SiteGround Review: Why SiteGround Should Be Your First Choice for Shared Hosting in 2019
We’ve written this comprehensive SiteGround review after testing all major WordPress hosts and hosting with SiteGround for five years. We recommend making SiteGround’s GrowBig plan (starts at $5.95/mo before renewing higher) your first choice for shared WordPress hosting on any site with fewer than 30,000 visits a month. It’s reliable, performant, and technically cutting-edge, with very good and accessible tech support.
Best Shared WordPress HostingIn a field dominated by poor performers with huge marketing budgets, SiteGround is everything a WordPress host should be.
Contents of this SiteGround Review
This article reviews our host, SiteGround, and explains when SiteGround is and isn’t the right choice for WordPress hosting. Our SiteGround review reflects five years of experience with them as our host, both here on WPShout and on our other projects. Here are the review’s major sections:
- Why You Should Trust Me: A bit about who I am, and why I’m qualified to review SiteGround’s shared hosting product.
- Who Should Buy SiteGround: Clear, simple advice on who SiteGround is a good fit for.
- SiteGround Pros: What SiteGround does well.
- SiteGround Cons: Where SiteGround falls short.
- Summing Up: Quick concluding summary of our SiteGround review.
About the Reviewer
Hi! I’m Fred Meyer. I’ve been writing about WordPress nearly every week for more than 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 biased toward whichever company pays out the biggest commissions. I want to be clear: we will use affiliate links when talking about SiteGround and other products we recommend (such as 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.
Who Should Buy SiteGround
This section gives you clear advice on how to know if SiteGround shared hosting is the right fit for you, which SiteGround plan to choose if so, and what to buy instead if not.
SiteGround is the Best Shared Hosting for WordPress
SiteGround is the best WordPress shared host: not just good, but literally better than all others.
If you want shared hosting for a WordPress site, SiteGround is your best choice. Our own years-long experience as described in this review, plus thousands of real, unbiased customer reviews of all major WordPress hosts, all confirm the same thing: SiteGround is the single best shared host for WordPress.
We don’t mean that SiteGround is “good” shared hosting, we literally mean “better than all others.” This WordPress shared hosting user satisfaction table from our full WordPress hosting review makes the point:
Popular WordPress hosts, ranked by user satisfaction (CodeInWP survey)
|Hosting Company||Rating / 5|
One note before buying SiteGround is to make sure that you want shared hosting (the most common and least expensive type of WordPress hosting). You can quickly read up on the difference between shared hosting and other hosting types, such as managed WordPress hosting, in our general introduction to WordPress hosting.
SiteGround’s GrowBig Plan is the Right Choice for Most WordPress Sites
SiteGround’s GrowBig plan is the best shared WordPress hosting for any website with fewer than 25K visits/month. GrowBig 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. GoGeek gives you more server resources to work with, and extends GrowBig’s features slightly. GrowBig is plenty fast for small sites, though, so there’s no need to buy GoGeek unless your traffic exceeds the 25K/month mark set for GrowBig.
We don’t recommend SiteGround shared hosting for traffic levels above 100K visits/month. That starts to get into either managed or VPS hosting. If your traffic is at these levels, you should read up on your options.
Because of a number of restrictions built into it—the biggest being that you can only host one site—we never recommend buying SiteGround’s least expensive StartUp plan. For a much more in-depth look at which SiteGround plan to buy for your project, please read our full article on SiteGround’s different hosting plans.
And there you have it: those are our very brief recommendations for when SiteGround is right for you. We’ll now go into our SiteGround hosting review in full.
SiteGround Pros: Strengths of SiteGround Shared Hosting
After having SiteGround as our host for the past five years, these are the things we love about them.
Consistently Nailing the Nuts-And-Bolts
SiteGround has consistently met each of the needs that led us to switch in the first place.
The most important thing to know is this: we are extremely happy, in fact grateful, to have found SiteGround as our host. In our five years with them, SiteGround has consistently met each of the needs that led us to switch to them in the first place.
We’ve been using SiteGround since mid-2014, when 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 five years, we’ve had precisely one outage or service disruption that lasted long enough for us to notice.
- Our average traffic has quintupled 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 30 seconds around five times, 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.
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 two years 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 in Shared WordPress Hosting Product Quality
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.
