After choosing a domain name for your new blog, picking a host is your next job. There are so many choices out there, with pros and cons to each one, so how do you choose?
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If you do a Google search for “best blog host” or “choosing a good blog host” the number of articles and opinions you’ll receive could fill multiple libraries. It can be overwhelming. The problem is that you could read all that information and still not be any closer to a decision. Whose opinion do you trust?
We hear you. We’ve been there. We’ve tried many different hosts with varying results. There’s no perfect one size fits all solution — you’ll have to make the final decision based on our recommendations and your needs– but we thought we’d share our experience and lay out the features and drawbacks of our favorite blog hosting choices.
One final piece of advice: Don’t agonize over this decision. Hosting is very important, but it’s not what will make your new blog a success. Make a choice and move on with more important work like writing, posting, and building your audience.
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Our favorite “starter” WordPress hosting options
Bluehost is one of the most popular hosting solutions when starting a new self-hosted WordPress blog. They were the very first hosting company Abby and I ever used. Years ago I picked Bluehost because it was one of the recommended hosts on the WordPress.org site, and the price just couldn’t be beat. The site design and overall feel of the company just felt right.
When I was first learning about WordPress, I appreciated that Bluehost used the industry standard cPanel for making technical host setting changes. The Bluehost cPanel also has one-click WordPress installation, and they make it easy to set up a custom email account with your domain using Google Apps (my preferred choice). The cPanel also has a built in FTP manager for uploading and downloading files directly to the server.
Bluehost is part of a large corporate conglomerate, and most of their revenue comes from servicing hundreds of thousands of smaller hosting accounts. One of the reasons this billion dollar company can offer such a low price is because of the scale involved. That being said, the customer support makes it feel like a small and friendly company. They’ve always been responsive and helpful during my support request chats.
Bluehost accounts start at $2.75/month (insane I know!) if you prepay for 36 months. (This pricing sometimes changes but you can always get the best available deal through our link.) You have one up front fee that covers you for 36 months of hosting service. The good news is that if you cancel sometime during the first 30 days, Bluehost offers a full refund. I wrote an entire article about how Bluehost pricing works if you want to learn more.
For a few extra dollars per month you can get a “plus” account. The amazing thing about the plus account is that a single account can host an unlimited number of WordPress blogs. If you ever get the urge to start a second site about a different topic or create dedicated WordPress-based landing pages with a unique domain, you can keep adding and adding to the plus the account for free.
Here’s a tip about Bluehost renewal pricing… I always recommend prepaying for the 36 months with each new account — you get the best price. But please remember that these are introductory prices and if you do nothing, when the 36 months is up you, will have different renewal pricing. For instance, you can get the starter Bluehost account for $2.75/month through this link. After the 36 months is up, the account will renew for another 36 months at the regular price of $7.99/month. But here’s the super important tip… Bluehost always makes their crazy holiday sale prices open to existing customers! Pay attention to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and I recommend extending your hosting for a year during these sales to lock in the best prices. It’s always a good idea to renew during a sale even before your 36 month introductory period is up.
SiteGround is another fantastic hosting option with very competitive pricing. There’s been a lot of buzz lately about their amazing customer support and some high-end WordPress hosting features at a really good price. SiteGround is impressive.
I mentioned the buzz around SiteGround… usually it was in the form of customers raving about amazing site speed and amazingly friendly customer support. I didn’t push any limits with my SiteGround site to test speed so I can’t speak to that, but I did test the customer support. It really is top notch. I had the type of interaction you walk away from with a smile on your face versus anger and frustration. It makes a difference.
SiteGround has been gaining momentum lately, but they’ve actually been around since 2004. The company headquarters and ownership group are in Bulgaria, but they do have small offices in Spain, UK, and Virginia. SiteGround certainly does have a different feel than the larger and more corporate Bluehost. It’s not good or bad, just different.
A cool thing about SiteGround is that you can take advantage of their best price of $3.95/month by just pre-paying for 12 months (instead of 36 months like with Bluehost). Your first payment to get up and running is only $47.40 and there are no other weird setup charges or any surprises. Sometimes it does make sense to pre-pay for a longer term because the renewal rate for their StartUp account is $9.95/month.
