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The Problems With WordPress Hosting Reviews

One of the questions we get asked all the time is “which web host do you recommend for my WordPress site?” And without fail, our response is always the same:

It depends.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are some of the major things that play into our recommendation for web hosting.

  • Does the user need email hosting?
  • Does the user have a setup that requires a special server configuration?
  • Does the user have a lot of traffic or is their site traffic fairly light?
  • How fast do they plan on growing that traffic?
  • Do they run a food or photo blog that’s going to require a huge amount of storage or do they mainly just write blog posts?
  • What’s the user’s budget?
  • How important is security?
  • What would be the potential fallout if they were hacked?

It’s no wonder that people get confused by the world of web hosting. It’s a minefield of information and it seems like most WordPress host reviews are either 1) a thinly veiled sales pitch aimed at earning affiliate income, 2) are based on the experience of one individual over a short period of time, or 3) don’t fully take into account the shopper’s needs. If you’re looking for some data-driven performance comparisons, our WordPress performance comparison post is a good place to start.

Affiliate Income Isn’t Evil

affiliate money

Earning money by recommending a service that you truly support and stand by is awesome. The issue with web hosting affiliate programs is that there is no “one size fits all” solution, and many affiliates paint their preferred provider as the end all be all in web hosting when that’s simply not the case.

As a developer, I understand the value of a WP Engine account and for the most part I’ve been extremely pleased with their service and support, but no matter how much I may want them to be the mother of my virtual babies, they aren’t going to be the only host that I recommend to people.

They don’t fit everyone’s needs. And in my opinion, that’s just great. A hobby blogger doesn’t necessarily need an optimized software stack that uses varnish caching or an nginx web server running on an SSD with a 99.999% SLA. Twenty-seven daily visitors just doesn’t require that level of optimization or attention, especially when twenty-five of them were your mom.

If you’re a writer of online hosting reviews, and your review is positive enough that you want to recommend a company to your readers, please make it a point to let them know which type of customer is going to be best served before you go cashing that affiliate check.

Glowingly Positive or Downright Awful

mad-wordpress-review

Have you ever read a web hosting review that said “The service was pretty mediocre. I mean, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t particularly good either. I’ll keep using them, but only because I’m too lazy to move my stuff elsewhere”

Probably not.

It’s for the same reason that very few people go to Yelp to write a review about their experience at a new Thai restaurant that didn’t underwhelm or exceed expectations. “It was about what you’d expect from a a Thai restaurant. The curry was flavorful but I’ve had better.”

The main difference between chicken dumplings and a Cloud-based VPS is that people are insanely protective of their web projects. They can eat a bad dumpling and move on, but take their app offline for four minutes and the rage of a thousand suns will pulse through their veins.

Reviews are left by people who are either extremely satisfied or extremely pissed off. There’s rarely a middle ground. People who have the ability to remain objective, especially when it’s their own code at stake should make it a point to write hosting reviews. I’ll read your stuff. You are the chosen ones.

Ask Questions and Please Listen

Image from the smart people at Ken Garff Nissan
Image from the smart people at Ken Garff Nissan

It always scares me a little bit when a person or company evangelizes a particular web host for the masses. It’s dangerous territory. In many groups or forums I’m in, people will ask, “what do you think about X host?,” and without fail, the first responders chime in saying “I LOVE THEM SO MUCH THEY MAKE PUPPIES TALK AND FILL MY MOUTH WITH DELICIOUS ICE CREAM TREATS AND OH YEAH SOMETIMES I DO THINGS ON THE INTERNET THERE TOO HERE’S MY AFFILIATE LINK!!!

Rarely, and I mean rarely, do people ask more questions about the particular needs of the individual or company. Or even make a recommendation with a qualifier like “They’re great if you plan to do X…”

Let’s make an effort to find out which problem we’re solving before we give a blanket “this host is the best” answer. Putting our own best interest aside for a few minutes will not only result in the best solution for the people around us, but will also build a long-term trust.

The Dangers of the “One Host” Recommendation

Not only does recommending only one host to do everything for everyone not make sense, it can also be dangerous. Take a look at a few examples:

For the longest time the iThemes team recommended HostGator as their preferred webhost, only to have HostGator throw BackupBuddy, iThemes’ flagship product, under the bus right along with their long long-term working relationship. That’s obviously not the fault of the iThemes team by any means, but it is something that can happen in this crazy world of business that we live in. For what it’s worth, iThemes now recommend Site5.