Below, I’ll look at two examples of this trend, but there are any number of others:
- SiteGround offers free CloudFlare CDN services for all plans, down to the cheapest StartUp tier.
- All SiteGround plans now include free daily backups. Other shared hosts will charge you for restores—if they even back up the site.
- SiteGround continues to improve its SG SiteScanner tool: replacing its old HackAlert with the new tool, integrating the tool into its hosting interface rather than maintaining separate interfaces, and so on. SiteScanner is a paid tool that I’ve honestly never felt the need for on my own sites, but it continues to steadily improve over time like almost all other SiteGround services.
- SiteGround leading the way on Let’s Encrypt free SSL was one of the most mind-blowing examples of its commitment to quality, given how much SSL certificate revenue they were leaving on the table simply to deliver a better customer experience.
So keep these additional ongoing improvements, and the overall upward trend in SiteGround hosting quality, in mind as you read the examples below.
Caching and the SG Optimizer Plugin
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 Optimizer plugin onto each WordPress install set up through its WordPress site launcher. SG Optimizer 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 Optimizer 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 Optimizer’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.
The steady evolution of the SG Optimizer 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.
A Custom Hosting Dashboard That Sets It Apart from Other Shared Hosts
SiteGround’s custom hosting dashboard interface is another example of the steady improvement in the quality of its WordPress shared hosting offering.
Up until August 2019, SiteGround used the cPanel interface that comes standard with the vast majority of shared hosts out there. No more: SiteGround also spent several years developing its own 100% custom hosting management dashboard, and all new SiteGround accounts now use that custom dashboard.
Most people, especially more casual users, will find SiteGround’s new interface to be more intuitive and easier to use than cPanel.
Most people, especially more casual users, will find the new interface more intuitive and easier to use than SiteGround’s old cPanel interface, as well as the cPanel interfaces that almost all shared hosts continue to use.
SiteGround’s new interface presents one unified dashboard where you can manage your websites, server, billing, affiliate referrals, and more, which you can see on the tabs going across the top:
It’s not that the new SiteGround interface necessarily lets you do stuff that you can’t do with cPanel, it’s just that it makes it quite a bit simpler than cPanel. (Again, it’s probably simpler for “most” people: your mileage may vary if you’re super experienced with cPanel and have already built your workflows on it.)
For example, here’s the monstrosity of the Softaculous WordPress installer you’ll find in many cPanel interfaces, including SiteGround’s old interface:
It gets the job done, but isn’t this one in SiteGround’s new dashboard a lot simpler?
Similarly, casual users will now find it a lot easier to take advantage of SiteGround’s other features, like automatic backups and staging—which, by the way, has been expanded to SiteGround’s middle-tier GrowBig plans:
And if you’re viewing the hosting interface on a large screen (like my laptop), it’s very clear how careful SiteGround have been to organize their hosting features along the lines of topics like “Speed” and “Security” that users understand—and how different that is from cPanel’s categories like “Site Improvement Tools,” “1H Software,” or “Advanced.” I shouldn’t nerd out like this, but the screenshot below—of the daily backup history on a GrowBig account—is, to me, genuinely heartwarming.
And as a quick reminder of what we’re transitioning from, this is the legacy cPanel on an existing SiteGround account:
So, without rehashing all the available in-dashboard features that you can already read about in SiteGround’s marketing copy, here’s the run-down on SiteGround’s new, custom hosting interface:
- For most people, especially casual users, SiteGround’s dashboard is much more convenient than the cPanel interfaces that most other shared hosts use.
- If you’ve been using cPanel for years and know it like the back of your hand, you might not like the switch because it means you’ll have to learn a new interface (and the navigation can be a bit quirky until you get the hang of it).
With its new dashboard, SiteGround has again made something excellent, when okay was an option.
Overall, SiteGround’s new hosting dashboard is more of the same from them: creating something excellent, when they totally had the option to use the existing okay thing.
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 any 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 sum, in my interactions across the company, I find that SiteGround gets WordPress, both technically and philosophically.
SiteGround Cons: Reservations and Drawbacks about SiteGround Shared Hosting
Throughout our time with SiteGround, the caveats to my general enthusiasm for their shared hosting services include:
- SiteGround’s renewal rates are substantially higher than its initial purchase rates.
