One of the most important considerations when starting a new blog is choosing your hosting. Picking the wrong host can cause you all kinds of headaches and potentially cause blogging downtime and loss of income. Read on to discover how to choose the right host for your blog.
There are many important considerations when starting a blog. Whether to go hosted or self-hosted, which theme to choose, what niche to blog about and how you are going to make money. But one of the most important decisions you will make, if you choose to start a self-hosted WordPress blog, is which hosting company you will go with.
There are so many different options out there and many different offerings with prices ranging from less than $5 to more than $100 per month. As a new blogger especially, it can be super confusing. And even as an established blogger it can be very hard to make the right decision. So how do you choose?
What is a blog host?
Before we dive into how to choose the right host for your blog, let’s just back up a minute and ask what exactly a blog host is? If you are new to blogging, you may not be all that sure. Blogging terminology in this area is very confusing – it drives me nuts.
Basically, hosting is something you need if you choose to have a self-hosted blog (crazy huh? I told you the terminology was confusing). It’s where your blog ‘lives’.
I like to use the analogy of a car to explain this one. Basically, your URL is your car and your hosting is the garage. If you go for a hosted blog (Blogger, WordPress.com, Wix, Squarespace…) you are renting a car from a particular garage. They will ‘host’ your rental car at their garage – often for free, so you don’t need to worry about finding a garage for your car. The downside is of course you can’t go and move your car to a new garage if you don’t like the service.
If you have a self-hosted blog, you own the car (i.e. your blog) and can park it in any garage (i.e. hosting company) you like and change anytime you like if you don’t like the service, but the downside is you have to pay to park your car in the garage (i.e. you have to pay for hosting).
There are lots of hosting companies out there, names like Bluehost, GoDaddy, SiteGround, WP Engine, TSO Host, Hostgator… but some are most definitely better than others. And also, one size definitely does not always fit all.
(Please note I am a very happy SiteGround customer, and strongly recommend them as my favourite web-hosting company – this blog post contains links to SiteGround which are affiliate links, this means if you click on a link and go on to buy hosting with SiteGround I will get a small commission, but you will not be charged a penny more – thanks in advance!)
So, what should you consider when choosing blog hosting?
There are 5 main considerations when choosing blog hosting: uptime/reliability, security, support/helpfulness, extra features and cost. Let’s look at each in turn:
This is a HUGE consideration. If you are spending all that time creating a wonderful blog, writing hard, sharing everywhere and building a business, the last thing you want is downtime!
Downtime is when your blog can’t be viewed by your readers. This can be for a number of reasons: but one of the most common is because your host is having server problems. And hosts vary hugely on this one. Some hosts will proudly declare that they have 99.99% uptime, while others are notorious for being down A LOT!! So try and find this out before choosing your host. If a host has a good record on this one, they will be shouting it from the rooftops (well OK it will be clearly mentioned on their website – possibly with graphs!)
One of the reasons I chose my hosting company, SiteGround, was their amazing 99.99% uptime – one of the best in the industry! You can find out more about SiteGround’s Uptime Technology here.
Another big consideration when choosing a hosting company for your blog is security. You want to make sure your blog is being protected and is not getting hacked. Now your hosting company is most likely not going to do the whole job for you (this depends a little on the level of plan you are on) – you will probably need a security plugin too, but a good host certainly should do a lot to protect your blog. I love how SiteGround talks about their proactive security practices and firewall rules. It gives me peace of mind!
They also offer (at a small extra cost) a ‘site scanner’ which will check your blog for any security issues/malware and notify you if they discover any problems. They will also email you once a week just to let you know your website is clean. I love this feature as it sets my mind at rest to know my website is OK and they will let me know if they discover any problems.
This is HUGE! And a big reason why I changed from my previous host. Something sometime will eventually go wrong on your blog. You will do something stupid, your site will get hacked, your site will suddenly randomly go down for some reason… when the worst happens you want a host that’s going to give you 24/7 support that is helpful and courteous. A host that goes above and beyond to help you out. And a host who will do all that for free as part of their service. Not a host that will blame anything and everything but themselves and not offer any help in fixing it, or offer help but only if you pay them extra.
The thing about SiteGround is their support is exceptional! They really do go above and beyond to help you out and their support staff are so kind and friendly – and believe me, when you’re in a pickle and stressed cos something’s gone wrong, kind and friendly is what you really need. You can do webchat or ring them on the phone, or submit a support ticket, whichever you prefer.
So when choosing a host, check out what they say about their support, read reviews, ask other bloggers what the support is like…and my top tip: try it out! All hosts will have pre-sales support. So think of a few awkward questions and contact their support team. Obviously, it’s a slightly imperfect test as their pre-sales support team might be different to their customer support team, but it will give you s good idea! Especially if they are unhelpful, rude or they ignore you. If you have trouble with pre-sales support, don’t touch them with a bargepole!!
4. Extra Features
This is something else to watch out for, what else do they offer above and beyond hosting? Do they offer free backups? A testbed site, to test changes before they go live? Features that will improve the speed of your site? Free WordPress set up? Free migrations from another host? An extensive tutorial library? Free SSL security certificate? The ability to add extra domain names to your hosting plan at no extra cost? A free email address?
