Finding the Best WordPress Hosting: An Honest Guide

best wordpress hosting an honest guide

There are thousands of sources out there telling you who offers the best WordPress hosting. This article’s different, because it tells the truth.

The article is in sections:

  1. The best WordPress hosts, if you’re in a hurry.
  2. Don’t be fooled: Why and how almost all other WordPress hosting comparisons are lying to you.
  3. Our methodology: What we did to produce our recommendations, and why you can trust them.

The Best WordPress Hosting: The Definitive, Honest List

Our WordPress hosting ranking organizes twelve key WordPress hosts into four natural categories:

  1. Kings of the hill: Lots of data, great user satisfaction results.
  2. Boutique high performers: Outstanding user satisfaction results, but less data overall.
  3. Reports vary: Hosts with mixed records.
  4. Avoid: The most common bad choices in WordPress hosting.

We strongly recommend making your purchase from either the first or second category. (The third category, not so much, and the fourth category please don’t.)

How to Use Our List

WordPress has good hosts and bad hosts. To find the best WordPress host for you, find the good host that best matches your situation.

But wait, who’s the best host in WordPress? Regardless of what other sources say, there is no single best WordPress host for all circumstances. Many WordPress hosts are bad and not worth using, and a few WordPress hosts are good and worth using.

To find the best WordPress host for you, look through the good hosts in the list below, and find the one that best matches your personal situation: budget, site traffic, technical skill, and preference for small innovators or large established companies.

Lastly, if you need to better understand hosting in general (for example, the difference between “shared” and “managed” hosting), see our article on the topic.

1. Kings of the Hill: Lots of Data, Great User Satisfaction

A huge amount of reliable data agrees: these are great hosts. They have the most overall data of any good WordPress host, and that data puts them at or near the top of the WordPress hosting pile, although often not in the single top spot in any given survey.

These may no longer be the hungry upstart hosts that often drive innovation—rather, both are working hard to maintain high quality despite rapid growth—but if you want to make a WordPress hosting choice you definitely won’t regret, it’s hard to go wrong with these companies.

SiteGround (shared host)

siteground | wpshout

SiteGround is the most universally loved host in WordPress. It performed at or near the top in CodeInWP’s, Review Signal’s, and WebHostingGeeks’s survey data, and its shared plan (the one we recommend it for) did great in Review Signal’s hosting benchmarks.

If you want a great, established shared hosting company that’s been crushing it for years, SiteGround is your best choice.

WP Engine (managed WordPress host)

wp engine | wpshout

The first managed WordPress host, and still the largest, WP Engine invented and dominates its entire hosting category. It scored near the top in both CodeInWP’s and Review Signal’s survey data, although it was absent from both Review Signal’s hosting benchmarks and WebHostingGeeks’s survey data.

WP Engine is a good “default” choice for managed WordPress hosting. If you go with them, you almost certainly won’t be sorry you did.

2. Boutique High Performers: Oustanding User Satisfaction Results, but Less Data Overall

These hosts have user satisfaction results that are as good as SiteGround’s and WP Engine’s—or even better. The only issue is that they’re slightly less well-known and well-established, so there’s less data backing them up. If you’re looking for a really high-quality, boutique hosting experience, it’s likely you’ll be happy with any of these hosts.

Flywheel (managed WordPress host)

flywheel managed wordpress hosting

Flywheel is a managed WordPress host that topped out both CodeInWP’s and Review Signal’s satisfaction data (but based on significantly fewer reviews than the “Kings of the Hill” hosts.)

With a starter plan at half the standard $30 introductory pricing for managed hosting, Flywheel’s a great managed host to try out. We would honestly try Kinsta over WP Engine the next time we need managed WordPress hosting, just to see what all the excitement’s about.

Kinsta (managed WordPress host)

Kinsta is a managed WordPress host that scored at the top in CodeInWP’s survey data (but again, not with a lot of results) and very well in Review Signal’s hosting benchmarks, but doesn’t appear in Review Signal’s or WebHostingGeeks’s survey data.

Again, we would probably try Kinsta over WP Engine the next time we need managed WordPress hosting, just out of curiosity.

Cloudways (shared host)

cloudways wordpress hosting

We’ve never tried Cloudways, but we’re very curious to do so. Cloudways is rising up very quickly in WordPress, and is one of the most popular shared hosts this year. It was at or near the top of both CodeInWP’s and Review Signal’s survey data.