All SiteGround accounts do come with daily backups. I still recommend additional backup measures that you can read about in my guide to starting a blog, but the free backup is still a nice feature.
The free backups are stored on the SiteGround servers and in the case of emergency you can request a copy. With a lot of hosts, this would be an extra cost. Like Bluehost, SiteGround uses a custom cPanel so all the typical server controls and settings will look familiar.
In order to host multiple WordPress blogs on a single hosting account you need the SiteGround “Grow Big” account at $7.95/month. This account also includes some more advanced WordPress specific features. Honestly, this is a steal. If I knew I would have more than one site with multiple WordPress installs, the SiteGround “GrowBig” would be the account to start with.
SiteGround is a really solid choice for WordPress hosting for both new and more established blogs. It’s slightly more expensive than Bluehost, but they have a lot of nice options include free backups and some WordPress specific caching (faster site!) with their Grow Big and higher plans.
Our favorite “premium” WordPress hosting options
1. Media Temple
Abby’s blog lived happily on Media Temple for a long while. We eventually upgraded not because of any issue with Media Temple, but because we had a too-g00d-to-pass-up offer from an ultra-premium hosting provider.
With Media Temple you really do get a lot for your money. I don’t know of any other WordPress hosting that has a $20/month account that supports up to 250,000 monthly visitors. That’s certainly the type of account you can grow with and not break the bank. As traffic and needs increase, Media Temple has plenty of more advanced hosting options.
Abby and I still have a number of our domains registered with Media Temple. One of the reasons is their custom designed interface that is fast and easy to use.
Flywheel is relatively new to the scene (since 2012), but they have come on strong in recent years. Count me as one of the many super impressed and happy customers. The blog you are reading is currently hosted on Flywheel.
Before I talk about Flywheel pricing (both good and bad), I want to tell you a few things that really set Flywheel apart from the competition.
Free migrations. What?! Yes that’s right, Flywheel will migrate your site from your old host for free. You fill out a form on their site, Flywheel makes a copy of your entire WordPress database, they move a copy to their servers, view and test the site before setting it live. The migration process is handled in-house by Flywheel and not contracted out to any third party. (Rumor has it that they will also do Blogger to WordPress migrations if you ask nicely!)
When Abby and I moved Just A Girl and Her Blog to Synthesis for our hosting years ago, we ended up paying a third party service $99 to complete our migration. We figured it was better safe than sorry, so we let professionals handle the process. With Flywheel the same service is free!
WordPress only. The Flywheel servers are all custom configured for optimal performance with WordPress. They’re not a jack of all trades but instead are focused on giving their customers the best WordPress hosting experience they can.
Free nightly backups. Other hosts do this, but with Flywheel you can download the entire backup or restore to a particular backup with one click. They make it super easy. They’ve even taken the extra (but important!) step of storing all the backups in Amazon S3 instead of their own servers. That’s the attention to detail that I love about Flywheel.
Blog staging areas. I haven’t tested this yet, but with Flywheel you can make changes to your site and test those changes in a staging area before you set it live. This is a helpful feature when you’re going through a blog redesign or other major change to your site.
Gorgeous dashboard. If you’re a sucker for design and usability, you’re going to fall in love with the Flywheel dashboard. They’ve just thought of everything. You can actually create an account for free with Flywheel and test things out a bit before picking a hosting package.
Super flywheel customer support. When I start with a new hosting company, one of the first things I do is test out their customer support. Multiple times! I probably drive them crazy with questions but if all the files for this blog are sitting on their servers, I want to make sure they have good support. Flywheel has always responded to my requests in a short period of time. And more than that, their answers were actually helpful. None of that “here’s a link to knowledge base article” stuff that some hosts do. You’ll love the Flywheel support.
