there is no such thing as a free lunch. All of these low cost shared hosting providers’ plans have limits in practice.
Think ahead for growth
Be prepared for the possibility that you may need to upgrade to a dedicated hosting plan at some point down the line. Think of it as a positive sign that your business is growing!
Until then, a shared hosting plan is more than likely going to be adequate for your needs. While there are many options available to you, I’ll be covering three of the most popular options: Bluehost, Godaddy and Siteground.
Frustratingly, many bloggers have only limited experience of perhaps just one host and will push it simply because they’re signed up as an affiliate. The truth is it’s impossible to give a balanced appraisal unless you’ve tried at least one other to make the comparison.
I’ve built a lot of websites over the years and I’ve come to most value what I call the ‘holy grail’ of requirements from a hosting provider:
- Speed and Reliability
- Customer support
Note how cost is not at the top of my list of essential requirements? That’s another thing I learned this the hard way. Speed, reliability and customer support are more important. If you’re serious about blogging it’s important to understand what you’re really getting with your cheapy plan.
Why load time matters
One of the most off-putting things for any visitor is visiting a website that takes forever to load. Some hosts are just much better at managing server speed and security.
A slow load time isn’t simply a bad experience for your audience, it’s way more likely to get your site penalised by search engines too. Bye bye first page rankings (no matter how great your other SEO efforts may be).
It’s worth pointing out that speed issues are not always the fault of the hosting provider. Speed and downtime issues are often compounded by poor website housekeeping: too many plugins, oversized and poorly optimised media files, badly coded themes.
Then there’s the question of support. There comes a time when something goes wrong with your site. It ‘breaks’. We’ve all been there. Having speedy access to efficient, technically-savvy customer support in your time zone – who won’t try to up-sell paid services at every opportunity – is a deal-breaker.
Check for hidden costs and what’s included
Finally of course, cost is a determining factor. However, I would really weigh up all the variables when making your choice. The introductory offer may be dirt cheap and include a domain name but what will the cost be when it’s time to renew the contract?
What does it cost to upgrade if (when!) your site grows beyond the starter plan? What kind of support is included with the basic versus medium package? Is that support WordPress-friendly?
My experience – the good, the bad and the ugly
Out of the three providers mentioned there are just two that I now recommend: Bluehost and Siteground. Godaddy just didn’t cut it for me.
I’ve ran into so many speed and downtime issues. I also haven’t been impressed by hit-and-miss customer support more focused on up-selling than supporting. An an experienced blogger with intermediate level technical knowledge it was pretty frustrating. Many beginner bloggers would have simply given up.
I hosted with Bluehost for years and – for the most part – was very happy with them. They continue to offer a highly competitive service, few noticeable issues with RAM and CPU usage and reasonable support (although long wait times were a big minus for me). If you’re erring towards them, Bluehost are definitely a solid option.
I switched to Siteground last year after reading a lot of reviews and technical comparison reports. What really swung it for me is that they’re officially endorsed by WordPress and offer some fantastic speed and security integrations as standard (including free database backups). Good news for your site!
I love that they offer a free website migration service for anyone who already has a website and wants to transfer without worrying things might break (manual migrations are not for the faint hearted). They also provide a free SSL certificate (via Let’s Encrypt) which is incredibly easy to install.
Other hosts do try to woo with ‘free’ SSL certificates but they are inferior to Let’s Encrypt which is a recognised Certificate Authority. Your site will not be viewed as properly ‘secure’ by search engines if you install one of these inferior freebie certificates. You have been warned!
What’s really great is they offer a choice of server locations meaning you can opt for a server either closest to you or the region where your largest audience is based.
I’ve run into a few technical issues and have been consistently impressed with the excellent customer service I’ve experienced to date (they have dedicated, English speaking teams based around the world, depending on your location). I’ve rarely waited more than a few minutes to connect with a human and issues always get sorted very quickly. Golden!
Their uptime record is impressive and consistently beats almost all comparable hosts along with faster load times. The best part? The price is incredibly budget-friendly too.
If you’re new to blogging or simply looking to switch to a fast, reliable host with excellent support at a great price, Siteground ticks all the boxes!
Convinced Siteground is also a great fit for your blog and biz? Let’s delve into the packages.
Which hosting package should you choose?
Siteground offers three hosting packages:
- StartUp – ideal for new bloggers looking to build their first website with up to 10GB web space and 10,000 monthly visits.
- GrowBig – allows multiple websites, up to 20GB web space and up to 25,000 monthly visits, plus some extra features.
- GoGeek – multiple websites, 30GB web space and up to 100,000 monthly visits plus a host of extras.
While the StartUp package offers incredible value, my suggestion is to opt for the GrowBig plan because it does exactly what it says on the tin: allows for growth and viral spikes without worrying about hitting any limits.
You can always move to a different plan as and when your needs change but for small to intermediate sized blogs GrowBig is probably your best bet.
Getting started is so easy. Here’s a handy dandy walkthrough to get you up and running in just a few minutes.
The Siteground Sign-up process
Choose a plan:
1. Enter Domain Name. If you have already purchased a domain name elsewhere, enter the name here. If you have an existing website and wish for Siteground support team to transfer it over for you (at no extra charge) you need to select ‘I already have a domain’ and enter it here and don’t forget to tick the ‘Website transfer’ box option. If you do not own a domain, you can opt to purchase one here via siteground or choose to shop around and purchase from a different provider. If so, do this now:
2. Select the length of required contract (I like to lock-in introductory deals for a minimum of two years). Select the free SSL certificate (enables your site to use the more secure HTTPS protocol) and if you require any extra services. Now hit the Pay Now button:
Next install WordPress, here’s how to do it:
1. Log into your Siteground account and navigate to the cPanel (My accounts > click the red cPanel button in your User Area ). Under the Autoinstallers section, click the WordPress icon:
2. Hit Install Now:
3. You will be taken to the Install settings page. In the Software Setup section you will need to select the the appropriate Protocol. Select HTTPS (click here to learn how to easily install the Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate). Now choose the domain name under which you wish to perform the install from the drop down menu. Leave the ‘In Directory’ section blank. Then proceed to fill out the various fields. Choose a new username, a strong password and add an email address for admin purposes.
4. Choose any theme for the dropdown in ‘Choose aTheme to install’ section. You will change this later. Hit Install.
5. You will now be taken to the ‘success’ page. Make a note of your new WordPress installation’s admin panel URL (It will look like this www.yoursite.com/wp-admin). Add it to your bookmarks bar and don’t forget to make a note of your username, password and admin email!
That’s it! Congratulations. You’ve learned how to choose the best shared host for your blog and you can easily set up your WordPress site with Siteground! Pretty simple right? Now it’s time for the fun stuff!
Looking for more help getting your site set up? Why not head over to Siteground’s video tutorials page to learn how to use WordPress or take a look at WordPress’ own extensive library of resources and tutorials.