Best. It’s a word meant to rank similar things in a given category by established comparison points, providing an unbiased view on how they stack up.
But what’s best for one person or company is not always the best choice for another – and to further complicate things, financial bias is often the primary motivator when 3rd parties make their ‘best of’ lists.
I’ll be exploring both sides of the ‘best’ coin as they relate to WordPress hosting, but before diving in, let’s address the pink elephant in the room: yes, Pagely is a managed WordPress host, writing about how to find the best WordPress Hosting. And while I’ll try to remain neutral, you need to know who is telling you what is ‘best.’
Perfect segue into lesson 1:
Know the Source
There’s no shortage of articles, reviews and directories on the web telling you what is the best at this or that, and WordPress hosting is no different. Searching Google for related terms will reveal a number of 3rd party and seemingly neutral purveyors of said information. But a closer look will expose the #1 corrupter of many of these lists: affiliate links.
You likely know how the affiliate game works: 3rd parties refer traffic to a company website, and if a sale occurs, the 3rd party gets a kick back.
But is that the best way to find a recommendation?
Is the opinion of a paid spokesperson the best source for unbiased information?
No, and hell no.
I’m not suggesting that all of these lists are biased, or that you should not take their opinion into account – just know the motivation behind the list and factor that into your decision. And not all affiliate relationships are transparent, so tread lightly.
The List You Seek Does Not Exist
If you’ve read this far and are wondering when I’ll get to the list of hosting providers already, let me save you some time: there isn’t one.
There are at least a dozen ‘established’ WordPress hosting outfits out there, and new ones come and go each year. In order for someone to run a true, unbiased review of this space, they’d need to try them all – and at the time of this article, there aren’t any known sources for such a comparison.
Here’s an example (and sort of a list, I suppose):
In my freelance WP days, I worked with Site5, MediaTemple, SiteGround, WPEngine, GoDaddy, Linode and a few other hosts I can’t quite remember, but I would never possess the unmitigated gall to claim I could write about the ‘best hosting in WP’ without some tangible experience with WordPress VIP, Pantheon, Kinsta and others.
In other words, when someone is talking about ‘the best,’ they really mean the best of what they’ve tried – or the affiliate program that pays them the ‘best.’
So, these lists are bullshit – now what?
Find What Matters Most to You
As mentioned, what’s best for other companies may not be the best choice for you, so it’s important to decide what features or other factors matter most to you, and research them individually.
In the world of WordPress hosting, those factors often include:
- Security: Protection against malicious intent
- Reliability: Server uptime, caching, geolocation
- Scalability: Ability to handle traffic spikes and long-term growth
- Support: How to get help when you need it
- Price: You usually get what you pay for
Most hosting companies will cover all of the above with varying degrees of intensity and methodology, but there are generally 2 classes of WP hosting: Managed and Shared, or Unmanaged. Now a third class of WP hosting is becoming relevant – Serverless Hosting – as demonstrated by NorthStack.
For more on this topic from another source, check out WinningWP.
Ask Someone You Trust
There’s no Consumer Reports guide to WordPress Hosting, and your dad likely won’t know what you’re talking about if you ask him, but chances are you can find someone you know that runs a WordPress site. WordPress developers definitely have opinions, and you should try to get some of those in the mix as well – but think diversity and keep in mind who you are talking to.
If you ask 5 different people, you’ll likely get 5 different answers – so ask not only what they like about their host, but what the negatives are. Weigh those pros and cons against your priority list, and you should end up with 2-3 options that fit.
Side note: there are a few third-party resources you can use to help you find relevant reviews, and G2 Crowd is one of the better ones. Check out their review of Pagely to get an idea of what those pages look like.
Make a Decision
Switching hosts isn’t always easy, so when it comes time to pick the one – the best WordPress host for you – do your homework. If you’ve followed the steps above, you should have a top 3 list, and here are some ideas to help decide among them:
- Dig through their sites. Look at the related case studies, features, testimonials and brag boards to get a sense of the potential fit for each.
- Have a conversation with the host. Reach out to each company on the list and ask the questions that matter most to you.
- Pull the trigger. There shouldn’t be a ‘wrong’ option on your list at this point, and if you agree with that statement, you should be fine.
I tried to channel my pre-Pagely, WP freelancer self when drafting this guide. These are the steps and suggestions I would give to my clients as recently as 2016, and hopefully that tone came across in this piece.
Ultimately, searching for the ‘best’ of anything is a common way to start researching, but the savvy decision maker will always dive deeper.