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[RESULTS] Biggest WordPress Hosting Survey to Date – The Good, Bad and Ugly of WordPress Hosting

What you’re about to read are the results of our 2016 WordPress hosting survey – aka.  “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of WordPress Hosting.”  Yep, we have good, we have bad, and we indeed do have ugly.

But let’s start somewhere else.

We want to thank everybody who took a couple of minutes out of their busy daily schedules to complete the survey and review their current hosting providers. It’s because of you that this survey has turned out to be the biggest WordPress hosting survey to date!

We’d also like to acknowledge and thank our friends from wpMail, WPMU DEV, WPKube, WP Mayor, and all the other sites that invited their audiences to participate in the survey.

Apart from the analysis that we have for you here, we’re also making the raw CSV file available for download (here). Feel free to use it as reference when writing your own posts and making your own analysis.
 

Why WordPress hosting survey?

We’ve been looking into the topic of WordPress hosting for a while now. Testing different hosts, experimenting with configurations, testing site speeds, load impact metrics, analyzing the offerings, pricing, etc. However, this is all really difficult to do if you want your recommendations to stand the test of time.

On the one hand, there are all the parameters that hosting companies promise to their customers, but on the other, there’s the actual real-world performance that only comes out after being with a certain host for X months.

So that was what we wanted to find out – to get actual input from actual real users, and truly learn which companies end up performing well for people in the long run, and which don’t perform at all.

Things we wanted to learn

As you would have expected, the no.1 goal was to name the top recommended hosting company for WordPress.

But we were also after the fine details of the whole hosting experience, such as:

 
  • how WordPress-optimized these WordPress hosting companies actually are,
  • how reliable they are,
  • how WordPress-savvy the support is,
  • what’s people’s experience with web hosting in general,
  • how much money people spend on hosting every month,
  • how happy people are with the value they’re getting for the money,
  • what’s the average time they have been with their current hosting company,
  • how many sites people are hosting,
  • do people host their own sites vs sites of their clients’,
  • what traffic those sites attract,
  • what types of sites people usually host,
  • how user-friendly the hosting platforms are overall,
  • and most importantly, how likely people are to extend when their subscription is up for renewal.
 

The survey respondents

The audience our blogs attract is more on the pro side of the spectrum. For instance, 80% of the survey respondents identify themselves as WordPress pros (developers, designers, experts, people otherwise knowledgeable about WordPress), and this means that their opinion of certain web hosts might be different than what the overall population would say.

But that’s a good thing. WordPress pros is essentially the group that drives the movement in this space forward, and the people whom everyone else asks for advice when looking for the best host for their sites.

Okay, onto the fun stuff!

Top rated WordPress hosting companies

Here are the top rated WordPress hosting companies according to our 506 survey respondents:

 
CompanyRatingAvg. $ / month# of entries
Kinsta4.9$184.6015
Flywheel4.7$77.8615
SiteGround4.6$27.4375
DigitalOcean4.6$46.7736
DreamHost4.3$25.4618
WP Engine4.2$184.1227
HostGator3.7$17.1140
GoDaddy3.5$10.0638
Bluehost3.0$23.2738
* The hosting companies with the least number of entries have not been included.
 
Setting the ratings themselves aside (we’ll talk about those in a minute), as you can see, we did get very different numbers of entries for each company. Please take this into consideration when interpreting the results for yourself. What this basically means is that those ratings don’t all carry the same weight.
 
The second conclusion is that the pro WordPress crowd that this survey reached is much more likely to use SiteGround (14.8% of all entires) than anything else, even though SiteGround is not the overall biggest company in this lineup.

For example, here’s a quick Google Trends comparison, which isn’t a perfect metric, but still gives us a good overview of how popular these companies actually are compared to one another:

Number of entries: SiteGround (75), HostGator (40), GoDaddy and Bluehost (38).
 

And when we add GoDaddy to the mix:

(Although we need to be careful here because GoDaddy is much more than a hosting company.)

Considering that HostGator and Bluehost are 5x (ish) bigger than SiteGround, it’s really impressive that they have still managed to get nearly double the entries.

How happy people are with their hosting

A very general conclusion when looking at the data is that, overall, people are very happy with their current hosts:

78% of the respondents rate their hosting providers at 4 or higher. Also, 87% would recommend their host to other people.

That being said, 35% of the respondents, if they had more money to spare, they would choose another hosting platform. When asked which platform that would be, 21% of them say WP Engine.

But hold on, that’s not the best part…

It turns out that there are actually more people who would like to move to WP Engine, than people who are currently using it. 30% more, in fact.

What about the WordPress.org-approved hosts?

A couple of months ago, there was this huge news story that WordPress.org finally updated their recommended hosting page (link). This got picked up by some major news outlets in the niche (here and here, for example), and was subject to serious controversy regarding how/why certain companies found their spot on this list.

