UPDATE May 2022: As I type SiteGround are offering their GrowBig plan for £4.99/month for 12 months (in the UK). However, please look out for the renewal fees after that because these have increased since I originally wrote this article. Aside from this, everything in the post below is accurate and even with the higher price point they are pretty competitive all considered (I’m still a happy customer and have no inclination to move elsewhere).
The first thing to say is I’m not trying to convince you to move hosts – if you’re really happy with what you’re using right now then it makes sense to stay put.
Equally, if you find a different solution to me, then that’s great too.
Rather, I am sharing my experience over many years together with what I use today so you can make a better, more informed choice.
Also, a quick note to say that affiliate links are used in this article. This means if you click them and make a purchase then I will receive a commission.
Right, let’s start with some perspective…
1. Is There Really Much Difference Between Hosting Companies?
There is a vast array of hosting companies to choose from and in the main, there isn’t in my view, an enormous difference between them.
Hosting technology has improved dramatically over the past few years so unless you have extremely high traffic or very specific technical requirements, any of the main hosting companies are likely to be a reasonable fit.
Since I started my business in 2010 I’ve used:
- Hostgator – Shared hosting
- Hostgator – Reseller account
- Hostgator – Dedicated server
- Hivelocity – Dedicated server
- Liquid Web – Virtual Private Server (VPS)
A few years ago there was a significant performance difference between these options.
But today, as hosting technology and server speed has advanced, my current host (SiteGround’s GrowBig plan, $9.99/month) is, in my experience, easily as good and arguably – as we’ll see below – even better than the others I used to use.
That said, there are a couple of things to be aware of:
The internet is full of recommendations for different hosting companies mainly because so many hosts pay handsome referral commissions.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this but it’s good to be aware that a given hosting “review” or comparison site may be primarily motivated by money rather than your best interests.
So bear this in mind and be prepared to take things you see with a pinch of salt.
2) Endurance International Group (E.I.G)
E.I.G is a company that has spent years buying up different web hosts and consolidating their operations for cost advantage.
At the time of writing Wikipedia lists a total of 88 different E.I.G hosting brands.
One of these brands is Bluehost – a company that traditionally pays high referral commissions which explains why it gets recommended so often.
Another is Hostgator who I was with when E.I.G took them over.
When this happened, I experienced technical problems and incredibly poor and slow support … I had a dedicated server on which I hosted client websites, so this was not a pleasant experience.
Because of this I would personally steer clear of an E.I.G owned host.
Perhaps that’s unfair and maybe they’ve changed their ways, but I do think it’s fair to say they are more driven by cost saving than pure hosting and customer service excellence.
Elsewhere, you’ll see a lot of steers towards higher priced hosts (e.g., WPX Hosting starting around $20/month).
Again, there is nothing wrong with this but in my view unless you have a very specific requirement there just isn’t the need any more to pay these higher prices.
The bottom line is that hosting technology and server capacity these days means a standard hosting company will probably work just fine for you.
2. So Why Did I Switch Hosting?
The original catalyst was cPanel’s announcement to radically change their pricing structure.
If you don’t know, cPanel is a web application that allows you to control your website hosting.
To install WordPress, add a new email address for your website or backup your data, cPanel is what you can use to do that.
I had a Virtual Private Server (VPS) with Liquid Web at $80/month.
The price increase meant I would incur an additional charge for each of my 12 websites or I could migrate from cPanel to Liquid Web’s own system called Interworx.
I’ve nothing bad to say about Liquid Web whatsoever – their support was superb and I was very happy overall.
But after a few years with them this situation presented the opportunity to look around to see what else was out there.
After some solid research I chose SiteGround.
Here’s my experience…
3. Migrating My Websites To SiteGround
SiteGround have two options for this:
1. Professional Transfer
They do a free transfer for one of your sites. So no good for me because I have 12 websites.
2. SiteGround’s Migrator Plugin
This is the DIY option I used.
I have to say, being a marketer not a techie, migrating between hosts was not something I was particularly looking forward to.
However, I found the system to be incredibly simple and straightforward.