- 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.
Of these three drawbacks, numbers two and three are minor. Number one is major, and is worth elaborating on in this SiteGround review.
Beware the Renewal Prices
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 $34.95 per month. That does hurts when it hits.
On the bright side, three years turns out to be a long time. It’s also definitely worth the money if you host a fair number of sites: $34.95 is close to 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.
Slight Recent Decline in Overall Value for Money
From 2014 to 2018, I felt a raving, “I must tell the world”-style love for SiteGround. As of 2019, it’s cooled off a bit, although I am still a very happy customer.
In 2019, my personal experience with SiteGround still tracks the thousands of user reviews I’ve analyzed: SiteGround is the best WordPress shared hosting out there.
However, going into 2019, a few recent changes have changed my attitude to SiteGround shared hosting. From 2014 to 2018, I felt a raving, “I must tell the world”-style love for SiteGround. As of 2019, it’s cooled off a bit, and is more like: “SiteGround is still the right choice.” I’ve rated SiteGround a 4.6/5 in 2019, down from a 4.7 in 2018 and equal or higher numbers in the years before that.
What’s changed, in no particular order, is:
- A price increase across all SiteGround shared hosting tiers.
- A slight drop-off (from “insanely good” to just “very good”) in my experience of the phone support.
- SiteGround starting to emulate irritating business practices of other hosts.
What hasn’t changed is everything that puts SiteGround head-and-shoulders above all other shared hosts. SiteGround is still the single shared host that “does WordPress hosting right”: it’s got everything I need in my hosting and more, and nothing I can’t live with.
1. Recent Price Increase
In June 2018, SiteGround put in place a significant price increase. These were SiteGround’s old, relatively stable shared hosting prices before the change:
In June 2018, the base prices stayed the same ($3.95, $5.95, $11.95), but the renewal prices jumped significantly:
- StartUp’s renewal price jumped 20%, from $9.95 to $11.95.
- GrowBig’s renewal price jumped 33%, from $14.95 to $19.95.
- GoGeek’s renewal price jumped 17%, from $29.95 to $34.95.
Now, I definitely think that SiteGround shared hosting is worth these increased prices (except, again, I never recommend buying StartUp). But in addition to being significant percentage increases—especially for GrowBig—the new prices also start to cross some pricing rules of thumb I’ve developed over a long time buying hosting.
In addition to being significant percentage increases, the new prices cross some pricing rules of thumb I’ve developed over time.
I have clients who are now paying, or will soon be paying, $20 a month for GrowBig hosting. It’s totally worth that, but since SiteGround’s shared hosting competitors tend to stay in the $10 range or lower, even if they do basically all offer an inferior product, at some point it does feel kind of weird to be paying $20 a month for great-but-not-the-best-available shared hosting. I never really had this issue at the old $15 price point.
Similarly, our GoGeek plan is now more than $30 a month. That number—$30 a month—is the dividing line in my mind between shared and managed WordPress hosting, and I’m now paying more than that for really good shared hosting. I’m happy because the hosting is great, but it’s a bit weird.
In sum, I’ve experienced both of these changes the same way a US consumer might experience a $15 burger: it might be so much better than most burgers (especially the awful $5 fast-food ones that make you feel sick, which is where this analogy really shines) that it’s totally worth it, but it’s nevertheless priced as a different type of thing than a US consumer is used to getting in a burger.
2. Slight Drop-Off in Phone Support Quality
In the past year or so, my average experience of SiteGround’s phone support has wandered downward from “why is this so good?!” to “everything you could reasonably expect.”
From around the start of 2018 until now, my personal experience of SiteGround’s phone support has wandered downward from a 10 (“why is this so good?!”) to about an 8.5 (“everything you could reasonably expect”).
Back in 2014 or 2015, talking to SiteGround’s techs was, basically, getting as much free help as you wanted from a true expert. They were curious about your problem, they weren’t in a hurry, they would solve your issue themselves right on the call, and somehow they pretty much always knew what to do.
Across many support calls from the past year or so, the overall experience now feels significantly more structured. You get a first-line tech, who will readily answer any of the 1,000 most common questions a hosting customer is likely to have. But if your question is dense or confusing, the tech will be much quicker to ask you to start a support ticket. There’s nothing wrong with this—SiteGround’s ticketing system is fast, efficient, and effective—but it simply doesn’t have the same convenience and magic as a live person resolving your confusion and fixing your problem, all within one conversation.