TL;DR: For what seemed like decades, WordPress.org only recommended people to use Bluehost. After the update, the official hosting page also features DreamHost, Flywheel, and SiteGround.

It just so happens that all of those companies have been rated and talked about in our survey, so let’s now see how they stack up against each other and the other players.

Here’s some basic data from our respondents:

 
Company Rating (# of entries) Avg. months w/ host
Flywheel 4.7 (15) 12.3
SiteGround 4.6 (75) 15.8
DreamHost 4.3 (18) 69.3
Bluehost 3.0 (38) 31.4
Avg. for all companies Rating Avg. months w/ host
4.2 26.8
Company Rating (# of entries) Avg. months w/ host
Kinsta 4.9 (15) 11.4
DigitalOcean 4.6 (36) 14.7
InMotion 4.3 (11) 14.9
WPEngine 4.2 (27) 15.6
Media Temple 4.2 (12) 43.9
Namecheap 4.1 (9) 16.9
HostGator 3.7 (40) 46.3
GoDaddy 3.5 (38) 29.9
The thing we see right away is that the addition of those three new companies was probably a very good move. Bluehost – formerly the only recommended company – received the lowest rating of them all, while the three new companies are basically among the best in the market. (Although, please consider the relatively low number of answers for both Flywheel and DreamHost.)
Bluehost used to be good for hosting sites, but since they were bought by EIG they have totally gone down hill. I am moving my clients to SiteGround.User
 
On the overall scale, we also have to give it to Kinsta that leads the pack, and DigitalOcean, which hasn’t marketed themselves as WordPress-friendly ever (nor are they).

(Also, as you can see above, on the average, our respondents have been with their current hosting providers for 26.8 months.)

The next thing we can take a look at is perhaps the most telling piece of data of them all – how likely people are to extend when their subscription is up for renewal. Here’s what’s up:

 
WordPress.org-approved companies How likely are you to extend?
DreamHost 94%
SiteGround 93%
Flywheel 93%
Bluehost 46%
Overall for all companies 85%
Other companies How likely are you to extend?
Kinsta 100%
InMotion 100%
DigitalOcean 97%
WPEngine 92%
Media Temple 92%
GoDaddy 78%
Namecheap 78%
HostGator 74%
 
Bluehost really doesn’t look good here, with only 46% of our respondents willing to extend. The other three companies, on the other hand, basically lead the whole pack once again.

Looking at all companies, Kinsta and InMotion both get a 100% rating here, which is impressive, although their data samples are smaller.

Now, since it’s WordPress hosting we’re talking about, we should probably mention WordPress optimization and how WordPress-proficient the support teams are:

 

In bold – WordPress.org-approved hosts

CompanyWordPress-optimized?Support WordPress-proficient?
Bluehost2.62.9
DigitalOcean2.73.3
DreamHost3.34.3
Flywheel4.94.9
GoDaddy2.63.1
HostGator2.43.0
Kinsta4.94.9
SiteGround4.04.5
WPEngine4.74.5
 
This time, it’s Flywheel and SiteGround that come on top when looking at the hosts recommended by WordPress.org. Overall, we also have to give it to Kinsta and WP Engine.

On the other end, we have the usual … Bluehost.

In general, the ratings around WordPress optimization are not massively high, and the leaders really stand out from the rest. Setting aside the optimizations themselves, marketing also must play a huge role here. All of WP Engine, Flywheel, Kinsta, and SiteGround market some WordPress-specific plans and solutions, which probably has its impact on the perceived value too.

Now, while the perceived WordPress-optimization can be impacted by things like marketing, the level of support quality shouldn’t have this problem. Taking that into account, another interesting angle we can take here is to have a look at any relation of price vs how WordPress-proficient the support team is. It’s reasonable to expect higher prices in exchange for more WordPress expertise.

Here are the average monthly costs in relation to support quality:

 
How WordPress-proficient is the support team?
1 2 3 4 5
$23.11 $21.44 $29.72 $60.48 $67.06
 
It seems that a higher level of WordPress support indeed proves to be more expensive.

WordPress hosting vs experienced users

Here’s a general table focusing on how many hosting companies the respondents have used prior to their current one:

 

In bold – WordPress.org-approved hosts

How many hosting companies have you used prior to this one?
Company My first time 2 3…5 6…10 10…
Bluehost 9 12 10 5
DigitalOcean 1 5 19 8 3
DreamHost 2 7 7 2
Flywheel 3 6 5 1
GoDaddy 11 12 12 3
HostGator 8 12 15 4 1
InMotion 2 5 2 2
Kinsta 8 6 1
Media Temple 2 5 4 1
Namecheap 2 2 5
SiteGround 1 17 41 13 3
WPEngine 3 5 11 5 3
other 16 44 74 29 9
Total 55 (10.9%) 126 (24.9%) 215 (42.5%) 86 (17.0%) 22 (4.3%)
 
When we analyze this some more, and normalize the data, it turns out that Bluehost is 2.2x times more popular among first-time hosting users compared to the average numbers. (Specifically, first-time users are 10.9% of all users. With Bluehost, though, first-timers are 23.7%.)