The only caveat to this recommendation is a mediocre average score in WebHostingGeeks, mostly weighed down by negative reviews from several years ago. The silver lining to this is that Cloudways appears to have really upped its quality recently.

We believe Cloudways is a good possible alternative to SiteGround right now, and is very much the “rising star” in WordPress hosting that SiteGround was maybe five years ago.

Pantheon (managed WordPress host)

Pantheon performed beautifully in Review Signal’s data—both its user reviews and its performance benchmarking.

They also had 7 reviews in CodeInWP’s data, all perfect 5s. That’s not a very big sample, but it does reinforce Pantheon being worth a look.

Pantheon feels like a very high-quality host that is still breaking fully into WordPress. I personally know that their system is quite different from most hosts’, so if you’re down to learn a new way of approaching hosting, there’s a great chance you’ll love them.

3. Reports Vary: Hosts with Mixed Records

These hosts are somewhere in the middle: either some data sources love them and some hate them, or they’re always scoring right in the middle across all sources.

These hosts aren’t a scream-out-loud wrong choice like the fourth category, but there are almost certainly better choices as well.

InMotion (shared host)

InMotion hosting logo

InMotion scored in the middle for Review Signal and CodeInWP, and toward the top for WebHostingGeeks. Could be worth having a look, but SiteGround has higher user satisfaction scores across every reliable piece of data.

DreamHost (shared host)

dreamhost wordpress hosting

DreamHost has been around a very long time, and it always seems to score around the middle of the pack—which is exactly how it did in all three user surveys we examined.

If you have a client already on DreamHost, you might not need to switch them off, but there are probably better options if you’re just purchasing posting.

A2 Hosting (shared host)

A2 hosting WordPress giveaway

A2 hosting is confusing: WebHostingGeeks thinks they’re the best host in the world, Review Signal thinks they’re the worst host in the world, and CodeInWP thinks they’re kind of in the middle.

Strange result, but there’s probably not a great reason to buy A2 hosting given other options that don’t have a split personality.

4. Avoid: The Most Common Bad Choices in WordPress Hosting

These are the clear-cut losers in all reliable hosting data. They are also probably the three biggest WordPress hosts, because of their huge marketing budgets and their ability to manipulate the truth of the market’s recommendations through huge affiliate commissions.

You should never buy hosting from these hosts, for any reason. Their customers hate hosting with them, and there are so many choices (see everything above) that are clearly better.

GoDaddy (shared host)

godaddy wordpress hosting

CodeInWP, Review Signal, WebHostingGeeks, and all other reliable sources agree: GoDaddy is bad hosting. People who use it are among the least satisfied of all hosting customers.

The only reasons to recommend GoDaddy are if you don’t know what you’re talking about, or (much more commonly) if you stand to make money from doing so. Do not buy GoDaddy hosting.

Bluehost (shared host)

bluehost wordpress hosting

CodeInWP, Review Signal, WebHostingGeeks, and all other reliable sources agree: Bluehost is bad hosting. People who use it are among the least satisfied of all hosting customers.

The only reasons to recommend Bluehost are if you don’t know what you’re talking about, or (much more commonly) if you stand to make money from doing so. Do not buy Bluehost hosting.

HostGator (shared host)

hostgator wordpress hosting

CodeInWP, Review Signal, WebHostingGeeks, and all other reliable sources agree: HostGator is bad hosting. People who use it are among the least satisfied of all hosting customers.

The only reasons to recommend HostGator are if you don’t know what you’re talking about, or (much more commonly) if you stand to make money from doing so. Do not buy HostGator hosting.

Don’t Be Fooled: Why and How People Lie to You About Hosting

Almost all hosting advice on the internet is a lie.

Almost all hosting advice on the internet is a lie. I mean that literally. If you’re skeptical, read this full article, and you’ll be able to see why the following screenshot is accurate:

Click to enlarge

Why People Lie in Hosting Reviews

That’s simple: for money. Hosting companies pay huge affiliate commissions for every trackable customer sale you send their way. Getting people to buy hosting through trackable online affiliate links is quite literally many people’s only job.