I filmed one of the transfers here so you can see how it works:
4. SiteGround Page Loading Speed & Site Performance
This was my primary concern: how could SiteGround possibly come close to the performance from my old $80/month VPS hosting?
I ran a series of tests using GTmetrix before and after transfer:
Click Here To See The Full GTMetrix Performance Reports
(Opens In New Tab)
The screenshot above shows a performance increase on SiteGround compared to the old Liquid Web VPS for this site, gainhigherground.com.
Of course, this is just one test and speed naturally varies depending upon the time of day etc.
And possibly my old Liquid Web VPS server could have been optimized with various technical tweaks.
But as a marketer and information product creator I don’t have the technical knowledge, time or frankly the inclination to do this.
Moreover, subsequent performance tests on my SiteGround hosted sites have yielded pretty impressive results in the same ballpark as the one shown above.
So SiteGround is making me extremely happy in terms of performance and site loading times.
This is very important to reduce site bounce rates – especially when running paid traffic (e.g., Facebook ads) to your landing pages.
Again, I believe this indicates that technology improvements mean you simply don’t need to spend a lot of monthly cost on hosting unless you have very particular requirements or extremely high traffic.
5. SiteGround Tools & Functionality
This is something else I quizzed SiteGround about via their Live Chat Support before I signed up.
In a nutshell I’ve found the control panel tools inside my SiteGround account to be extremely refreshing, straightforward and easy to use.
For example, here’s how to install WordPress:
Here’s another example, of applying your SSL certificate to ensure you have a https:// secure browser connection on your site (these certificates are free for each one of your websites):
6. Other SiteGround Features
Obviously SiteGround’s website provides a full feature list for each of their plans (I have the GrowBig option).
But here is a short list of things I’m most impressed by:
1. WordPress Staging
If you have a problem with your site, or you are thinking about making some big changes, SiteGround allows you to create a “Staging” version of it.
This allows you to experiment and play around without worrying about breaking anything on the live version of your site.
Once you’re happy with your changes you can do a Full Deploy to make your staging copy live, or, choose to partially deploy certain elements.
Very easy to do, right from inside the SiteGround dashboard and no need for third party plugins, some of which require payment for this kind of staging functionality.
SiteGround handles this for every site you have.
By default it keeps daily backups for 30 days and you can also perform a manual backup whenever you wish – an easy task but important before making any significant changes to your website.
Restoring a backup is again done within your dashboard.
Keeping your WordPress installation, themes and plugins updated is important for security.
Previously, I’d used third-party plugins for this but SiteGround now takes care of this for me.
There are many other SiteGround features but the ones above are, for me at least, the most important.
The only other thing I will mention is their File Manager app, again accessed from the main dashboard.
It’s an extremely simple app which just allows you to edit, upload and download the files held on your server.
Not something I use often but I mention it here because I’ve found it a breeze compared to the same process on cPanel which I am used to from all the previous hosts I’ve been with.
7. Support & Customer Service
As noted above, I asked various questions before I signed up to SiteGround, including:
Q: Is there a difference between SiteGround’s standard hosting plans and “Wordpress Hosting” plans?
A: No, it’s the same thing – they are just shown differently on the website for SEO purposes.
Q: What’s the difference in website loading speed and performance between the GrowBig & GoGeek plans?
A: Very little if anything for less than 25,000 visitors per month. The differences are mainly capacity related e.g., amount of file storage space etc.
Q: Can I upload non-Wordpress files, like HTML pages inside my account?
A: Yes, using File Manager in your account’s dashboard.
As you can see, just basic questions, but I wanted to know and test their support.
The service was very speedy and efficient, but of course as with most companies, it often is for prospective customers!
The good news is the level of support has continued now that I am a customer: Each time I’ve used the live chat it’s been quick to connect (within one minute) and the reps have been super helpful.
So overall, I’m extremely happy with the service. It’s certainly matched Liquid Web in my experience.
So based on all my hosting experiences over the years and my current use of SiteGround, I think it’s a great choice.