On the flip side, SiteGround attracts almost no first-timers at all, and 54.7% of their users are people who have been with 3-5 hosts before.

 
When we look at all the companies overall, GoDaddy is ranking even higher among first-timers – getting 2.7x times more such users than the reference value. After all, they do try to sell their hosting to whoever buys a domain name from them.

It was also interesting to see that people for whom it’s their first hosting experience rated their providers 17% lower than everyone else. In our opinion, this is not necessarily because the companies chosen by first-timers are bad (all of them got better rankings from experienced users), but perhaps beginners have overall higher expectations. (What do you think about this?)

Taking all of our survey entries into account, 11% of people are first-timers to hosting, 64% have tested 3 or more companies.

Ratings based on how experienced with hosting the respondents are (included are only the companies we have the most data for):

How many hosting companies have you used prior to this one?
Company My first time 2 3…5 6…10 10… Average
Bluehost 3.3 3.2 3.0 3.0 3.0
GoDaddy 2.9 3.8 3.9 3.0 3.5
HostGator 3.4 3.9 3.9 3.8 2.0 3.7
SiteGround 5.0 4.8 4.5 4.5 4.7 4.6
Average for all companies 3.4 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.2
 
Lastly, let’s look at how many people consider themselves WordPress pros based on which company they use:
 
Are you a WordPress pro?
Company Yes No
Flywheel 93% 7%
DreamHost 89% 11%
SiteGround 80% 20%
Bluehost 79% 21%
Are you a WordPress pro? Yes No
Total 80% 20%
Are you a WordPress pro?
Company Yes No
DigitalOcean 94% 6%
Media Temple 92% 8%
WPEngine 85% 15%
InMotion 82% 18%
other 82% 18%
HostGator 75% 25%
Kinsta 67% 33%
Namecheap 67% 33%
GoDaddy 61% 39%
 
Looking past the four recommended WordPress.org hosts, we have to acknowledge DigitalOcean, which leads this ranking. That score isn’t surprising due to the difficult setup process and management with DigitalOcean servers.

How much money people pay for their WordPress hosting

Collectively, our respondents spend $23,830.11 on hosting every month.

Here’s the distribution across the top 4 companies with the most entries, and the total numbers for all:

 
$ / month
Company < $5 $5-$10 $10-$15 $15-$30 $30-$50 $50-$100 > $100
Bluehost 6% 27% 24% 24% 9% 6% 3%
GoDaddy 15% 47% 24% 12% 3%
HostGator 8% 31% 19% 22% 14% 6%
SiteGround 8% 21% 23% 27% 4% 11% 5%
Average for all companies 12% 27% 15% 18% 9% 9% 10%
I tried WPEngine earlier, but as my sites have high traffic my bill increased from month to month. Especially that they are still counting bot traffic. If you are with WPE at least triple your visitors according to Google Analytics and select a plan based on this data.User
 

We also asked our respondents how happy they were with the value they’re getting for their money. Here’s what they said:

 
DigitalOcean 4.6
DreamHost 4.4
Kinsta 4.3
SiteGround 4.2
other 4.1
Flywheel 4.1
Namecheap 3.9
HostGator 3.9
InMotion 3.8
WPEngine 3.7
Media Temple 3.5
GoDaddy 3.4
Bluehost 3.0
Total 4.0
 
DigitalOcean rules here, but it’s really no surprise. They are certainly one of the most affordable solutions out there, and the only downside is that you need to be quite savvy to use their platform.

One more interesting finding is that people who host sites for clients pay 1.7x times more for hosting than those who host only their own sites. And not only that, but they also stay 1.5x times longer with their web host:

 
Hosting mainly your own sites vs for clients? How long have you been on this hosting plan? What’s the cost of your hosting plan / month?
Clients 32.0 months $61.21
Just me 20.8 months $36.62
 

Tip. If you promote any hosting offers as an affiliate, and bring mostly this type of clients, then you should probably ask for a commission increase…

How many sites people host

This is yet another interesting piece of data, and we were actually quite surprised to see the results here.

First off, the total number of websites hosted among our respondents is 6,215. Wow!

Some more detail:

 
Hosting mainly your own sites vs for clients? Clients Just me Total
Average 18 6 12
Adjusted average * 14 6 10
Median 8 3 5
* Adjusted by removing a handful of the most extreme values from the data set.
 