That’s fine in itself, but the issue is that you can make lots more money by advertising the biggest, highest-budget hosts in the world—who are also among the worst hosts in the world. This problem is a general one, but for WordPress hosting 90% of it boils down to three brands:

  1. GoDaddy.
  2. Bluehost (owned by EIG).
  3. HostGator (also owned by EIG.)

If someone recommends any of these hosts to you, two things are possible:

  1. They do not know what they’re talking about.
  2. They’re lying. (This is quite a bit more likely if you’re reading or watching it online.)

How People Lie in Hosting Reviews

Okay, so how do people lie about hosting for money? That’s a bit more intricate. We’ll explore three major trends in dishonest hosting recommendations here.

Most of the things you’ll find in a quick Google search actually combine all these attributes. In other words:

  1. They’re “best WordPress hosting, ranked” listicles, that are
  2. Backed up by bogus “performance and uptime” data, and
  3. Further backed up by “reviews” that amount to one guy’s opinion.

1. With “Best Hosting Ranked” Listicles

We’re hoping that this article will eventually show up in a Google search for “best WordPress hosting.” The reason why is simple: a huge number of people use those searches to make their hosting decisions, and almost all results you’ll find on the first two results pages are, very literally, a total lie.

As you read this article, you’ll see clearly that the top-recommended hosts in almost every one of those Google-friendly “Best WordPress Hosting, Compared” articles are actually the opposite of the real hosts WordPress users put forward as ones they enjoy working with. In other words, these “ranking” articles consistently recommend the hosts that actual users hate the most.

Just look at PC Mag’s review of its “Top Recommended” host: HostGator. In other words, according to PC Mag, HostGator is supposed to be the best hosting company in the world.

But that review also has a comments section featuring actual people, which is scathing about the actual quality of HostGator hosting. This is not a fluke: in reality, HostGator is terrible hosting, as you’ll see from the real, non-false data sources in the rest of this article.

So who’s right: thousands of WordPress users about their own experience, or a single company that stands to make massive affiliate revenues by recommending the worst hosts with the best payouts?

And if the reviews in these listicles are not a lie, then where’s the data? Which brings us to the next point:

2. With Recommendations Based Only on Supposedly Objective Metrics (“Performance and Uptime”)

The next problem with the listicles above, or with seemingly reliable hosting review sites like hostingfacts.com or seemingly reliable articles like this one, is that they don’t test how happy people are with the hosting. Instead, they test supposedly objective metrics (usually “performance and uptime”) and use that to rank hosting companies.

What’s wrong with this? Well, the tests are usually lies. It’s very easy to arrange these tests in favor of any host you have an ulterior motive for favoring.

For “uptime,” all you need is to have a site not crash for 6 months—or, like, two weeks!—and you can write a review that starts with “99.999% uptime best host!”

And then you can do all different kinds of load balancing tests until you find something that makes your host look good: “blazing-fast WordPress performance average load time 424ms!”

No need to publish which priced plan you were on, what kinds of caching layers you had enabled, what it is that you were actually loading (a WooCommerce site with hundreds of products? Or a dead-simple blog with one post and no pages?). It doesn’t matter: you’ve got the “facts” you need to move forward with your glowing review.

The bottom line is that, in most places they appear, these metrics are meaningless. They exist only to give an objective, “official” feel to recommendations that are, in fact, purely a consequence of affiliate revenue logic.

And if you do want to see real WordPress hosting performance results, look at Review Signal’s rigorous, apples-to-apples performance benchmarks, which we describe below.

3. With Hosting “Reviews” that Amount to One Guy’s Paid Opinion

In-depth hosting reviews can be great, if they get deep into the actual experience of working with the host in question over weeks and months. Where survey data culled from hundreds of real users is “broad but shallow,” good reviews are “narrow but deep”: although they’re limited to one person’s experience, they’re able to be very in-depth and detailed.

But what hosting reviews can you trust? Hosting “reviews” that exist only to bulk out and reinforce fake recommendations are extremely common.

Let’s pick on PC Mag again. (They can take it.) From their glowing HostGator review:

Website uptime is one of the most important aspects of a hosting service. If your site is down, clients or customers will be unable to find you or access your products or services.