Joost de Valk of Yoast.com recommended VPS.net for the longest time, and many people signed up for their service as a result of that recommendation. Then, after a series of outages and no communication with customers, people started tipping over cars and lighting things on fire, at least in a virtual sense. Somehow, through all of this and due to his allegiance and affiliation with VPS.net, Joost found himself doing PR for VPS.net. He now recommends Synthesis.

Obviously not every web host is going to purposefully sever a relationship, or miss the mark when it comes to living up to an expectation that’s been set by our recommendation, but that’s a risk we take when we “put all of our eggs into one basket” so to speak.

If we diversify our recommendations based on the needs of the people we’re helping, we  not only minimize the risk of having everything blow up in our face if the host decides to escape to the Bahamas and never talk to anyone ever again, but we also become a trusted resource for clients and friends, which is pretty awesome.

What has your experience been with web hosting recommendations or reviews? Good, bad, ugly? Chat it up in the comments!

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33 Comments

  1. Franky

    The problem with hosting reviews is that most cater in the space of shared hosting. With shared hosting as a general only two factors decide:
    * YMMV: Every hosting company oversells/overbooks. It’s normal, it’s standard, and it is done in pretty much every business sector. Your experience will very much depend on how trimmed down your default config is, whether you know how to increase the memory for your setup, and how many smarter clients like you push the server to its acceptable limit level.
    * Customer Service: Pretty much all that matters to be honest. If all above is poor, a good CS team will do miracles and improve anybody’s experience with their services. Also here again… YMMV.

    I’ve been with Hostgator for more than 5 years now, also have BlueHost accounts, as well as a bunch of other accounts. As a general rule of thumb… if it ain’t broken, I don’t try to fix it. Unless CS performance becomes abominable often for me the time required to move is too much and too costly to actually bother.

    A great, dare I say secret, tip nowadays is to check employee reviews for a company before actually buying services from them. Have a look at the company’s Glassdoor profile and you get a decent insight in what you can expect as Customer Service. A company with poor employee satisfaction will often lack in delivering excellent CS too – not because the reps don’t want to be great but often because their work environment and climate doesn’t allow them to excel as a customer driven employee.

    Which in turn will affect the all-encompassing YMMV.

  2. LaShonda

    I’m late to the party here, but what would you recommend for a personal blog from for a first-timer who is, although young, not *gasp*, at all tech savvy?

  3. Laura

    I appreciate not only your knowledge but the great way you have of telling the story! I designed simple (static) websites for small businesses many years ago and back then, I utilized Hostgator. I had no problems with them whatsoever but as the internet changes so, I’ve been checking hosting reviews and have been disappointed in the “catch-all” info I’ve been reading. Your article was a definite breath of fresh air. When designing sites, the best thing I could do for a potential client was to find out exactly what they expected from their website, and recommend accordingly if what they wanted was more than I was willing or able to provide. Now I’d like to design my own site once again. I’m retired and want to blog about my passion in dollhouse miniatures. At some point, I plan to produce tutorial videos and also sell the miniature items I make. Depending on what all is entailed these days, the videos may come sooner than later and I figure I can always resort to YouTube. What direction can you give me? (It may come down to WordPress, YouTube and Etsy.)

  4. Alexandra

    Site5 = bollocks and rubbish.

    They’re like GoDaddy, but w/out any name recognition: Steer clear.

    1. Rachel

      Strange! I have been with site5 for many years and simply love them. Anytime I have had questions, concerns or specific requests, they have always replied within 5 to 10 minutes and were always able to fix whatever little bugs came up… And unless GoDaddy, they never ask you to add something extra to your cart or try to have you upgrading to a larger service…

  5. Dandelion

    Im looking to start an almost blog like website where I post about different health, gardening, and wellness tips, as whole as wholistic and outdoors type of info. I’d also like to be able to sell homemade products that I’ve made (soaps, chapsticks, etc…). I’d like to have my own domain and have the web host be fast, secure, and efficient. Hopefully reasonably priced too as I dont expect to have a huge amount of traffic right now. What do you guys reccomend?

  6. Anita Anderson

    Thank you for such a humorous yet completely truthful take on web hosting reviews. I was one of the ‘ones’ who followed Joost and was breathing fire when 3 out of 3 client sites got attacked and getting follow-up was painful.

