SiteGround Review: Why SiteGround Should Be Your First Choice for Shared Hosting in 2018
This SiteGround review has been updated for 2018. We changed WPShout’s web host to SiteGround in mid-2014. We wrote our first SiteGround review a few months later, and updated it in January 2016. This review is revised and expanded to incorporate two additional years of experience with SiteGround as our host.
We’ve added two new sections to this iteration of our SiteGround review, to make it more helpful for people looking to make good hosting decisions:
- A section giving clear, simple recommendations for buying WordPress hosting, backed by detail on the WordPress hosting space in general. If you’d just like to know what hosting to buy and why, this section is for you.
- A section explaining how SiteGround distinguishes itself from other decent shared hosts on the market, since a lot of what SiteGround does well isn’t a function of the fundamentals (cost, speed, uptime) that it and many hosts do decently on.
We’ve also made clear our recommendation that SiteGround is the best WordPress hosting for most websites:
About the Reviewer
Let’s start with a personal introduction, why you should trust me, and full disclosure.
Hi! I’m Fred Meyer. I’ve been writing about WordPress nearly every week for five years here on WPShout. I’m also co-founder of boutique web agency Press Up, where my day job is making WordPress websites for people, especially small businesses.
Getting an accurate picture of a web host can be notoriously difficult, because web hosting reviews are often informed by whichever company pays out the biggest commissions. I want to be clear: we will use affiliate links when talking about SiteGround and WP Engine, but this is because we like, use, and happily recommend these products. Other hosts that we discuss, but either don’t know well or don’t recommend, are not linked.
This post was not commissioned or altered by SiteGround, or any other third party. This SiteGround review is the product of my experience as a professional WordPress developer who both works with and writes about WordPress every day.
What Shared Hosting to Buy in 2018
1. The Short Version
This section just gives you recommendations, without a lot of extra detail. We’ll start with the shortest version:
SiteGround’s GrowBig plan is the best WordPress hosting for websites with fewer than 25K visits/month. It offers many “premium” or “managed” features which elsewhere you’d pay a lot more for, and it’s fast, reliable, and backed by stellar customer support.
Your first payment is discounted, and subsequent payments renew higher, so you should buy as many years up-front as you feel confident you’ll need (you can buy up to three).
If you have between 25K and 100K visits/month, then you should consider SiteGround’s GoGeek plan–but read on first to ensure you’re not looking for managed WordPress hosting instead.
Those are your very brief recommendations. We’ll now go into the world of WordPress hosting in more detail, and our SiteGround review in full. Please enjoy, and if you have any questions do leave them in the comments.
2. Don’t Buy GoDaddy or EIG (Bluehost, HostGator, A Small Orange, Site5, HostMonster…)
Let me start this by saying: I’ve met many people who work at EIG’s brands (especially Bluehost), and at GoDaddy and its brands, at numerous WordCamps over the past several years. By and large, those people are extremely nice, and are trying their best to offer good hosting and to partner with the WordPress community.
But the fact remains that EIG brands, and GoDaddy and its brands, are strictly worse hosting for WordPress sites than comparably-priced alternatives.
On these same tests, the shared hosts we do recommend—SiteGround from personal experience, and A2 Hosting by reputation—consistently perform massively better than the huge hosting brands. This is across many years, many surveying and testing tools, and thousands of responses from real people.
So it’s worth stating the plain result, which is that there is currently no good reason to host your WordPress site with: GoDaddy, Media Temple, Bluehost, HostGator, HostMonster, A Small Orange, Site5, iPage, or any other EIG-owned host.
3. Doublecheck: Shared or Managed Hosting?
The first thing to make sure is that you’re actually looking for shared hosting, as opposed to managed WordPress hosting. This article is a decent guide to the differences.
Speaking personally, since we transitioned WPShout away from managed WordPress hosting, we really haven’t looked back, even as our traffic grew by leaps and bounds. The hosting itself (through WP Engine) was very good, but the cost scaled quickly with traffic and it didn’t have features—like email, or unlimited WordPress-or-non-WordPress sites—that we ended up needing.