I used a website-monitoring tool to track our HostGator-hosted test site’s uptime over a 14-day period. Every 15 minutes, the tool pings my website and sends me an email if it is unable to contact the site for at least 1 minute. The testing data reveals that HostGator is remarkably stable; in fact, it didn’t go down once in the two-week testing period. You shouldn’t have to worry about your HostGator site going down for extended periods of time.

Did you catch that? It was:

  1. Fluff informing the reader that users can’t, in fact, access downed sites.
  2. High-tech-sounding fluff about the guy’s downtime tracker.
  3. Great news! “HostGator is remarkably stable; in fact, it didn’t go down once in the two-week testing period.” You heard it here, folks: HostGator’s servers didn’t crash, during a period of two weeks, in the experience of one user.

And that leads our reviewer to the lucky-for-me-I-still-get-to-make-money conclusion that “You shouldn’t have to worry about your HostGator site going down for extended periods of time.” After all, if you’re not convinced after hearing one guy’s experience over two weeks, what evidence would convince you?

It’s not that good in-depth reviews can’t tell you a ton about what using a host is actually like in practice. It’s simply that you should follow two rules of thumb:

  1. Never trust a “review” from an already unreliable source.
  2. Never trust only a review, with no reliable data to back it up.

So that’s the shape of the hosting review landscape. What did we do differently, and why is it better?

Our Data Sources: How We Collected Our Hosting Data

It’s not easy to find reliable data on WordPress hosting, but it is out there—a little bit of it. We found three trustworthy data sources, each of which has something in common: they’ve found a different way to collect real information from hundreds of non-fake, non-compromised, non-compensated users.

100% of the data we’re drawing on comes from thousands of real hosting users.

This means that the data we’re drawing on is 100% from thousands of real hosting users—and 0% from blog owners writing affiliate-happy listicles.

Below we explain each data source—what it does, its strengths, and its weaknesses—and present its findings.

Our Affiliate Disclosure

Are we standing to make affiliate money from this article? Yes, we are, but this article is still 100% honest and trustworthy. Let’s explain.

Currently the hosts in this article that we’re affiliates for are SiteGround, WP Engine, FlywheelKinsta, and Cloudways. If you click one of those links and go on to buy the hosting, we’ll earn a commission.

We’re affiliates for these companies because we support them, not the other way around. In fact, we created affiliate accounts for GoDaddy, Bluehost, etc., way back when, but we’re not bothering to paste in those links in this article because we really, really don’t want you buying their hosting.

More broadly, our methodology in this article is to summarize real, unbiased results from thousands of people, and then to simply present those summaries—not to put forward all kinds of bogus paid opinions from us personally. If you’ve read this far, it should be clear that our methods couldn’t be more different from the standard “affiliate listicle” in terms of the truth and reliability of the results they generate.

Data Source 1: CodeInWP

Our first data source is CodeInWP, a WordPress blog that, in 2016, started doing an annual hosting survey.

CodeInWP: What They Do

CodeInWP’s annual hosting survey is extremely similar in style and content to the WordPress hosting surveys we did annually up through 2017. To their credit, CodeInWP got lots more respondents than we were able to: they got a total of 380 (not 830, as they claim, twice!) responses for the 2018 survey. Survey article hereraw data here.

CodeInWP: Strengths of Their Hosting Advice

CodeInWP’s annual hosting review is the best place to learn what real WordPress professionals think about web hosting. The 380 responses they got this year give them quite good coverage of the WordPress hosting landscape, in the real, unbiased words and ratings of the people who know it best.

CodeInWP: Weaknesses of Their Hosting Advice

Again, CodeInWP overstated their real number of 2018 survey respondents by more than 460. Probably an innocent typo (uh, two typos), but it also “just so happens” to make their results look a lot more comprehensive than they really are.

CodeInWP’s results tables often misrepresent their own hosting results because of affiliate revenue considerations.

A significantly worse problem is that CodeInWP has a truly frustrating tendency to not rank “Best” hosts by which one is actually best. In other words, they often misrepresent their own hosting results when affiliate revenue considerations intrude.

So that I don’t have to dig too much into this problem, I’ll just give the most serious examples. CodeInWP has two articles reporting on the same information: the actual results article, and a “Best WordPress hosting compared” article that is optimized for search.

So how does CodeInWP rank its “best WordPress hosting” results in the results article? Take a look:

best wordpress hosts compared

Graph via CodeInWP. Click for full size.