  7. Kenneth

    Hi Ryan,

    What would you recommend:

    1. a blogger who has both a food blog (with 20GB of photos) and a personal blog with modest space requirements?
    2. a blogger with only the personal blog?

  8. One Epiphany

    Hello Ryan, good article. I’m on the hunt for a new host server. I have a small business website that is currently for informational purposes. However, I’d like to have a host that can grow with me as my service-based business grows. Future functionality or features: blog, client/member only area, event calendar, and online payments. Which service provider do you recommend?

    Oh, I’ve been debating if having server space so I can “host” website development on my side makes sense. This is versus using the client’s or the vendor/freelance developer. I don’t have too many projects in this area, but I do hope to grow it over time. Thanks in advance.

    1. WP Site Care

      Thanks for chiming in!

      I’d look at two different providers. SiteGround, or Pagely. They’ve both been excellent. Pagely doesn’t host email so that’s a consideration to make, but they are on a platform that scales incredibly well, so if you want amazing performance on bleeding edge hardware, Pagely is a great choice.

      If you want something that’s a step up from what you have now, but maybe not quite to the level of Pagely as far as infrastructure goes, take a look at SiteGround. We wrote a full review about our experience with them here https://www.wpsitecare.com/siteground-wordpress-hosting/

  9. phoenix

    what would you recommend for someone who is a new doctor and i am looking to have my own site as i am anticipating working at a few different clinics for my private practice residency/medical training. the website will be all about me but i would link the websites of the clinics i will be working to a tab on my location. i would like to start traffic so when i am on my own i can have a following of my own clients here in salt lake city.

  10. garth

    Hi…I want to start a blog so a group of us gear heads can talk about the local race tracks…What do i need and where do I start…thanks

  11. Syam Pillai

    You are well said, most of the time i used to be trapped with those recommendations. Now i am moving forward with my own studies and experiences from different server providers.

  12. Jerry Low

    Ryan, great article. I couldn’t agree more with your points.

    And, “Affiliate Income Isn’t Evil” – thanks for telling the world this. Just because some affiliates screwed your life in the past it doesn’t mean that all affiliates are scams.

  13. toxicwaste288

    I bought three years of Westhost shared hosting for my four small wordpress sites, under the recommendation of Yoast! Needless to say, I think Westhost has seen better days. Unreliable speed and hacking. I’m still within the grace period so I need to find a new host now.

  14. Devin Walker

    Great article, many valid points. Different clients and needs require different hosts. Many people fall into only recommending one host hands down for all clients.

  15. Benjamin

    When I started on the web, many people (in France) recommended OVH, which is a decent choice to get started (although awfully slow and unsecure) because it’s extremely cheap. They didn’t recommend it for money, they did because everyone did, and if everyone did, then it had to mean they were good, no?

    I recently switched to WP Engine, and as tempting as it is to compare it with OVH, I won’t. Because they just aren’t in the same category. I chose WP Engine because I wanted more than a host, my website had been hacked repeatedly, performance was a disaster and I just wanted to focus on writing, not spend my time fixing issues and restauring my website after it had been hacked. Yet you are absolutely right, you can’t recommend the same host to everyone because people simply don’t have the same needs.

  16. Lwabbit22

    Need recommendations for a lower cost solution for small business website. I’m currently using a “free” one (000webhost) that works fairly well, but the website is randomly inaccessible at times in the night time. Anything that’s not too expensive but reliable?

      1. Lwabbit22

        Thanks for this tip. After researching other hosting sites and their shady plans, I feel this one suits my needs perfectly at the right price.

  17. HappyHotelier

    Well spoken. I was one of the car turners in the Yoast recommendation

      1. grappler

        I am looking for a list of hosts that you have recommended in the past.

      2. Ryan Sullivan

        Can you explain what your hosting needs are? We’ve recommended a number of different hosts for different projects. We don’t have a formal list that we publish (for many of the reasons I list in the article).

      3. grappler

        I was just looking for what hosts you recommend so I could check them out. I have friends and clients that sometimes ask.

        What would you recommend for a online startup company?

  18. Ozzy Rodriguez

    so true, so true, Ryan.

    i’ve been recommending WP Engine, as well, but i do see that there’s room for other hosts to step in if it’s overkill.

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