Best WordPress Hosting Providers for 2017
Finding the best WordPress hosting (and shared WordPress hosting usually) has traditionally been the first port of call for those new to self-hosted WordPress. The combination of server administration, low monthly fees, and tempting add-ons (such as free domains) make it an attractive option for new webmasters.
Better still, prices have remained low over the years, while competition between the top WordPress hosting providers has continually driven the functionality on offer to new heights.
That said, it can be a confusing world to navigate at times.
In this article, we’ll break down the offerings of five of the most prominent WordPress hosting firms, and put real numbers next to different aspects of their performance, to help you choose the best WordPress hosting in 2017.
But before we dig into the numbers, let’s begin with some background on shared hosting and hosting generally, and the approach we took with our testing. We’ll start with the latter.
|Name||Price / month||Av. load time *||Survey Rating|
|WP Engine||$19.33 ***||0.37s||4.2|
* from the nearest location
** just for the first year
*** promo price
The dirty little secret of most WordPress hosting reviews
The next time you’re reading some breathless paean to a hosting company, bear this in mind: they offer some of the biggest payouts in the affiliate marketing industry.
This simple fact alone is responsible for a substantial percentage of the “reviews” you’ll come across online, which are often little more than barely researched puff pieces designed solely to get you to click on an affiliate link.
Our approach is fundamentally different. We purchased real plans and performed real-world tests, and in this feature we cover every aspect of the hosting experience, from initial offer presentation and sign-up through to backend administration, WordPress installation options, customer support, and site load speed.
What you’re reading here is not some rehashed piece cobbling together a couple of existing reviews, or the result of a cushy backroom deal with a hosting partner. It is the product of actual research in a live environment.
With that mini-rant out of the way, let’s get cracking!
Some background on best WordPress hosting as a market
Hosting is big business. It’s a $16 billion industry in the US alone and growing at 10% per year. And while it’s hard to isolate the exact percentage of that made up by shared hosting, over 50% seems a reasonable guess.
As the name implies, “shared” hosting means your website will be sharing space on a server with potentially hundreds – or even thousands – of other websites.
A simple way of thinking about this is that it’s the equivalent of renting a cheap apartment. You’ll have very little idea of what your immediate neighbors are going to be like in advance.
The actions of those around you will also have a much higher chance of impacting on your life than if you were, for example, securely tucked away in a stately mansion on a faraway hill. Our stately mansion in this scenario would be the world of managed, dedicated WordPress hosting.
Also, just as in shared accommodation of any kind, there will be pooled resources at play. Imagine server RAM and CPU as being the equivalents of plumbing and electricity in an apartment building. If the building’s electricity goes down, everyone’s electricity goes down.
Let’s summarize the implications of all that with a little help from a classic Sergio Leone title:
- The good: You are not in charge of running the actual server yourself. This can require an unusual combination of skills which you or your team may not currently possess. It is also highly affordable.
- The bad: You’re at the mercy of overall usage patterns on the machine you happen to be installed on. If your neighbor somehow breaks the MySQL server, it’s your problem just as much as his.
- The ugly: If you find yourself in a bad neighborhood, you could be inadvertently associating with some genuinely unsavory elements. A 2012 APWG survey estimated over 50% of online phishing attempts originate from shared hosting servers.
So is shared hosting the best WordPress hosting for everyone? Let’s find out.
Who shared WordPress hosting is a good fit for
If any of the following scenarios are true for you, shared WordPress hosting could be an excellent fit:
- You are a new business: As a new business, your immediate priority is getting a basic online presence established. Shared hosting is an excellent way of doing that quickly and affordably.
- You have a limited budget and/or IT resources: Serious hosting and custom development require a major investment of both time and money. If you have neither to spare, shared hosting is a great way of getting started without breaking the bank or needing to hire full-time IT people.
- Reasonable traffic expectations: If you’re simply looking to get your small brochure site or a basic e-commerce site set up, shared hosting is a great fit. If you are looking to launch a service with thousands of users that will IPO in six months, it is not.
Also remember, despite what the marketing material may say, you will be required to deal with technical issues somewhere along the line. Topics such as DNS settings and cPanel management are going to rear their head. If these areas are brand new to you, expect to have to do some quick learning.
Let’s move onto the typical elements on offer with a WordPress hosting package.
Typical shared hosting package components
Like their cousins in the ISP and mobile phone provider space, hosting companies are often far too fond of blind-siding consumers with an overload of options and information in the hopes of forcing a sale.
An example here from the milder end of the spectrum would be the HostGator shared hosting comparison page.
In an attempt to keep things manageable, we’ve highlighted the following most important areas for our overall package comparisons:
- Cost per month: Hosting companies have a nasty habit of quoting the cheapest of all possible prices as the standard monthly price. To simplify matters, we’re taking the bare-bones, entry-level package from each provider and listing monthly fees at 12-month and 36-month contract duration, so you can compare like with like.