SiteGround offers all of the above (depending on which plan you choose), but not all web hosts do offer these things, or at least not for free as standard. Remember: don’t just compare on price, but also on what each host actually offers for that price.
Obviously, this is an important consideration too. But don’t JUST choose on price. Please make sure you take into consideration all the other factors too! Just a few extra pennies can make all the difference between a great host, with fantastic support and uptime and a whole load of extra features… and one which causes you a whole load of headaches.
But the good news is SiteGround is actually relatively cheap! In fact, it’s incredibly cheap given the amazing features, support and uptime they offer. Prices start from as little as £5.99 per month (EX VAT, introductory price, correct at 10/08/20) – which is basically the cost a couple of cups of coffee from your favourite coffee shop per month – that’s a very small price to pay for great service and peace of mind. And even their more expensive plan, which offers heaps of extra features is only £12.99 per month (EX VAT, introductory price, correct at 10/08/20) and will allow your blog to grow to over 100,000 pageviews. That’s a lot of room for growth!
How to decide which blog host is best
OK, so I’ve told you what features you should be looking out for in a good blog host, but how do you know? Here are 4 practical things you can do to help you make your decision:
Read the host’s website
Go and check out the websites of a few blog hosts and see what they say about their uptime, security, support, extra features and how much the basic plan is. This will give you a very good indication. If they have incredible uptime or fantastic customer support, they will be shouting about it on their website! If they are suspiciously quiet about those things, alarm bells should ring.
Read reviews (but beware of affiliate links)
Read reviews: the good, the bad and the ugly. What do other bloggers say about their experiences. Do they love their host and rave about them (Like I do with SiteGround) or are they seething because their blog has gone down AGAIN, or the customer support was unhelpful?
Two little caveats: firstly, beware of affiliate links. One of the problems with hosting reviews is that they are often biased by the fact that the writer makes good commission on every affiliate sale and so they are inclined to be a little too positive in their review (and yes, I realise this post contains affiliate links, but I assure you I have not over exaggerated, I am very happy with the service and I still currently use SiteGround – unlike some bloggers who will recommend a particular webhost even though they don’t even use them – just to get the commission!) – so do read reviews with a pinch of salt and check what is said about that host in other places too.
The other caveat is that for almost any host, someone somewhere will have had a bad experience. Don’t make a decision based on one bad review. See if there is a pattern. If lots of people are saying a particular host is terrible, then they probably are! If one person says they are terrible, but another 20 say they are wonderful, then that 1 blogger probably just got unlucky!)
Ask for advice!
This is one of my best tips, if you know other bloggers or you are in a Facebook group for bloggers, ask for recommendations. This is in fact what I did when I moved my blog to SiteGround. I asked in a FB group where I knew a lot of other bloggers and trusted that they would tell me the truth. I just asked who they were hosted with and whether they were happy with their host. I got a really great response – some hosts had mixed reviews, but SiteGround came out a clear winner with everyone who was with them praising them enthusiastically and especially the quality of the customer support.
Contact the host
I’ve mentioned this above, but this is my top tip – before you commit your blog and hard-earned cash into a blog hosts hands, think up some tricky questions and contact pre-sales support. It’s not a perfect test (they may be on their best behaviour in pre-sales), but it is a good indicator. Especially if the pre-sales support team is unhelpful, rude or they just don’t get back to you. If that happens – don’t choose them!
How to decide what level of hosting to go for
One other question is what level of hosting to go. Most hosts have a range of different hosting plans at different price points and which offer different levels of service. Usually when starting out the best policy is to start on the lowest tier and upgrade later as and when you need it. But if you are not sure, just ask the pre-sales team. Tell them what you need and ask them which level they recommend… and ask the at the same time how easy it is to move up to the next tier. A good host will not try to sell you more than you need right now and will make it very easy to move up to the next level when you need it.
That said, if you are just starting out and thinking of going with SiteGround as your host I would recommend going with their second level of hosting for a couple of reasons, firstly it’s only a tiny bit more expensive: £8.99 as opposed to £5.99 (EX VAT, introductory price, correct at 10/08/20) – we’ve still in cup of coffee from Starbucks territory. And second, by just paying just £3 more you get so many more features: multiple websites, the SG Optimizer for better site speed, on-demand backups (so you can make a backup immediately before you make any big changes) and free 1 click backup restores, and that’s on top of all the standard stuff you get with the basic level: 24/7 technical support, excellent uptime, free SSL certificate (so you can make your website https), free set up and transfer, unlimited email accounts and more. It really is a very good deal!
And obviously, if you already have a blog and want to move it, the bottom level may not be suitable for you, so definitely contact the host and see what they say. When I did this SiteGround were super helpful and gave me great advice. They didn’t try to sell me something I didn’t need and assured me it would be very easy to upgrade as and when I needed to.
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*This blog post contains affiliate links, this means if you click on a link and go on to buy the product I recommend, I will get a small commission, but you will not be charged a penny more – thanks in advance!