I’ve hosted this site on Bluehost for the past 3 years. During that time, I have dealt with their support on numerous occasions. I’ve monitored my site’s speed and uptime. I’ve also taken advantage of many of their offerings including the free SSL certificate, email, backups, free domain, and more. By now, I’ve developed a pretty good feel for the quality and value of their services. This is my complete Bluehost shared WordPress hosting review after 3 years.
In this Bluehost review, I will lay out the pros and cons of hosting your site on Bluehost. I’ll cover support, features, speed, uptime, pricing, ease of use, limitations, and much more. In this review, I will try to stay as honest and realistic as possible. Hopefully, this review helps you decide whether or not Bluehost is the right host for you.
The Problem With Many Hosting Reviews
Before I go into the review, I just want to start with a little word to the wise. The problem with many web hosting reviews, in general, is that they are not honest or reliable because they are written by affiliate marketers trying to make a sale. They are basically sales pitches in review format. This makes it surprisingly difficult to find an unbiased and accurate review of many web hosts.
Bluehost is particularly bad for this because they have an incredibly popular and generous affiliate program. All over the internet, you’ll find long glowing reviews for their service that are packed with affiliate links. Many of your favorite bloggers probably recommend Bluehost on their sites.
Bluehost, being such a large company, also has a massive marketing budget. You’ll start seeing their ads everywhere when you start researching hosting.
Honestly, these are the reason I chose Bluehost when starting this blog. They came highly recommended by several of my favorite travel bloggers. Their advertising probably helped to sell me as well. I drank the Kool-Aid and signed up without doing much research on my own.
After learning more about the nature of the affiliate marketing industry, I realized that the reviews I read were not all authentic or accurate. Much of Bluehost’s advertising material stretches the truth as well.
What I’m trying to say is that you can’t believe everything that you read when it comes to web hosting. I will try to be as honest and realistic as possible in this review. There is a lot to like about Bluehost but there is a lot to dislike as well. Like anything else in life, there are pros and cons.
What is Bluehost
Bluehost is one of the largest and oldest web hosts on the internet. The company specializes in managed WordPress hosting. They also offer shared hosting, VPS, and dedicated servers. In addition to hosting, they offer domain names, email, website building tools, as well as SEO and marketing tools. Bluehost is a one-stop-shop for blogs, websites, and online marketplaces. They are US-based and operate all of their own servers.
Bluehost is considered a bargain web host. Because they serve a large volume of customers (over 2 million), they are able to take advantage of economies of scale to offer discount prices. A few similar bargain hosts include Go Daddy, Host Gator, Siteground, and DreamHost.
A Bit of History About Bluehost
Bluehost founder, Matt Heaton started the company as a free hosting service in 1996 in Utah. The original service was called 0catch.com. In 2003, he renamed the company to Bluehost and began selling shared hosting plans. During the years that followed, Bluehost became quite successful in selling low-cost hosting plans and offering one-click WordPress installation.
In 2010, the conglomerate Endurance International Group (EIG) acquired Bluehost. The following year, Matt Heaton stepped down as CEO. Along with Bluehost, EIG currently controls over 60 web hosting companies including HostGator, HostMonster, iPage, FatCow, A Small Orange, and many more.
In 2017, EIG laid off 400 people at Buehost’s Orem, Utah facility in an effort to consolidate and improve customer service. The company’s headquarters are now located in Burlington Ma. The current CEO is Suhaib Zaheer. Today, Bluehost is one of the world’s largest webhosts with over 2 million customers.
Address- 10 Corporate Drive
Burlington, MA 01803
Phone number- 888-401-4678
What Does Bluehost Offer?
Bluehost offer a wide range of hosting options as well as hosting related products such as domain names, website builders, backup, and security services, etc.
Types of hosting that Bluehost offers include:
- Shared hosting- This is your basic web hosting. With shared hosting, your site shares server space and computing power with other websites. Think of it as sharing an apartment with roommates. Instead of sharing a kitchen and living room, you’re sharing space on a server. Bluehost offers four shared hosting packages including Basic, Plus, Choice Plus, and Pro. The Basic package allows you to host one website with up to 50 GB of SSD storage and 5 email accounts. The higher-level packages add more storage space and bandwidth as well as a few more features. You can upgrade as your website grows. These packages are partially managed. This means that Bluehost keeps the server software up to date to keep your site secure. On Choice Plus and Pro packages, they offer backups and extra security features. These plans range from $7.99-$23.99 per month. With an introductory offer, prices start at $2.75 per month.