Moreover, good shared hosts will also offer some of a managed host’s most important features, like WordPress version updating. So as a rule of thumb: If you’re not sure whether you need shared or managed hosting, and you’ve got fewer than 50,000 site visits per month, start with shared hosting.
If you do conclude that you need managed hosting, WP Engine is a good place to start unless you’ve got a specific reason not to go with them.
4. Good Shared Hosting Choices for 2018: SiteGround or A2 Hosting
Now that you’ve decided you need shared hosting, here’s what I’d suggest.
Read the prices for SiteGround’s GrowBig plan, or its GoGeek plan if you have more than 25K visits per month across all the sites you host.
Make sure you read the renewal rates: currently $15 and $30 per month after your one-to-three-year intro period discount. Can you afford to pay that amount for hosting?
If yes: Go with SiteGround! Lock in as many years of the cheap intro rates (up to three) as you feel comfortable paying up-front. (Also, I wouldn’t bother paying for their “Site Scanner” tool—I’m not sure what it is, but we’ve never missed its absence.)
If no: I wouldn’t recommend going with SiteGround’s cheapest “StartUp” plan. I’ve used it on a couple of client sites, and it feels a bit slow, doesn’t have dynamic caching, and limits you to one domain—reversing most of the things I like about SiteGround itself.
Instead, if SiteGround’s middle-tier price is too high, you may want to take a look at A2 Hosting. I haven’t tried A2 myself and know very little about it, but it’s gotten good reviews in numerous user-driven or otherwise reputable places, including our 2017 WordPress hosting review and CodeInWP’s 2016 and 2017 reviews. (Oddly, though, it does rather poorly at Review Signal.)
So if you’re needing to go lowest-possible-price, I’d give A2 a look—but again, I haven’t tried it myself, so do as much of your own research as you can.
Onward to Our SiteGround Review
So that’s our advice in a nutshell. The rest of this article fleshes that advice out with detail about how SiteGround has been as a shared host in our experience.
This information should be helpful to you no matter which host you’re considering, because it’s also a list of qualities any good host should have. Please feel free to compare your host and see how they stack up.
SiteGround Review: How We Like Them, Three Years In
Consistently Nailing the Nuts-And-Bolts
SiteGround has consistently met each of the needs that led us to switch in the first place.
To get the raw facts out of the way: SiteGround’s hosting has performed excellently. SiteGround has consistently met each of the needs that led us to switch in the first place.
Specifically, in mid-2014, we were having a horrible experience hosting some of our sites on Bluehost, and we were also hitting WP Engine usage limits here on WPShout. We were looking for hosting that:
- Had everything we needed (a cPanel interface, SSH, email, the ability to host both WordPress and non-WordPress sites)
- Had generous usage limits (and an affordable upgrade rather than a big price jump if we risked overstepping them)
- Was affordable on a monthly basis, and
- Didn’t limit to the number of domains and sites we could deploy.
SiteGround has consistently delivered on each of these needs in the years since the switch. Some details worth mentioning:
- In almost four years, we’ve had precisely one outage or service disruption that lasted long enough for us to notice.
- Our average traffic has quadrupled over this time period without triggering usage alerts or slowdowns. On one occasion, SiteGround accommodated a one-day traffic spike of 50x our average traffic with no effect on site performance.
- In approximately 100 calls to the technical support team, I have been on hold for 20 seconds once, and less than three seconds the rest of the time. The support staff have been polite and intelligent every time. I have had my question answered over the phone all but four times, each of which was a request to open a written support ticket for the advanced technical team to review.
SiteGround is the shared host we’ve found with everything we need and nothing we can’t live with.
The best way I know to summarize SiteGround is as follows: it’s the one shared host we’ve found with everything we need and nothing we can’t live with. This was my hope when we’ve switched, and it’s been true consistently since then.
Good, Every Time Mediocre was an Option
SiteGround goes above and beyond with a consistency we’ve never seen in a shared host.
