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

As the video covers, most hosting recommendations are unreliable for a simple reason: money. Like many other things, money corrupts hosting conversations. In fact, money may corrupt the hosting conversation much more profoundly than, say, “which restaurant is best” conversations, because recommending bad hosting can lead directly to large amounts of money for the recommender.

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

Because affiliate marketing payouts for hosting are quite lucrative (some of the best-paying of non-sketchy products I’ve ever seen), people do some underhanded 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!


10 Responses

Comments

  • David Hayes, you are so right, GoDaddy, Bluehost, and HostGator suck when it comes to WP hosting (or any hosting!!!). We have moved our customers away from Go Daddy. When I first started at US Logo, they were using an unlimited Go Daddy server, but when the PHP and MySQL updated, they wouldn’t update our server unless we switched to one of their new plans. Soon after we switched to Media Temple which was a bit better, but the support sucked. After a year we left and went to Site Ground.
    We found Site Ground by readying articles and reviews about the best Magento hosting (not by Google search), because at that time we needed a reliable server for our eCommerce stores. Plus, we were buying our SSL certs in bulk and Go Daddy wouldn’t allow outside SSL certs; not even from a company called Starfield which is owned by Go Daddy.
    We love it at SG, because the server is sound and efficient, plus the support is outstanding. We house all our Magento eCommerce stores and all our Word Press sites at Site Ground. Thank again for writing this article!

  • Hedley says:

    Good information, thanks, but I have a suggestion: in the interests of full-transparency, I wonder if this article shouldn’t have a very clear disclaimer that links in this article go to other articles that recommend a host from which you collect affiliate payments? It seems to me that if you’re going to (quite fairly) diss sites that promote bad hosts for $$, you should be as transparent as possible about your own quest for referral income. (I’m not doubting Siteground’s quality – I use it for hosting myself).

  • Manuel says:

    Gotta agree with Hedley.
    a simple example: Siteground seems so good, but a LOT of people i know are moving away due to their “CPU” policy. I was spending something like 300+ $ and I had to fear that a post would go viral during the night, when i was not able to check and see the website taken down (happened twice)
    i had less than 50K visitor per month, wp and a genesis template.
    my rank dropped during the 3 year with site ground, to say the truth.

    now i spend 84$. site more or less as fast as, and magically my site has no CPU problems.

    Manuel

    PS i m not telling my current host…

  • Thanks for your thorough coverage of this topic. I’ve read the “Finding the Best Web Hosting” article twice, and will use it as a reference when I make a renewal decision on hosting next year. Had the article been available 6 months ago, I would have made a very different decision when I set up my site. I chose BlueHost on the basis of price and recommendations from several bloggers I follow. (One is a former IT guy who now writes about finance, the other is blogging about writing – and I knew that both were getting affiliate commissions.) I have no complaints about BlueHost, but my site is very low-traffic and we don’t do ecommerce. It’s also a starting point for me to learn about WordPress, and so, for now, it is good enough.

    I appreciate the technical detail and rigor you put into your articles, and continue to learn from them. Keep up the good work!

  • Rod Austin says:

    Couldn’t agree more.

    There’s no shortage of articles, reviews and directories on the web telling you what is the best at this or that, and WordPress hosting is no different. Searching Google for related terms will reveal a number of 3rd party and seemingly neutral purveyors of said information. But a closer look will expose the #1 corrupter of many of these lists: affiliate links.

    You likely know how the affiliate game works: 3rd parties refer traffic to a company website, and if a sale occurs, the 3rd party gets a kick back.

    But is that the best way to find a recommendation?

    Is the opinion of a paid spokesperson the best source for unbiased information?

    No, and hell no.

    I’m not suggesting that all of these lists are biased, or that you should not take their opinion into account – just know the motivation behind the list and factor that into your decision. And not all affiliate relationships are transparent, so tread lightly.

  • Bob Dunn says:

    A very interesting article indeed, and something I can totally relate to. Over the years I have written a few reviews for various hosts, and those review simply shared what features the host provided. I obviously left a lot of the final decision in the hands of the readers.

    At one point I decided not to do any posts on specific hosts, and some of the reasons I did this are reflected in this post as well. My most success with recommending hosts was when I was doing design vs. writing about them. Much more personal, could get more in-depth to the customers needs and weigh all the crazy variables that come with deciding on a host.

    These days, I write only about the host I use myself. Although I agree that each individual experience isn’t always the best advice to take, because everyone does have different experiences. But when I’m having a great experience with my own host, I do like to share that.

    But I let my readers decide for themselves and I certainly don’t spend any efforts trying to get those posts on the first page of Google for the sake of the dollar.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts in this post 🙂

    • Fred Meyer Fred Meyer says:

      Great to hear from you, Bob! I definitely agree that sharing your experience when you’re liking your host is 100% valid, and it’s something we do ourselves. The main thing we’re hoping to encourage is that readers take some time to consider their sources, and that they flesh out those individual reviews with results from larger data sets when possible.

  • IS says:

    tl;dr – because of the affiliate payout

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