Last Updated May 16 2019
Wordpress is not a website builder— it's a content management system (or CMS). The difference is important. Website builders include hosting and tend to be easier to use. Wordpress does not include hosting and has a steeper learning curve— but is much more flexible. You can read more about the differences here.
Because Wordpress does not include hosting, finding a good Wordpress host is really important. Unfortunately searching best Wordpress host on Google is a minefield. Results are plagued by fluffy reviews recommending Wordpress hosts that also happen to pay large commission payouts. I want to avoid that. This is my attempt at an honest guide.
Like other review sites, I also make money on affiliate links— but my hope is that as you read this article, you'll see that my recommendations are based on research and my honest assessment.
I recommend SiteGround for small business websites that can't afford more than $25 / month but still want to use Wordpress. It's fast and reliable and one of the few hosts in this tier not owned by EIG.SiteGround.com »
I highly recommend Kinsta. It has excellent uptime, excellent customer service, an intuitive interface for managing Wordpress websites and honest, upfront pricing. If it's within your budget, it's worth using.Kinsta.com »
So how did I come to this conclusion? Here is how I sort through the hundreds of Wordpress host options.
It's common for Wordpress hosts to advertise unlimited bandwidth and storage. But is it truly unlimited?
You can probably guess the answer: it's not unlimited. There's no such thing as unlimited. It's one of the more brazen marketing lies.
Instead, when a host advertises unlimited bandwidth or storage they just mean they're not setting a specific limit. Instead they expect you to use bandwidth or storate "appropriately". If you don't use it "appropriately", they reserve the right to terminate your hosting. So who decides what's "appropriate"? They do, of course.
Neither of my recommended Wordpress hosts (SiteGround and Kinsta) advertise "unlimited" bandwidth or storage. Instead they tell you the exact amount you can use. It's much better to know your limits than to have to live by some hidden, arbitrary limit set by the webhost.
So when comparing two web hosts, you might decide to go with the "unlimited" web host— but I would caution against that. You might totally be fine and never run into problems on an unlimited host. But there is risk.
When you pay for a Wordpress host you're not actually getting your own physical server. Instead you're paying to share space on a server with other Wordpress websites. This is what shared hosting means.
Shared hosting is a necessary thing. Running your own physical server (called dedicated hosting) costs $100+ / month so shared hosting lowers the barrier to entry. But there's also a catch: shared hosting relies on the web host to not overload the server with too many websites. Unfortunately overloading is a common way for a Wordpress host to increase profit margins.
So one of the keys when looking for a Wordpress host is to look for a host that isn't overloaded. Fortunately there is a lot of research out there to help. I recommend Review Signal which publishes excellent benchmarking reports. One of the reasons I feel comfortable recommending SiteGround and Kinsta is because they are high-performers in their reports.
You can also do your own testing with tools like Pingdom's Website Speed Test. It tells you the speed of any website— so you'll need a website using the web host to test. (One note if you do this: you really should base your decision off of an aggregate of websites. It's possible one website from a host is on an underloaded server while another website from the same host could be on an overloaded server.)
You can go deep (really deep) researching speed and uptime— I'd caution you not to go overboard. Because there are plenty of other things that impact website speed— for example: nothing slows down a Wordpress website more than overloading it with janky plugins. Being careful about which plugins you install is still the most impactful thing you can do for website speed.
Don't expect outstanding service if you're paying less than $10 / month.
With customer support, you get what you pay for— and good customer support costs money.
Usually cheaper hosts try to avoid human contact between the customer as much as possible by suggesting help and knowledgebase articles. You probably don't want that— imagine your car is broken and the mechanic just throws you the manual. Not ideal! Furthermore it can take time and effort to get your ticket raised to a top tier of support on cheaper web hosts. Sometimes it takes forever.
Review Signal is a great way to check out a hosts customer service record— it aggregates Tweets about web hosting companies. (SiteGround has the highest rating forr shared hosting, another reason why I recommend it.)
Managed is sort of a catch-all term that's become popular in Wordpress host marketing.
Basically it means that the host has created tools to automate or simplify tasks like security, backups and performance. It also can include features such as staging environments.
You'll definitely want backups. Working without backups can feel like working without a safety net. What happens if you accidently delete a database field? Knowing you can roll-back to yesterdays backup reduces the risk of something going horrible wrong.
Security is about active and passive monitoring. For example, Kinsta monitors its websites uptime in order to detect things like DDOS attacks.
Note — Remember, the best way to keep your Wordpress website secure is to keep Wordpress upgraded to the latest version!
BlueHost is one of the most well-known names in Wordpress hosting. WooCommerce promotes them. Pat Flynn promotes them. And lots and lots of other bloggers. Unfortunately I believe Bluehost is widely promoted because they provide high affiliate payouts. I do not recommend them.
You don't have to search long in web hosting forums to find negative stories about Blue Host:
Plus when I tested BlueHost for this review, I noticed they added additional items to my shopping cart during checkout (see screenshot below). This is extremely deceptive!
Avoid any web hosting company owned by EIG. They are the bane of the Worpdress hosting industry.
All EIG hosts seem to suffer the same fate: slow support and slow sites (largely due to overselling). Plus, I've found many of them engage in shady billing practices— for example, BlueHost (owned by EIG) adds additional items into your shoping cart during checkout without telling users (see above).
Unfortunately EIG has bought up a large chunk of the Wordpress hosting space— they own 80+ brands. This includes BlueHost, HostGator, HostMonster, Homestead, HostGator, iPage, Site5.
No one knows the total amount of EIG properties because they EIG tries not to publicize when they purchase a host as they have a reputation for ruining the hosts they purchase.