Being an okay host is about not messing up the things above. Being a great host is about going above and beyond what’s required, or even expected, to deliver value to customers. SiteGround does this with a level of consistency that we’ve never seen another shared host get close to. It’s for that reason—not merely for doing the fundamentals well—that they are such a clearly superior choice to most other hosts on the market.
Here are a few of many examples:
One More Time for the Support Staff
Probably the single best thing about SiteGround is its technical support team. They are friendly, genuinely excited to help, and consistently shine as experts on WordPress, hosting, and their own hosting.
There’s never any significant hold, no automated phone system shenanigans, no end-of-call upsells—just precisely the help you need, always available right away, from a truly nice person.
Free SSL Through Let’s Encrypt
SSL certificates aren’t really optional anymore. The implications for both SEO and user trust of not securing your site are becoming unacceptable, whether or not you’re processing sensitive information directly on your pages.
Here’s something not everybody knows: SSL certificates don’t have to cost money. As we’ve covered, Let’s Encrypt is a massive effort by numerous giants of the web to issue free SSL certificates to anyone who wants them.
However, individual hosts must step up and implement Let’s Encrypt into their hosting platforms, or else installing a Let’s Encrypt certificate is a difficult SSH/Bash command-line process that must be manually renewed every three months–making it, for practical purposes, impossible for at least 90% of hosting users.
Most hosts haven’t taken this step, because they make money charging for SSL certificates. That has two downsides for consumers:
- Fewer consumers buy SSL certificates, meaning their sites are less secure, less trusted, and less SEO-friendly.
- Users that do choose SSL protection pay an effective “SSL tax” of $6 or more per month on their hosting bill—changing the math of “cheap shared host” dramatically.
Let’s Encrypt-Friendly Shared Hosts
These hosts have actively integrated Let’s Encrypt certificates into their platforms:
- A2 Hosting
Let’s Encrypt-Unfriendly Shared Hosts
Here are some names from a list of hosts that have not integrated with Let’s Encrypt. Again, you can use a Let’s Encrypt certificate with these hosts, but it requires knowledge of Bash/SSH to both install the certificate and stay on top of quarterly renewals.
- A Small Orange
Bluehost (the largest shared host missing from this list) isn’t integrated with Let’s Encrypt, but offers its own free SSL certificates.
Proactive, Customer-Focused Updates and Rollouts
Like many shared hosts, SiteGround is a “pseudo-managed” experience in terms of rolling out WordPress version updates automatically. However, it’s also unusually helpful and proactive in promoting other technologies that can improve the experience of hosting a WordPress site. Let’s Encrypt is my favorite example of that, and here’s a runner up:
Since the immensely faster PHP 7 landed around a year ago, SiteGround has gone the extra mile with a gentle nag message on any WordPress site it hosts that is running PHP 5.x. Clicking the nag message leads you to an easy update script directly in the WordPress admin that checks PHP 7 compatibility, updates the running PHP version, and tells you when it’s done so.
That’s how we updated WPShout onto PHP 7: it wasn’t our idea, it was SiteGround’s. Our host was looking out for us and finding ways we could improve our security and performance, and then they made it dead-simple to do so.
That is such a welcome change from the default behavior from many hosts, which is to play defense as the world changes—meaning that all the energy to improve your hosting setup relies on you, with your host being either compliant or an actual impediment.
Very Good, WordPress-Aware Caching
SuperCacher, SiteGround’s integrated caching solution for WordPress, is really good once you understand how to work with it, and it’s gotten steadily better over the past several years. More on that below.
Steady Improvement over Time
SiteGround’s services, particularly in WordPress, are getting perceptibly better over the years, and that’s nice to watch.
As a long-term SiteGround customer, you see things getting steadily better over time. I’ve been caught more than once in a slow bleed-out of quality as my host is acquired by a behemoth or otherwise loses focus, and it’s hard to exaggerate how pleasant it is to experience the opposite trend.
I’ll take as an example the SiteGround feature I’ve found most confusing: their three-tiered caching solution. SiteGround uses a static cache, a full-page dynamic cache, and Memcached object caching, each of which is individually configurable. For me, it’s taken a fair amount of education to understand what each type of caching does, and what the effects of each might be on both pagespeed and on my own ability to change a site environment.