I have fast loading pages (important for low bounce rate and Facebook Ad landing pages), quality support and an easy-to-use interface to control my account with all the functionality I need.
If you’re on a budget then it makes sense on that score too.
If, like I was, you’re looking to move to a fresh hosting solution, get a performance boost for lower cost, unhappy with current customer support or starting up then I personally highly recommend SiteGround.
Whether you decide to go the same way as me or not, I hope sharing my experience here has helped you to make a more informed choice!
Was this useful to you? I’d LOVE to hear your questions, experiences and thoughts – do drop a quick message below and I’ll reply personally 🙂 Cheers, Rob.
Rob you are pushing against an open door! I discovered Siteground a couple of years ago and have moved several client sites over not least for their free SSL certificate. My own business site and two others are the only ones now on my old UK server and these will be migrated soon. I also took advantage of their discount deal which gives three years at the entry price level, even more reason to switch. Support, performance and service is the best I have encountered, Highly recommended.
That’s great to hear Barrie. I also opted for the 3 years too. I’m not that price sensitive myself and far more focused about the points I’ve detailed in the post above. But for people who are on a very tight budget then the 3 year option is well worth considering. Appreciate you taking the time to share your feedback! Cheers, Rob.
I switched to Siteground couple of years ago from Hostgator and have never had any problems and always been impressed by their support. Price is of course introductory offer and will go up to £14.95 after a year and you do have to pay for a year up front but still cheaper than you were paying!
Thank you Shaun, very helpful to hear your experience. On pricing they do currently have a 3 year discount (you can choose 1, 2 or 3 years). Cheers, Rob.
Hi Rob. I have used a few hosting companies over the years including some of the ones on your list. I have also used Siteground and found the service to be excellent too. Their sign-up deals are amazing value but unfortunately when the time came to renew it the price is then significantly higher. (It’s the same with all hosting companies of course).
I would definitely use siteground again in the future and it’s great to hear your positive experience with it.
Hi David, thanks for sharing your experience and glad you concur on the support. It something you rarely have to use but when you do it needs to be excellent so great to hear your experience. On the pricing you’re absolutely correct. They offer a 3 year deal with the discount which is excellent value. The price after this period is still excellent value and much less than a lot of the higher priced options that are often promoted, as I mentioned in the post. Thanks again for sharing your experience.
Hi Rob, Thanks again for a thorough and detailed fantastic post, that I think gave most people as kick up the ??? to evaluate ones hosting position.
I have been recently looking at changing my hosting account from Hostgator , as I have been with them for over 10 years, but compared to the competition and the points raised in this post, I don’t think I am getting good value for money! That said I do need to check my full requirements before I decide, who to go for? This will require using Hostgator’s support livechat, which last time I used was very slow and took ages for their support to connect etc… I can definitely agree with Rob, when you need urgent support, this is not what you need i.e. 20 minute wait (Hostgator) to connect with livechat, compared with 1 minute against the competition.
Overall, thanks Rob for all your efforts in producing this post, I do really appreciate the time it takes to produce the videos and all the free email advice you give (my own personal experience) that goes on in the background. Thanks for being a person I can trust and is not just after my money.
Hi Andrew, thank you for your comment and kind words, that’s very good of you.
1) You make an excellent point on support. You rarely need it with hosting – once things are set up it can be months, even years with no worries at all. But when something goes wrong a rapid high quality service is so important. I’ve experienced both sides of this and overall I think support levels have increased for various online services through the years due to competition.
2) As I said in the post, there isn’t a huge difference between most hosts these days so I think taking your time and (as you say) checking out what you actually require is a good strategy.
Glad this post helped and good luck for whatever you decide!
Is there a limit on the sites you can host?
Thanks for posting your question on the blog… No limits on the GrowBig & GoGeek plans (I have the former) – as many sites as you like. Only the cheapest plan StartUp has a limit of one website.
Very interesting read Rob. Although I can make my sites produce loading times that push both my PageSpeed and Yslow scores into the high 90s with my current host it takes some time and effort. Plus my account is not cheap.
I’m going to guess from your statement that you are not a “techie” that your scores involved no optimization on your part so that is impressive if I’m reading this right.