- Shared WordPress hosting- This is pretty much the same thing as shared hosting except Bluehost installs WordPress for you and keeps it up to date. There are three plans available including Basic, Plus, and Choice Plus. The Basic plan includes 1 website with 50GB of storage. These plans range in price from $7.99-$14.99 per month. Prices start at $2.75 per month with an introductory offer.
- E-Commerce hosting- These plans work the same as the shared hosting plans except they come with WooCommerce preinstalled and configured. This allows you to build a fully customized online store and securely accept credit card payments. There are three e-commerce plans available including Starter, Plus, and Pro. The Starter plan includes the Storefront theme and 100GB of storage. These plans range from $13.99-$31.99 per month. With an introductory offer, prices start at $6.95 per month.
- Managed WordPress hosting (WP Pro)- Recently, Bluehost introduced a premium fully managed WordPress hosting service called WP Pro. This service competes with other premium hosting providers such as Kinsta, WP Engine, WPX Hosting, etc. Managed hosting means Bluehost handles most of the technical side of the site for you. They automatically update WordPress core so you’re always using the latest version. They keep the server software up to date. In addition, they take care of security so you don’t have to worry about your site getting hacked. Bluehost will also help you optimize your site for speed. They also handle backups. There are three WP Pro plans available including Build, Grow, and Scale. The Build plan includes 100 free WordPress themes, daily backups, domain privacy + protection, and malware protection and removal. Prices range from $29.99-$59.99 per month. With an introductory offer, these plans start at 19.99 per month.
- VPS hosting- Virtual private server (VPS) hosting is kind of a hybrid between shared and dedicated hosting. With VPS hosting, RAM and CPU resources are dedicated to your account. They are not shared as they are with shared hosting. Your website will still be hosted on the same physical server as other websites, just like shared hosting. Essentially, hosting on a VPS guarantees you a specific amount of computing power. Your website is separated from the others on the server by a virtual ‘wall’. The benefit is that your site doesn’t slow down if another site on the same server receives too much traffic or uses too many resources. You are guaranteed the resources that you pay for. This makes your site faster and more reliable. Bluehost offers 3 VPS plans including Standard, Enhanced, and Ultimate. The Standard plan includes 2 GB of RAM, a 2 core CPU, 30 GB of SSD storage, 1 TB of bandwidth, and 1 IP address. VPS plans range from $29.99-$119.99 per month. Prices start at $19.99 per month with an introductory offer.
- Dedicated hosting- With these plans, you get your own physical server. This way, other sites aren’t slowing your site down because they are stored on completely separate hardware. Bluehost’s dedicated server starter plan offers 500GB storage, 4 core @ 2.3 GHz CPU, 4GB ram, 5TB of bandwidth per month, and 3 IP addresses. The higher-end plans offer even more storage space, bandwidth, and computing power. Dedicated hosting plans range from $119.99-$209.99 per month. Prices start at $79.99 per month with an introductory offer.
Bluehost no longer offers cloud hosting. They did in the past but discontinued it for some reason.
Every Bluehost hosting plan includes free SSL certificates and a free domain name for the first year. After the first year is up, domain renewall costs $17.99 per year.
Bluehost also offers a 30 day money-back guarantee on all of their hosting plans. For support, each plan includes 27/7 live chat, email support, and phone support. The more premium hosting plans also offer a higher level of support with more knowledgeable staff.
In addition, you have access to free site builders as well as various tools and add ons. Cloudflare integration is available to speed up your site with their free CDN service. Security and backup features are available as well. Most hosting plans include email.
Bluehost also offers consultation services to help you grow your site. These include SEO, social media marketing, and advertising. These services can help you create content, create ads, and optimize your site for search engines. These services aren’t free but they are available.
Bluehost has a lot going for it. After all, they didn’t become one of the biggest web hosts in the industry by accident. In this section, I’ll outline all of the things I like about Bluehost.
Bluehost is Recommended by WordPress
Bluehost is one of only three hosts that are officially recommended by WordPress. They have been the WordPress’s #1 recommended hosting provider since 2005. The other two WordPress recommended hosts include Dreamhost and Siteground.
