Most Hosting Recommendations for WordPress Suck. Here’s Why.

When you need to choose a WordPress host, an obvious first step is a Google search. Searching for “best wordpress hosting” yields lots of hosting comparison articles. You can skim a few of them to get a sense for the patterns, and then make your decision. Easy, right?

Unfortunately, what you’re seeing is on that front page is all lying to you:

Yes: most “recommended WordPress hosting” articles, and all the ones currently on the front page, are somewhere between misleading and pure, full-on lies.

In the video below, we prove this to be true, using data from our own unbiased analysis of thousands of real WordPress hosting user reviews. To summarize what we cover in the video:

  1. The most commonly recommended hosts on a first-page Google search are GoDaddy, Bluehost, and HostGator.
  2. These three hosts are among the worst hosts in the industry. In every unbiased source of user reviews, those hosts’ user satisfaction ratings are vastly lower than all other major hosts.

What’s going on here? Why are the top-recommended hosts in a Google search the worst hosts in the eyes of real users? Why can’t you trust WordPress hosting recommendations?

Video: Fred and I Break Down the Lies about WordPress Hosting

Below is a paired video we shot demonstrating that the top results when you Google “best wordpress hosts” are actually harmfully bad data:

The video also gets into detail as to why this is, which is the topic we’ll cover below.

The Truth Behind Most “Recommended” Hosts

Recommending bad hosting can make the recommender lots of money.

As the video covers, most hosting recommendations are unreliable for a simple reason: money. Like many other things, money corrupts hosting conversations. Recommending bad hosting can lead directly to large amounts of money for the recommender. How does that happen? It’s the reality of the affiliate marketing model that dominates the hosting space.

When You Read Hosting Review Articles, You Are What They’re Selling

Because affiliate marketing payouts for hosting are quite lucrative, people do sketchy things.

The articles you’re finding with search queries like “best WordPress hosting” or “recommended WordPress hosting” are actually advertisements. Those sites are what’s called “affiliates” for the hosting products they’re supposed to be impartially reviewing.

When an “affiliate” recommends a product to you and you buy it, the affiliate gets a payment. There’s nothing wrong with this model in and of itself, but because affiliate marketing payouts for hosting are quite lucrative (typically around $100, some of the best-paying of non-sketchy products I’ve ever seen), people do some underhanded things.

The foremost problem is simply that affiliates prioritize making money over telling you the truth. Most affiliate article authors have likely never bothered to find out what hosting is actually good, and the ones who do know simply don’t care because telling that story is not where the money is.

How Affiliate Revenue Corrupts WordPress Hosting Recommendations

Most hosting “rankings” are actually a reverse-price-sorted list of the authors’ affiliate agreements with hosting companies.

The corrupting power of money is a very old story. Someone who is paid for his or her opinion is generally not a great arbiter of the truth. Whether that money is a steady paycheck, a lump-sum for silence, or a regular roughly-$100 payment per affiliate conversion, money greatly distorts people’s opinions.

In the case of hosting recommendations, the result of this distortion is that most hosting “rankings” are actually a reverse-price-sorted list of the authors’ affiliate agreements with hosting companies. 

Why are they so highly recommended? The simple, and only, answer is: attractive affiliate payouts.

How Much Money People are Earning by Recommending Bad WordPress Hosts

The top search result for “best WordPress hosting” is making thousands of dollars per hour for its most-recommended host.

The thing to realize is just how much money is behind these dishonest hosting recommendations. The top result for “best WordPress hosting” is, without question, making thousands of dollars per hour for its most-recommended host: that search is simply so common, and people just want to make the “best” decision.

And the affiliate payout per conversion to the article author is almost certainly at least $100 for the article’s top-recommended “pay-to-play” host. That’s hundreds or thousands of dollars per hour as well—not bad for a single piece of static content!

Another thing to realize is that many hosting companies offer generous, non-public affiliate deals. A host’s publicly-stated affiliate structure might look something like: $50 for 1-5 referrals per month, $75 for 6-10, $100 for 11-10, and $125 for 21+ sales. (This is the affiliate structure of SiteGround, one of our favorite hosts.) But I know many WordPress web hosts who publicly offer such a deal, and then privately offer people more than double that money if they think they’ll be successful affiliates.

So most people who compete for queries like “most recommended WordPress hosting” are anything but impartial. They’ve got an affiliate plan—and potentially private partnership deals, which allow them to make more from certain hosting companies than they do from others. It’s just the way the market works.

How to Know a Hosting Review Source is Trustworthy

So, most WordPress hosting advice is dishonest. How do you find honest, real information? It’s not easy, but it is possible.

Look for Real, Unbiased User Satisfaction Data

If you want to see a hosting comparison done right, you should examine our own article on finding the best WordPress hosting. It’s a rigorous analysis of real user satisfaction data from thousands of real users. The results could not be more different from what you’ll see in the top articles in a Google search.