- Space: The amount of physical storage space listed as being available on the server.
- Bandwidth: The amount of traffic it can handle per month. Be aware from the outset that “Unlimited” will nearly always mean “Unlimited subject to certain terms and conditions”; just as with space, check your provider’s terms. DreamHost have admirably clear guidelines in this respect.
- Sites: The number of websites you are allowed to run on the package.
- Domains: Any free domain registrations on offer.
Marketing options: Any significant marketing incentives, such as free Google Adwords or Facebook advertising vouchers.
Please note: All of the sites we are reviewing here offer 24/7 customer support as standard. We strongly suggest you do not even consider a provider who does not offer this.
As we walk through each package, we’ll point out other relevant features on offer on a case by case basis.
We’ve also provided a separate Online Reputation listing per provider, which talks about relevant impartial customer opinions and data coming from our hosting survey.
A word on pricing
As you’ll shortly see, the monthly figures offered by our best WordPress hosting companies are extremely affordable. It’s all too easy when assessing shared hosting providers to get hung up on what are ultimately not very significant price differences.
To put things in perspective, all of the providers on our list offer a 24/7 service with 24/7 support for the price of less than three Tall Chai Tea Lattes at Starbucks per month.
Our WordPress testing strategy
We decided to go for a stripped-down WordPress install to make comparisons as fair as possible.
Each install used WordPress with the standard Twenty Fifteen theme and all plugins and caching disabled.
For the purposes of testing customer support, we installed each site on a temporary URL with the WordPress hosting provider, and reached out to them for assistance with how to set that up.
In terms of performance, each WordPress install was tested in the following two ways:
- Pageload tests with Pingdom: The homepage is loaded from three separate locations and the results tabulated.
- Basic load testing with LoadImpact: We used LoadImpact to simulate up to 40 concurrent users hitting the homepage over a five minute period. The figures you see here are based on test runs with servers geographically close to the WordPress installations themselves. We also sense-checked these results with limited tests on more geographically dispersed servers.
A caveat on testing
Due to the nature of WordPress hosting, there is no magic single definitive test that will hold true under all circumstances.
What we were looking for here were illustrative page load times and reasonable overall performance indicators at low usage levels. Remember that your mileage may, and probably will, vary.
Let’s move on to our candidates – the (allegedly) best WordPress hosting providers.
- Three of the candidates – Bluehost, DreamHost, and SiteGround – are taken from WordPress’ very own shortlist of recommended hosting partners.
- The remaining are leading providers in the overall and shared hosting spaces (according to our WordPress hosting survey and numerous sources from the web).
Here’s the lineup for our WordPress hosting comparison:
SiteGround vs InMotion vs WP Engine vs Bluehost vs DreamHost vs HostGator vs GoDaddy.
|Startup||Launch||Personal||Starter package||Shared hosting||Hatchling plan||Economy|
|$/month *||$3.95 ***||$3.99 ****||$19.33 ****||$4.95||$9.95||$7.16||$4.99|
|$/month **||$3.95||$3.49 ****||$19.33 ****||$3.49||$7.95||$4.86||$3.99|
|Bandwidth||10,000 visits per month||Unlimited||25,000 visits per month||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|–||$250 ad credits||–||$50||–||$100 Google Adwords||–|
* 12-month contract
** 36-month contract
*** just for the first year
**** promo price
The overall verdict
Upon reflection, we would lean away from Bluehost on the grounds of a clunky backend interface, comparatively poor WordPress installation tools, slightly erratic performance and inflexible long-term contract requirements.
DreamHost, though more than respectable across their service offering and performance, didn’t do enough for us to justify the price differential in their offering.
Both HostGator and GoDaddy had slightly different plus and minus points, but none were ultimately persuasive enough to pick out a clear winner. We were impressed with their price point, setup process, backend and performance though.
On the managed hosting side, WP Engine has proven to deliver a really good performance, and it should be more than enough to handle any new or growing WordPress site.
In Olympic style – to highlight that all services are surprisingly good – we’ll hand out medals accordingly:
Update. Taking our newest survey findings into account, we’d actually recommend you to go with the GrowBig plan at SiteGround. You get WordPress-specific features, free SSL, priority support, plus a great track record with our survey respondents.
We’d like to stress that none of the shared WordPress hosting providers here failed any test. The overall standard was refreshingly high. Furthermore, all providers also offer a full range of more advanced hosting options if you start to outgrow the entry-level packages.
Our hope is that the information above will help you do two things:
- provide a framework to distinguish between high-profile providers, and
- use their overall offerings as a sensible reference point if you are comparing with other hosting services in the market.
We’d love to hear more about your experience in finding the best hosting for WordPress in the comments below. Get in touch!
November 27, 2018