Blazing speed. The lowest end $15/month Flywheel account has to be the absolute fastest host for the money that I’ve ever seen. The speed (for all of their accounts) is no joke and it easily compares to the Synthesis hosting we have for our other site. To take things even further, Flywheel has a partnership with MaxCDN for even faster content delivery and caching. There are no settings to change or plugins to install — just click a button in the Flywheel dashboard and pay the extra $10/month, and you have one of the world’s best content delivery networks serving up your site at lighting speed all around the world. We use and love this option.
A word on Flywheel pricing…
Flywheel pricing is both good and bad. It’s good in the sense that you can start a blog with some of the absolute best hosting at only $14/month. It really is unheard of to have Flywheel’s level of managed WordPress hosting at that crazy low price.
The only potential issue (for some) is that as your traffic increases you can quickly move up to more expensive account levels with Flywheel. For example, the Flywheel “professional” account is $69/month for up to 100,000 pageviews. This level of account does include free CDN with MaxCDN. That alone is worth at least $20/month if you used a similar service like CloudFlare.
At this point, most of our new sites will start with Flywheel because I love them so much.
3. StudioPress Sites (formerly Synthesis)
Did you know the same company that owns the Genesis WordPress Framework also has a WordPress hosting company? Well, they do! Synthesis (now StudioPress Sites) is where Just A Girl and Her Blog was hosted for many years. A few things to keep in mind with StudioPress Sites…
It’s managed WordPress hosting. This is great when it comes to speed and security but you do give up some flexibility. You are limited to using only approved plugins. This can feel limiting to some and perfect for others.
It’s not cheap. Plans range from $27/month to $47/month.
You get to use the Genesis Framework and some Genesis child themes for free! Because StudioPress is the creator of the Genesis Framework, StudioPress Site accounts come with included WordPress themes. This is maybe the best feature. Learn more about the included themes and see if there is one that is right for you.
There is no access to hosting “back end” settings. Let me explain this…
With most hosts, you can log into a control panel, add re-directs, change email hosting settings, edit DNS zone files, etc… With StudioPress Sites you don’t have that same access. It’s all managed for you. If Abby and I want to make any type of change or implement a re-direct, we log into our account and submit a support request. Usually less than an hour later (sometimes within minutes!) the change has been made. We don’t do anything! It’s all done for us. Over the years I’ve submitted hundreds of tickets… not for problems, but for little changes to the account. It’s fantastic not having to worry about anything!
Final Hosting Recommendations
Hopefully you’re not feeling overwhelmed at this point, but instead have a clearer idea of which hosting company may be the best choice for you. I don’t think it’s plausible to recommend a single hosting solution for every type of need. With this article, I’m hoping you can take advantage of our experience and research and pick the best hosting solution that meets your needs.
Deciding on a hosting company is what I call “work about work.” It makes you feel like you are doing something when you actually aren’t. Real work is writing blog posts, connecting with other bloggers, improving your photography, or interacting on social media.
Picking a host is necessary, but it takes time away from actual productive work that will make your blog successful. A hosting company will not determine your blog’s success, so don’t take too much time to make your decision.
Let me summarize my recommendations…
- Bluehost is the perfect place to start if you are ok prepaying for 36 months. You will not find a better host at a better price than $2.75/month. If you want to host more than one (unlimited!) blogs choose the $4.95/month “plus” account.
- SiteGround has a smaller company feel and perfect if you want a great price ($3.95/month) and only want to prepay for 12 months with out-of-this-world friendly support. The “GrowBig” account is a great value if you plan on having more than one site.
- Media Temple offers higher than usual traffic limits for the account prices making it a solid choice for high-traffic blogs.
- Flywheel is the best hosting money can buy for the low starting price of $14/month. It’s the best experience I’ve ever had at any host but it does get pricey as your traffic increases.
- StudioPress Sites is for those who want highly-optimized and hands-free hosting for their Genesis Framework WordPress blog. Only consider this option once you’re clearing well over 100,000 visitors/month or want a highly managed (and sometimes restrictive) hosting experience with free WordPress themes.
There it is! Pick one and go — you’ll be happy with any of these options. I’ve used and loved all of them.