Huh? It “ranks” hosts by their own websites’ popularity in Alexa. Why on earth would anyone care about that? Maybe because ranking hosts that way gets big affiliate payers GoDaddy, Bluehost, and HostGator to the top of a table titled “Best rated WordPress hosting companies”—despite all three having dismal user satisfaction scores in CodeInWP’s own data.

And here’s how that same information is presented in the “Best WordPress hosting compared” article:

Graph via CodeInWP. Click for full size.

Despite supposedly being “The Overall Rankings,” this table sorts by price—not user satisfaction—and includes hosts that real users hate (Bluehost, HostGator, GoDaddy) while excluding hosts that real users love (Cloudways, Flywheel).

The issue isn’t with CodeInWP’s data, it’s with how they present that data.

So the issue isn’t with CodeInWP’s data, it’s with how they present their data to dupe people into buying the same old crap hosting—hosting that their own data proves is crap year after year.

CodeInWP: Their Results

CodeInWP’s treatment of their data aside, the data itself is a gold mine. Below is a corrected version of their data that does three things:

  1. Sorts hosts by user rating.
  2. Corrects the for-no-reason removal of InMotion hosting from most of CodeInWP’s tables.
  3. Titles the table accurately.

Popular WordPress hosts, ranked by user satisfaction (CodeInWP survey)

Hosting CompanyRating / 5
Kinsta4.8
Flywheel4.8
SiteGround4.6
Cloudways4.5
WPEngine4.4
InMotion4.2
DreamHost4.1
A2 Hosting3.8
HostGator3.7
GoDaddy3.5
Bluehost3.3

Incidentally, we like this list of “popular” hosts, so we’re using it throughout the review. There’s no clear cutoff for what hosts to include and exclude in a resource like this, but these are, basically, the major names in WordPress hosting. That doesn’t mean that another host out there might not be the best WordPress host for you—but if you’re looking for a WordPress host, these are the names to know.

Data Source 2: Review Signal

Our second trusted data source is Review Signal.

Review Signal: What They Do

Review Signal’s main ranking system looks at each host’s social media mentions, and uses an algorithm to decide whether each review is “Positive” or “Negative.”

Review Signal also does a very data-heavy annual hosting performance comparison called the Review Signal Hosting Benchmarks.

Review Signal: Strengths of Their Hosting Advice

Review Signal’s ranking system is a very creative and smart approach. It’s completely unbiased, and has the advantage of naturally including thousands of people’s reviews.

And Review Signal’s Hosting Benchmarks are, honestly, the only hosting benchmarking comparisons I trust online. Everything else I’ve found is either lazily done, or clearly biased by affiliate revenue considerations.

And Review Signal’s founder, Kevin Ohashi, is basically the hero hosting needs but doesn’t deserve. Read his accurately titled article, Dirty, Slimy, Shady Secrets of the Web Hosting Review (Under)World, if you think I’m painting too cynical a portrait of the hosting landscape.

Review Signal: Weaknesses of Their Hosting Advice

Review Signal’s “Positive or Negative” algorithm is error-prone. Fully half of the reviews marked “Positive” for one host I checked were actually negative reviews, such as “.@HostPapa suggest people do not use this host service if you want reliable and decent support.” The algorithm obviously picked up on the positive adjectives “reliable” and “decent,” but not the broader message of the review.

You might argue that these irregularities average out over Review Signal’s large amounts of data. (In aggregate, HostPapa is still toward the bottom of the rankings, and SiteGround is still at the top.) But it’s also possible they don’t, if some hosts are experiencing different kinds of skewed results than others in Review Signal’s algorithm.

Also, for most of its hosting categories, such as “shared,” reviews are from all customers, not just WordPress customers.

Review Signal: What They Found

We’ll first look at Review Signal’s user satisfaction data, then at their hosting benchmarks.

User Satisfaction Data

Review Signal’s satisfaction rankings are consistent with the other two data sources: Pantheon, Flywheel, WP Engine, Cloudways, SiteGround at the top; GoDaddy, HostGator, Bluehost at the bottom. Below is a summary table.