To make its caching solution accessible for WordPress users, SiteGround auto-installs the SG CachePress plugin onto each WordPress install set up through its WordPress site launcher. SG CachePress makes most common tasks—clearing the dynamic cache to see page changes, declaring certain pages or site sections off-limits to dynamic caching—easy and intuitive from within the WordPress admin.
What’s cool is to watch SG CachePress itself improve. When we began hosting with SiteGround, the plugin lacked several significant features that it now has, including:
- Quickly purging the cache from the frontend of the site:
- Designating lists of pages off-limits to caching:
- Testing whether a given page is or is not under dynamic caching:
In an interview with SiteGround’s Hristo Pandjarov, we learned a lot about SG CachePress’s technical internals. For example, the dynamic cache always purges across the whole site—not because it’s hard just to purge for a single page, but because doing so would potentially interct badly with, say, “Recent Posts” widgets that now display an out-of-date post title. Similarly, SiteGround manually compiled a list of WordPress’s hooks that indicate changes to post, taxonomy, or comment data, so that these events trigger an auto-purge. These details give a sense of the SiteGround team’s deep, thoughtful, and careful technical integration with WordPress.
Obviously, we’re seeing this closer-up than an average user would. However, that user would notice a steady improvement in the plugin over time, as the features we listed above came online over a span of months.
Its caching plugin is an example of an overall trend: SiteGround’s services, particularly in WordPress, are getting perceptibly better over the years instead of “the same or worse.” As a customer, that’s really nice to see.
Among all shared hosts, SiteGround are among the most closely tied-in to the world of WordPress. They’ve either spoken at or sponsored (or both) every WordCamp we’ve been to.
In my interactions across the company, I find that SiteGround gets WordPress, both technically and philosophically.
Obviously, voracious WordCamp attendance is sensible business for a shared host. But SiteGround’s commitment to WordPress goes beyond that: it’s deep and company-wide. The company’s technical leads (like Hristo) are focused on optimizing the WordPress hosting experience, from auto-updating to managed features to caching. Their support techs all know WordPress intimately. Their WordCamp talks are WordPress talks, not hosting-guy-at-a-WordCamp talks. In my interactions across the company, I find that SiteGround gets WordPress, both technically and philosophically.
SiteGround Reservations and Drawbacks
As time goes on, the caveats to my general love of SiteGround stay essentially the same. They include the following:
- The hosting interface takes some learning, and casual users may not find many helpful but non-obvious features.
- The built-in caching solution has a learning curve, which the WordPress plugin helps with but does not solve.
- SiteGround’s renewal rates are substantially higher than its initial purchase rates.
Beware the Renewal Prices
Of these three points, the last one is probably the only one worth elaborating on. SiteGround bills yearly, and your initial purchase can be between one and three years. SiteGround will discount your initial purchase—meaning that you get very inexpensive, high-quality hosting for up to three years. However, the renewal prices are significantly higher; for our current GoGeek plan, the renewal price is $29.95 per month.
That does hurts when it hits. On the bright side, three years turns out to be a long time. Furthermore, $29.95 is be around the same price we were paying to host just WPShout on managed hosting; and we’re able to host our entire web portfolio plus email inside our SiteGround account with no loss in quality. Just make sure you understand what you’re getting into, and (if you know you’re online for the long haul) lock in the initial rates as long as possible.
SiteGround Review: Summing Up
SiteGround delivers year after year, and even manages to keep pleasant surprises coming through.
Almost four years in, I remain ecstatic to have found a host that doesn’t disappoint me. Changing hosts is a nightmare, and so is having a host whose quality is slipping, or a host that’s excellent but too expensive, or a host that offers most but not all of what you need. I’ve been with all of these hosts, and SiteGround is none of them—it’s a hosting company that delivers month after month, year after year, and even manages to keep pleasant surprises coming through. In the murky waters of hosting, that’s saying a lot.
If this SiteGround review is making you excited to buy their hosting, you can click through here:
If you have any questions or queries, please do comment below. Thanks for reading, and happy hosting!
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