There are also some new “This is an actual large business” things, like support PINs, that it’s hard to get mad about, but that do make the experience more structured and corporate than in the wild old days where you could basically just call up and talk to a near-genius.
Lastly, this past year I’ve been on hold for 15 to 30 seconds once or twice before getting a tech. If anything, mentioning that more reinforces SiteGround’s insanely short average hold times, which are still in place for the most part, but it is a downward trend. (Update February 6, 2019: I just got my first five-minute SiteGround hold time ever.)
I also want to note something David said here: here in 2019, I know a lot more about everything in general, and SiteGround’s interfaces in particular, than I did in 2014—so it’s possible that fewer of my current calls to SiteGround’s tech support are actually things that a first-line tech could resolve, either now or five years ago. I don’t think this note is enough to fully explain the slight quality drop I have actually experienced, but it’s worth considering.
3. Irritating Business Practices Starting to Creep In
The big issue with SiteGround has always been their way-higher renewal pricing: it’s smart strategically, but it makes SiteGround slightly cumbersome to recommend, since you have to carefully convey just how much the price will jump. Fortunately, the product itself is well worth it, so the pricing awkwardness has been a tiny bit of bathwater around an awesome baby.
Overall, SiteGround is trending toward making more of these “I guess it must be smart business because it makes me slightly sad” decisions. The price increase is one, which I totally support. User support PINs and more strongly suggesting you toward the ticketing system is another, both of which which I’m fine with.
There’s one I’m not fine with, and that is that SiteGround now hides its support phone number from its user panel.
In other words, if you are logged into SiteGround, it is virtually impossible to find the phone number you should call to get phone support. Here it is:
The screenshot above is already in a panel deep within the SiteGround user interface, and getting to it required me to submit a large volume of “ticket” text before the contact options at the bottom would show, so finding SiteGround’s phone number from within the interface is much harder in practice than the screenshot does justice to.
SiteGround’s phone number no longer even shows up easily in a Google search, or on the SiteGround site for unlogged-in people. (Community service: SiteGround’s US phone number, for both sales and support, is (866) 605-2484.)
All this is new: in 2018, or any year before that, the phone number was right there at the top of the interface. And it makes me furious. I get the business logic for doing it:
- Phone support is super-expensive. Every call takes an employee’s full time, and is full of time-wasters: greetings, support PIN mishaps, and all the rest.
- Many phone support calls actually only need a password reset or something simple, which our much cheaper ticketing system can totally handle.
- But we’re already providing phone support, so we can’t stop now.
- So we’ll just make the phone support really hard to find.
But it still sets up the wrong kind of relationship between a host and its clients. It, honestly, banks on the customer’s ignorance, and on making the customer’s life a little bit more frustrating, as a way to grow the bottom line. This is a totally understandable trend, it’s just a shame to see with a host that has been such an unreasonably good actor for so long.
SiteGround Review: Summing Up
SiteGround delivers year after year, and even manages to keep pleasant surprises coming through.
Five years in, I remain very happy to have found a consistently excellent host in SiteGround. Having to change hosts is a nightmare, and so is having a host that is excellent but way 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.
In my personal experience, SiteGround has recently undergone a decline in overall value for money, from “insanely good” to just “very good.” That’s a bit worrisome, but it’s not enough to change the underlying fact—in both our personal experience and the reviews of thousands of real users—that SiteGround is the best shared host out there. It’s also offset by the many ways in which SiteGround keeps improving—including, recently, its thoughtful and helpful additions to its SG Optimizer Plugin and the full overhaul of its entire formerly cPanel-based hosting interface.
In sum, if you’re looking for WordPress shared hosting in 2019, the only question is which SiteGround plan to buy.
And we can help with that:
Best Shared WordPress HostingIn a field dominated by poor performers with huge marketing budgets, SiteGround is everything a WordPress host should be: reliable, performant, and technically cutting-edge, with very good and accessible tech support.
SiteGround’s GrowBig plan (starts at $5.95/mo before renewing higher) should be your default choice for WordPress hosting on any site with fewer than 1,000 visits a day.
Thanks for reading, and happy hosting!