Popular WordPress hosts, ranked by user satisfaction (Review Signal data)

Hosting Company% PositiveHosting Type
Pantheon85%Managed WordPress
Flywheel82%Managed WordPress
WPEngine78%Managed WordPress
Cloudways73%Managed WordPress
SiteGround72%Shared
DreamHost56%Shared
GoDaddy49%Shared
InMotion44%Shared
HostGator43%Shared
Bluehost41%Shared
A2 Hosting37%Shared
Kinsta[N/A][N/A]

WordPress Hosting Benchmarks

In the under $25 per month category:

  • “Incendia Web Works, LightningBase, Pressable and SiteGround all earned Top Tier status this year for going through all the tests without any issues.”
  • A2 Hosting, Green Geeks and Nexcess earned honorable mention status.”
  • Companies that agreed to participate and underperformed included Bluehost and 1&1.
  • Most hosting companies that would’ve been in this tier (GoDaddy, A Small Orange, HostGator, etc.) simply didn’t participate.

In the $25-$50 per month category:

  • Cloudways, Vultr, Kinsta, LightningBase and Pantheon all earned Top Tier status this year for going through all the tests without any significant issues.”
  • SiteGround’s GoGeek tier struggled in this category, “because” (according to SiteGround themselves) “during performance testing an automatic limitation system temporarily kicked in, in a way that prevented the uptime test to be properly executed. SiteGround confirmed that this particular limitation system should not have been active on the tested accounts and is currently not active on any of their production servers.”
  • Notably absent was WP Engine, whose basic tier is in this price range.

Data Source 3: Web Hosting Geeks

Web Hosting Geeks is a long-running website that collects authentic hosting reviews.

Web Hosting Geeks: What They Do

Real hosting reviews by real users. Their motto is: “Delivering transparency to web hosting since 2004.” As they note, “Unlike other sites, we don’t fake hosting reviews, forge ratings or hide anything.” A variety of other “review” sites are full of clearly fake reviews, but these are all clearly written by human beings with real opinions.

Web Hosting Geeks: Strengths of Their Hosting Advice

It’s real hosting reviews by real users: a huge number of real responses tracking people’s satisfaction with their hosts.

Web Hosting Geeks: Weaknesses of Their Hosting Advice

They don’t review managed WordPress hosting for some reason, meaning that a lot of the most attractive choices in WordPress—WP Engine, Pagely, Pantheon—don’t show up in their data. Some other popular WordPress hosts (Flywheel, Kinsta) are listed with few or no reviews. (Relatedly, reviews are from all customers, not just WordPress customers.)

Reviews are averaged over the lifetime of the company, so the data you see now could be biased (up or down) by how it performed years ago. Cloudways’s average rating, in particular, suffers from this.

Web Hosting Geeks: Their Results

Popular WordPress hosts, ranked by user satisfaction (WebHostingGeeks data)

Hosting CompanyRating / 5
A2 Hosting4.7
SiteGround4.6
InMotion4.5
Cloudways3.8
DreamHost3.7
Bluehost2.4
HostGator1.9
GoDaddy1.7
WP Engine[N/A]
Kinsta[N/A]
Flywheel[N/A]

Wrapping Up

We intend this article to be a resource to help you find the best WordPress hosting in 2019 and beyond. We’ll update it regularly as new data sources come out.

If you have any questions—about hosting or anything else—we’re always happy to chat. Find us by email or in our Facebook group. Happy hosting!


3 Responses

Comments

  • How about a thorough evaluation of Liquid Web hosting? Chris Lema had a hand in their startup. They also offer special Woocommerce hosting packages.

  • I have heard SiteGround is good, but have also heard they can get pricey for what you get, especially after the regular price kicks in after ‘introductory’ price.

    Inmotion hosting has been around forever and are much cheaper in the long run. I found their customer service to be absolutely great! Which is very important when things go wrong, or you need help dealing with things. Not only do they have a well priced mid-tier plan, but they also have WordPress managed plans that are much cheaper than SiteGround.

    I have also started using Flywheel for client sites. They are also cheaper than SiteGround when you compare apples to apples. They have really streamlined the workflow and billing for building client sites. I really like using “local by Flywheel” for developing client sites, or testing stuff. One of the things that kind of bothers me, is their lowest tier plan doesn’t include a “staging” site… And they don’t have their own email client, you need to use a third party for website emails.

  • Wally says:

    Great review! But as for managed WordPress hosting, what are your personal thoughts on hosts like Pressidium or WPX Hosting? Thanks.

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