Finding the Best WordPress Hosting of 2019: An Honest Guide

Only reviews that report real user satisfaction metrics from real humans should be trusted.

We built our article the way we did because, in our opinion, only reviews that report real user satisfaction metrics from real humans should be trusted.

Why is this so important? Because only the experience of real, unbiased users is actually trustworthy. Everything else is corruptible:

  1. The reviewer’s “opinion” is, in most cases, bought and paid for.
  2. Performance metrics (“99.99% uptime!”) are extremely easy to twist and distort into saying whatever you want them to say.
  3. Star ratings and rankings are often purely arbitrary: they summarize one person’s (paid, made-up) opinion rather than the collective experience of real, unbiased users.

Of course, some people run surveys and intentionally falsify the data. Other people claim to run surveys but just make up numbers. But there is real, unbiased user review data out there. In our WordPress hosting review article, we worked very hard to find the best data sources, and explain in detail why those data sources are trustworthy.

Look for Signals of Trustworthiness

As a secondary metric, you can start to get a sense of whether or not this site is engaging in fair-dealing and means to give you a good recommendation. Certain trust-signals are pretty common in the top results, but you should look for them anyway. Things like:

  • There is a single-human author named, and that human seems to have presence in the world as more than a fiction on this page.
  • There is some real data on display. If you can find actual objective metrics—time-on-support-call, for example—it’s encouraging. Just be aware, again, that “metrics” are extremely easy to distort in favor of affiliate considerations.
  • The recommender is trustworthy for some reason search engine results page position. I think that CNet is a legitimate authority on a number of topics (especially in tech I was into decades ago—eeyyy ohhh!), but their expertise on WordPress hosting is not something I trust. Other sources have made it a point to carve out a solid reputation for honesty in the hosting space specificallyReviewSignal comes to mind.

Personal Anecdotes Can Add Color, but Be Suspicious

In the absence of hard data, you need to be really careful evaluating reports of “I hosted my WordPress site on ______ web host and had a ______ experience.”

Even if the person is telling the absolute truth as he or she sees it (far from a given), it’s just one person’s immediate experience. That experience may simply never happen to run into the ways that that company is systematically deficient at hosting WordPress sites—the old “I don’t wear seatbelts and I’ve never had a problem” problem.

Here are a couple of quick examples:

  • Someone who hosts a low-traffic site and doesn’t systematically track site uptime is unlikely to notice that both the performance and uptime offered by the hosting company is poor.
  • A person who never contacts support is unlikely to have accurate knowledge of what it’s like to try to get help from the hosting company.

What firsthand reports can do is provide a more in-depth sense of what using a host was like for one person than the more “wide but shallow” data of large numbers of user reviews.

Don’t Trust Unsupported Blanket Statements

In general, I’d steer clear of anyone who seems to be offering no reasons for their recommendations. A lot of the pages that Fred and I found and critiqued in the above video are ones where they just kind of declare “COMPANY X is the best WordPress hosting.” And as you dig into their WordPress hosting recommendation, you’ll see nothing special about their knowledge of WordPress, hosting, or the products they recommend.

Pretty obviously, this should be a big red flag.

Emphasize Your Search for the Factors in Hosting Quality You Care About: Speed, Support, Uptime, etc.

There are a lot of different factors to evaluate in a WordPress host. If you’re curious the main ones, we’ve written a guide to the web hosting space that can help.

You should read hosting recommendations with a mind to what you need in your own project. Some of the most obvious things to consider:

  • How much speed, and how much traffic, do you demand your WordPress host supports? Recommendations for good WordPress hosting will vary a lot depending on your answer to that. Some companies that are great for low-traffic, fast-enough sites aren’t a very good fit for people looking for high-traffic, blazing-fast WordPress hosting.
  • How important is support to you? And how and when will you seek it? One of our biggest turn-offs of GoDaddy, Bluehost, Hostgator, etc is that their support experience is bad. It sometimes is as good as not great but it’ll never really be impressive. But if you never use support, this may be a moot point to you.
  • The specific thing that drove Fred and I from Bluehost year ago was random site slow-downs and fall-overs for 4 hours of the day. Uptime isn’t crucial for all businesses (would you notice that your dentist’s site was down for a day?) but for others it’s crucial that site is always up and fast.

Where to Go for Honest WordPress Hosting Recommendations

We’ve covered why most WordPress hosting recommendations are dishonest. Now here are our own, honest ones. How do you know they’re honest? Because they’re based not on our personal opinions, but on genuine user satisfaction data from thousands of real hosting users.

Finding the Best WordPress Hosting of 2019: An Honest Guide

If we’ve helped you find the right hosting for you, and avoid dishonest hosting recommendations, buying from our links in that article helps us make WPShout sustainable financially. Thank you for reading, and happy hosting!