We certainly didn’t expect to see the numbers being that high. Even if we look just at the median, 5 sites is a huge number!

Also, it’s quite expected that people hosting sites for clients will report higher numbers here. On the average, those users have around 2.5x times more sites hosted with their providers.

Next, let’s have a look at the types of sites that people host:

  • Most popular type of sites: Business websites (389 entries).
  • Personal websites / portfolios – 32% less popular (265 entries).
  • E-commerce stores – 42% less popular (226 entries).
  • Classic blogs – 45% less popular (213 entries).
  • Online magazines – 72% less popular (107 entries).

Also, the most popular traffic segments for each of the top companies:

 
CompanyTraffic*% of users
GoDaddy0-2,00055%
Kinsta100,000-1M33%
WPEngine10,000-50,00026%
BlueHost0-2,00032%
DigitalOcean2,000-5,00028%
DreamHost0-2,00039%
Flywheel2,000-5,00027%
HostGator0-2,00045%
InMotion0-2,00045%
Media Temple10,000-50,00033%
Namecheap0-2,00044%
SiteGround0-2,00032%
* visitors / month

 
For a site with over daily 2000 visits, or if you are selling something, you should not host in shared hosting. Use VPS, or Cloud, managed or self-managed depending on your skill-set.User

Most reliable WordPress hosts and most user-friendly ones

 

Here’s the reliability rank according to our respondents:

Kinsta 4.9
Flywheel 4.8
DigitalOcean 4.7
SiteGround 4.7
WPEngine 4.5
Media Temple 4.4
other 4.4
InMotion 4.4
DreamHost 4.3
Namecheap 4.1
HostGator 4.1
GoDaddy 3.8
Bluehost 3.4
Total 4.3

And here’s the user-friendliness rank:

Flywheel 4.5
Kinsta 4.3
DreamHost 4.2
WPEngine 3.8
SiteGround 3.7
GoDaddy 3.6
InMotion 3.6
other 3.5
Media Temple 3.4
Namecheap 3.3
HostGator 3.2
Bluehost 3.0
DigitalOcean 2.7
Total 3.5
 
Flywheel and Kinsta came very high on both of these lists, with SiteGround doing very well too.

DigitalOcean has a top 3 reliability rank, but they’re also dead last when it comes to user-friendliness, which is very expected in their case. (Please don’t get me wrong here. DigitalOcean is great, but, as I mentioned, you need to be experienced enough to use their platform.)

Conclusions?

Okay, with all this data behind us, let’s try keeping this part quick!

Overall, the hugest hosting companies of them all you should probably stay clear of. Bluehost, HostGator, GoDaddy – they don’t have the best ratings across all the metrics we checked.

If you’re going for a managed hosting solution, you’re most likely going to be the happiest with Flywheel and Kinsta (if you’re willing to believe the 15 people that reviewed each of those companies). If you’d rather go with a managed hosting solution that has more reviews (27), you can look into what WP Engine has to offer.

If you’re a hosting pro and know what you’re doing (server management, shell, whatnots), DigitalOcean is your pick.

For the top overall solution, we have to give it to SiteGround. They have the highest number of survey entries, and they’re in the top 3 rating-wise. They also look really solid across all the other metrics we checked. If I haven’t missed anything crucial here, there are no significant chinks in SiteGround’s armor based on the data we have.

More?

I’m sure there are many more gems to find in this data set, but I, personally, am all out at this point. 🙂

As I finish writing this, I have 31 pivot tables created based on the original data set, and my brain has no more capacity for any additional calculations I’m afraid.

But as mentioned at the beginning, we are making the raw CSV file available for download, so please feel free to take it and do whatever you wish with it. (Don’t forget to let us know if you publish anything based on it!) Download here.

Once again, we want to thank you all for taking part in this WordPress hosting survey! You rock!

-the whole CodeinWP/ThemeIsle team

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Some fine details about the survey

  • In total, we’ve had 506 valid survey entries.
  • We got those entries by asking our partners to participate (thanks again!), mentioning it to our newsletter list and our customers, as well as promoting the survey through ads (standard and retargeting). In total, we spent around $3,000 to get this survey to everybody, like Ionut shared in the latest transparency report.
  • The survey itself has been in the making since April 18th, which was the date of the first Redbooth post of ours detailing the project. Since then, it went through multiple iterations … brainstorming the questions, getting feedback, and making sure that everything goes smoothly.
  • No hosting company has been asked to participate in any way when the survey was going on. We also had an eye out for any suspicious entries that might come from people wanting to skew the results (not that anyone would do such a thing, of course).

 
Karol K: Creates content, manages CodeinWP's team of writers and makes sure that every piece of content you see on this blog looks great! / Author of "WordPress Complete" / Professional yerba mate drinker / @carlosinho
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