Here’s what no one wants to tell you about the best web hosts:
Web hosts are 99% identical.
The differences are so minor that it doesn’t matter what web host you pick. The whole space has become a commodity, with a few exceptions.
The Best Web Hosts – My Personal Recommendations
These are the two web hosts that I personally use.
- If you want to keep the price really low, have a web host with a UI that doesn’t make you pull your hair out, and make sure your web host doesn’t cause you any headaches, get a Hostinger plan. About a year ago, I switched my personal blog to them and I couldn’t be happier.
- If your website makes money (over $10,000/year) and you plan to keep growing it, switch to WP Engine. We run multiple websites that make over $1 million per year and all of them are on WP Engine.
Why You Should Trust My Hosting Recommendations
I’ve been doing online marketing and running websites since 2009. Neil Patel (yes, THAT Neil Patel) hired me for my first full-time marketing job out of college. I’ve worked with him ever since.
A few other tidbits:
- Managed websites that drove 8-figures in annual revenue
- Grown websites from scratch to hundreds of thousands of visitors per month
- Hired dozens of designers and engineers to optimize websites for traffic, leads, and revenue
I’ve been doing this for a while.
I also want to give you 100% transparency. If you click links in this post, I do make some money off of it. That’s how every post ranking in Google works in the web hosting space. You should be skeptical of every post ranking, I know I am.
Does that mean you shouldn’t believe me? Up to you.
But I will say this: I’m just as tired of junk content as you. When I sat down to write this post, I didn’t even talk to my revenue team. They’re actually going to be pissed once they see this post go up.
Take my WP Engine recommendation, I know most of you won’t sign up for it. It’s too expensive. I’d make a lot more money by telling you to sign up for Bluehost or something. But telling you exactly how the pros handle web hosting is more important to me than which offer makes the most money.
If you and I were at a bar, I was three drinks deep, and you asked me about web hosting, I’d say everything I’ve already said in this post. Word-for-word.
Why I Recommend Hostinger for New and Small Websites
For me, Hostinger ticks all the key boxes:
- Plans are super cheap. The lowest one starts at about $2.50/month for an initial 4 year promo period (then $8/month after that)
- The UI is super easy to use. I’ve never had a web host that was so intuitive and easy to use. It’s modern, fast, and everything is exactly where you’d expect it to be. Such a breath of fresh air compared to some other web hosts.
- In over a year, I haven’t had a single problem with my website. No downtime that I saw, no weird technical problems, no extra tasks that they forced me to do. Easy peasy all around.
- Their site migration tool is the single best site migration tool I’ve ever used. No joke. Within an hour, I created a brand new Hostinger account and got my old site completely transferred over. I thought to myself “damn that was easy, why didn’t I do this ages ago?”
- I haven’t contacted their support so I can’t speak to that. But I’m impressed that I haven’t had to contact their support in the first place. Great companies don’t force you to get on the phone, stuff should just work out of the box. That’s exactly what I’ve gotten from Hostinger.
I like Hostinger a lot but there here are a few downsides you should be aware of:
- Monthly billing is more expensive. A monthly option brings the price up to $12/month with a $5 setup fee. If cash is tight enough that you can only afford a maximum payment of $5-10/month and can’t pay for multiple years at once, get a different web host. To get the lowest pricing at Hostinger, you have to drop about $120 in a single payment. This is what I did.
- Your payments will go up substantially after the initial promo period. If you pay for 4 years at $2.50/month, you’ll then start paying $8/month after that initial 4 year period. Most of the web hosts do stuff like this, I consider it a wash. Just be aware of it.
Honestly, that’s it. I can’t think of anything else that’s bothered me since I’ve been a customer. And I can’t think of anything else that would bother you either.
If you’re good with Hostinger’s payment terms, it really is the best web host out there for new and small websites. If I started a new website today, I’d gladly use Hostinger for it. I wouldn’t even shop around. The only exception would be if I was going big on the website from day one. In which case, I’d use WP Engine.
Why I Recommend WP Engine for Growing Businesses
My real favorite web host is WP Engine.
But their plans start at $20/month. After spending years reviewing web hosting and helping small businesses get started with their websites, I’ve realized that it’s just too expensive for what most folks want and need. I know this is a dealbreaker for most folks.
That said, here’s why I love it:
- The whole company is run by professionals. Everyone that I’ve ever interacted with at WP Engine has been on top of their game. They know what they’re doing. These are the types of companies that I prefer to do business with.
- In all the years I’ve used them, I’ve never had a site go down. To be clear, I did have sites go down, but it was never their fault. It always turned out to be some rogue plugin. Even though it’s never their fault, their team has helped me identify the problem more times than I can remember.
- They have all the advanced features I could ever want. Staging servers, advanced admin for multiple sites and user levels, automated security monitoring, they got it all. I’m sure I don’t even use 5% of what they’re capable of.
- Working with their support team has been flawless. A few times, we had to migrate between different server environments. They handled everything for us. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a well coordinated and well communicated transition from a support team before. I was blown away.