Curious about 1 other thing though. Is the account you are using some sort of a shared or multi-site hosting, or is the cost per domain?
Thanks so much for sharing that…
1. No optimization on my part at all – certainly when it comes to server tech I know very little indeed. I simply migrated my existing sites to SiteGround, kept all the default settings and ran the GTMetrix reports.
2. The SG accounts are shared. This is one of the reasons I had reservations before I moved. I just didn’t believe that shared could match $80/month VPS and I remember a big performance boost from moving from Hostgator shared hosting to a Dedicated server years ago. But from my testing it seems it does. As I said in the post perhaps my VPS wasn’t tuned up to the max like it should have been but intuitively, clicking around they seem mostly as fast as other sites I visit around the web.
3. I’m on the GrowBig plan with SiteGround so this is unlimited number of sites, no extra charge for that.
Hope that helps Stephen – any more questions please do ask and I’ll do my best to answer 🙂
Good post and videos Rob (as usual).
1. I switched from shared hosting to VPS a number of years ago for the main reason that my emails were being blocked because of getting black listed because some other user triggered black listing by doing something wrong. This only affected my emails sent by me, not my autoresponder of course.
2. Did you determine the long term viability of SiteGround (size of company, financials, etc.)
Thank you Lee,
1. Yes, I had the same issue a few years ago. Unfortunately, I found my VPS and Dedicated Server before that (with unique IP) still sometimes ends up in spam. So my solution is a) send content/marketing emails via your main email system (Aweber, ActiveCampaign etc) and then b) only send “transactional” emails from your website (e.g., password resets, login details for new users etc). The latter is done on my sites using a little WordPress Plugin and service from postmarkapp.com which sends all the emails on behalf of my website – very cheap, easy to use and – from what I’ve experienced – 100% delivery. I should note, as they do, it’s ONLY for transactional emails (so you need to be careful as they ban anyone who violates that). It works like a dream for me and means I never have to worry about emails at all.
2. Yes, I checked SiteGround’s out their history, locations and other user experiences as part of my research. All stacked up well from everything I saw so I have no worries on that side.
Hope that helps Lee!
Once again I am totally impressed with the valuable insights that you post for free. This latest one came just as I was about to open a second account with HostGator to host a WordPress site.
I’ve no real complaints against HostGator, other than the irritation that there are different costs for WordPress hosting compared with that for other shared hosting, that chat has a slow response, and that replies are adequate rather than exemplary. None of this would have put me off until I read your post.
As I’m easily baffled by the technology, I needed to know what would be involved in moving domains and emails, so I tried the SiteGround chat option. The response took probably about a minute. The reply covered everything I needed to know without having to ask any supplementary questions. It was clear, complete, concise and jargon-free. I couldn’t have asked for more. I was very impressed. I will be opening an account with them as soon as I’ve cleared up my emails on HostGator.
Thank you, Rob, for pointing me in the right direction once again.
You are very kind Gordon, thank you and glad this is useful for you.
That’s really great to hear on the SiteGround chat, definitely concurs with my experience. I’ve been really impressed with them overall and would never go back to Hostgator really out of principle because of what I experienced years ago (and their E.I.G ownership).
Hope the hosting move goes well – post back if you have any questions and I’ll be glad to help where I can.
I moved from Hostgator some time back, due to their very poor customer service, when I had a technical issue.
After reading many reviews, about the different hosting packages and suppliers, I opted to open a SiteGround account.
To date, they have been outstanding and any issues or questions I may have had, have been addressed in a timely and helpful manner.
I believe now, that you would go a long way, to matching them with others.
And although the subscription cost is now higher than when I joined, you get what you pay for.
For anyone sitting on the fence about switching or signing up to SiteGround, I would suggest you go ahead and give them a try. You won’t be disappointed.
Thank you very much for sharing your experience Walt, that’s valuable input to other considering their options. Glad to hear the move went well and you’re happy! Best regards, Rob.
Currently I am with Hostgator and been with them for few years now.