For my 7-figure websites, I only trust WP Engine.
Like I said, there’s only one: the price.
It takes $20/month to even get through the door. And your bills will go up substantially as your site grows. I don’t personally bat an eye, I know that I’m paying for security, peace of mind, and a team of professionals that can take care of problems when they do arise. But if you need to watch every penny for your website, WP Engine is a stretch.
The Two Web Hosts You Should Stay Away From
I know I said that most web hosts are commodities.
But there are two of them that I would NEVER sign up with again. I’ve personally used each and deeply regretted it.
Let’s not forget the multiple controversies that still tarnish the brand:
- When the founder and CEO shot an elephant, then bragged about it.
- Lots of sexist advertising before they rebranded
- Their support of SOPA that pissed off a huge chunk of the internet
Not great. But let’s put all that aside. How’s the hosting product?
Way back, one of the first hosts I used was Media Temple. It was kind of the WP Engine for its time, a premium web host. Tim Ferriss recommended it and I figured “if it’s good enough for Tim, it’s good enough for me.”
I used Media Temple for like a decade.
Then they got bought by GoDaddy. Nothing really changed for like 2 years, then they decided to shut down Media Temple and merge all those customers into GoDaddy’s hosting.
The transition was a disaster.
First, leading up to the transition, they completely let Media Temple decay. I get that investing into a product that was going to sunset wouldn’t have been feasible, but stuff was actively breaking. Admin features were getting pulled, I couldn’t find anything, and they forced their users to start doing maintenance themselves. I remember having to upgrade PHP and update a bunch of stuff on my servers, they hounded me for months about that.
They also jacked up my hosting price from $20/month to $29/month. And they wanted to keep that rate after I was forced to migrate to GoDaddy. Premium costs for a bargain-bin web host. Ridiculous.
Complete neglect of their product, jacking up prices, then hoping I didn’t realize that GoDaddy doesn’t offer anything close to a premium level they wanted to automatically bill me.
So yeah, I’m not a fan.
Also, GoDaddy’s normal web hosting product has a horrible reputation for rampant upsells of nonsense. A lot of users don’t know how websites work so GoDaddy takes advantage of that by offering all sorts of “extras” that don’t do anything. I just looked at their checkout and they offered me a free SSL certificate that will then cost $99 after the promo period ends:
That’s crazy. SSL certificates are handed out like candy these days. I get free SSL certs from Hostinger and WP Engine. No reason to pay for them.
Get a web host that’s going to do right by you.
Not many people have heard of Flywheel, I hadn’t until we started managing a site that was already using them.
At first, everything was fine. Flywheel seemed like a standard host, probably didn’t make sense based on the size of the site we were running. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So we kept using them.
It didn’t take long before we ran into problems.
On multiple occasions, our site went down. Not because of a plugin or something outside their control, because of them. And this was a major site, generating 7-figures in annual revenue. Downtime means serious losses.
On one occasion, their support team got involved, didn’t understand what was going on, and made the problem worse. The site was only partially down to begin with, then they nuked the whole thing. I had to get a hardcore CTO from another company to jump in and help out as a favor. I wish I was joking.
Of course, these things also seem to happen in the middle of the night. I had multiple 2am fire drills trying to coordinate efforts to get the site back up. Not my favorite way to spend a night.
First time this happened, I figured it was a fluke. Second time, we immediately started planning our site migration the next morning. I was pissed, and so was my team.
Where did we move the site to? WP Engine. Haven’t had a problem since.
I’m sure Flywheel is full of good people and it’s probably good enough for a small website. But I’ve been burned so I’ll never use them again.
What Really Matters When Picking a Web Host
I could come up with some fancy scoring methodology about how to balance site speed, uptime, and customer service to find the best rated web host.
That’s all nonsense.
Most web hosts have uptime that’s near perfect. And for small websites, it doesn’t matter anyway. Going down for 15 minutes in the middle of the night has zero impact on your business. It’s never impacted my smaller sites.
Downtime like that matters once you have a seven figure business. Then 15 minutes is real money. And that’s why I recommend WP Engine once a website makes money, never had an issue with them.
Server speed? Same thing. They’re all more than good enough. Have been for over two decades.
Customer service? Some let you contact them by phone, some limit you to email and chat. It’s all fine. To be honest, the UI should be easy enough that you never have to contact support anyway.
The thing I care most about is that the web host doesn’t cause me problems. The UI should be simple enough that I can get WordPress installed quickly. After that, I don’t want to hear from the hosting company until the next billing notification. A great web host runs my website and stays out of the way.
The other thing that matters is price. I’m personally less sensitive to others but after talking to hundreds of people about their websites and seeing what plans that people actually buy, pricing REALLY matters. Makes sense, who wants to spend more money than they have to on a brand new project? So yes, get the price down and don’t overpay for hosting on a brand new website.
Here’s how to pick your web host: stick to a few of the most popular web hosts (Hostinger, Bluehost, DreamHost, etc), then pick the one with the best price. And if you need a serious web host for a website making money, go with WP Engine. It’s really that simple.