I want to move now and reading your review blog, Siteground seem like a very good deal.
How does the free SSL work? Do we need to install anything or is all done for us?
Hi Chris, thanks for your comment 🙂
SiteGround is still working very well for me and I’ve also had good feedback from subscribers since I put this post together.
On SSL it does need to be installed but this is done via the SiteGround control panel. Basically, you just do what I show in the SLL video above. Pretty straightforward and worked for all of my sites first time.
Hope this helps Chris, feel free to post back with any further Qs.
Currently, I have multiple sites on Hostgator but truth be told I have never really been a big fan….CS is pretty weak, features etc. However, after years of being with them, I guess I have just become complacent as I’m sure most people get when it comes to hosting.
That said…I’ve been sitting here biting my fingernails for the longest time at the thought of moving my site to another hosting company because I fear it would affect my rankings somehow. I think I may have just self-manifested that. But as the number one ranked SEO agency in Florida believe me when I say that wasn’t an easy feat and I would not look forward to having to re-start that process all over again…That said after reading all the responses as well as your initial review, that may be just the push I needed…Thanks for the valuable info Rob.
Thanks Mark – glad it was helpful for you. Ultimately, you never know until you try it and everyone has different needs. But my experience is still great with SiteGround so I hope the same for you if you decide to go ahead 🙂
Superb article as always Rob, I bookmarked it at the time as I knew I’d have to come back to it and probably have to move host!
I currently have my hosting with a cheap, regular, UK, non EIG host which has been fine until I decided to have a look under the bonnet! My nano product sales page built with Thrive Architect with all images optimised via Kraken has a Gtmetrix page speed score of F37%, a far cry from your A92% ! USA/Canada load times are around 5.5 seconds and Australia 9.7 seconds – far from ideal in the MMO niche where a lot of customers will be US based. Gtmetrix offers the advice that the server is slow and that I should use a CDN – can’t argue with that! So yes, time for me to have an unscheduled host migration. If I was building a website for my local Scout group then my current host would be fine, but for a business where pages will be visited worldwide it isn’t.
I think this reiterates a sometimes forgotten point – if your business is international then test your page speeds both at home and abroad where your target markets are using Gtmetrix or Pingdom. Whilst my page speeds are ok in the UK at around 2.5 seconds, in the US they aren’t really acceptable and this could affect conversions.
A couple of quick questions if I may:
1) The premium hosts often offer a choice of origin data centre, typically London, US and Australia. A fair amount of your business is presumably outside the UK and a lot presumably in the US. Did you opt for London as your origin data centre on the basis that the CDN will serve up pages quickly for your “worldwide” customers so the location of the origin data centre is less important and therefore better to have nearer you?
2) Do you use both the SG CDN (Cloudflare) and the SG Optimiser?
Cheers Rob and thanks again for another top insight.
Thank you for your comment Craig. Hopefully a shift in host will improve speed significantly for you. My own SiteGround hosting still seems to be holding up speed-wise
On your questions: 1) I have never paid any attention really to location. Perhaps a mistake on my part but as long as my pages load fairly quickly I’d rather focus on marketing, content creation etc. 2) I do have the SG Optimizer installed but again I haven’t really looked into it much. I don’t do anything with CDNs either.
Pretty lax answers I’m afraid Craig but that’s the reality; I just want a basic host that’s pretty fast and I’m not that interested in the technical optimization side. That’s what Siteground seems to give me although as I said in the article above there are probably other hosts which would provide similar speeds and features. So definitely check Siteground out but maybe a quick review of potential alternatives as well would be wise as well!
That’s great and good to know Rob.
I think it also reiterates an important point for me that I often forget – concentrate on the marketing and content creation side, don’t over analyse/get bogged down in the technical side. Remember the 80:20 rule 🙂
Thanks again Rob.
Rob, I have tried to open an account with SiteGround, but they say they cannot offer a service in South Africa, which is where I live! Any idea why this is?
I am sorry to hear this John, I do not know why SG can’t serve South Africa — you would need to query that with them. Looking in Google it looks like there are plenty of other options so for now you may have to choose one of these.