The main benefit of this recommendation is that you know that you won’t run into any compatibility issues if you plan to use Bluehost to host your WordPress site. Bluehost even employs engineers that work on WordPress core software. They automatically install WordPress to new accounts and ensure that the newest version is always installed so you always have access to the latest features.
Admittedly, these days this recommendation doesn’t mean all that much. Pretty much every host is compatible with and optimized for WordPress. They pretty much need to be because WordPress is by far the most popular content management system (CMS) with a market share of over 60%.
Even though Bluehost does not offer an uptime guarantee, they still have above average uptime. According to testing from Down.com, Bluehost has an average uptime of around 99.94%. This is above the industry standard of 99.90%.
Based on my testing, most months my uptime fell between 99.5-100%. Once in a while, I noticed a bad month where uptime dropped to 98%. Overall, I’m very happy with the reliability of Bluehost’s servers. They preform as well or better than most other budget hosts.
In my 3 years with Bluehost, I only experienced one prolonged outage. During one evening, my site went down for around 4 hours. I’m unsure of the cause. Other than that, there have only been minor hiccups here and there where my site wouldn’t load for a minute or two. Probably because the shared servers temporarily became overloaded.
A Note About the Importance of Uptime:
When comparing the uptime of different hosts, it’s helpful to think about the potential downtime in terms of minutes instead of percent. 99% uptime sounds excellent but it’s really not. For example, if your site has 99% uptime, that means it’s down for 7.3 hours per month. That’s unacceptable. If your site has 99.99% uptime, it’s down for about 44 minutes per month or a minute and a half per day. That’s much better.
Every minute your site is down, you’re losing potential customers. For example, if your site gets 1,000 visitors per day, you lose about 150 visitors per month if your site is down 0.5% of the time. In terms of conversion rate, this could cost you 1 or 2 sales. It could end up costing you more to go with a cheap host with poor uptime than to spend more on a premium host with better uptime because you’re missing out on sales when your site is down. There are hosts out there who guarantee 99.99% uptime. Just something to think about. If your site is new and you only get 100 visitors per day, a bit of downtime is pretty insignificant.
Bluehost Offers Low Introductory Pricing
Bluehost offers some of the lowest introductory rates in the hosting industry. If you’re on a tight budget, you can get your site up for as little $2.75 per month if you sign up for 3 years of service. That’s just $99 for 3 whole years. If you’d prefer to pay for one year, the rate is $4.95 per month. Still a bargain.
For this price, you get everything you need to start your site including 50GB of SSD storage, a free SSL certificate, and even a free domain for the first year. I don’t know of any other host where you could get a site up and running so cheaply.
Bluehost’s introductory rate is particularly enticing for new blogs and websites. After all, your first year you probably won’t be getting much traffic or earning much money from your site. It doesn’t’ make sense to spend a bunch of money on hosting until you know that your website idea is viable.
Of course, this pricing is only valid for new customers for the one- three years depending on the plan you choose when you sign up. The renewal fee is considerably higher at $7.99 per month for the basic plan. Most plans increase by over 100% when it’s time to renew.
Bluehost Offers a Free Domain for First Year
Bluehost offers a free domain name for the first year with every new account. This has a value of $17.99 at Bluehost. Most domain registrars charge $9-$20 per year for a domain. After the first year, you’ll have to pay the domain renewal fee annually if you want to keep your domain.
There is one little catch. If you sign up for hosting and take advantage of the free domain then decide to cancel within the first 30 days, you will be charged for the domain. They will just refund the difference. I imagine this policy prevents people from opening up an account with the plans to cancel just so they could score a free domain. I’ll talk more about the cancellation policy in a bit.
Another thing to consider is that $17.99 is a bit steep for a basic domain. For example, Namecheap offers basic .com domains for just $8.99 per year. If you keep the same domain for more than a few years, you’ll end up spending less if you register it somewhere cheaper.
Ease of Use
Some hosts are better suited for beginners than others. Bluehost’s platform is very user friendly and easy to navigate. This makes it a great choice for those that are just starting their first site.
All Bluehost shared hosting plans use the Bluehost Control Panel. This is a slightly customized version of the popular control panel, cPanel. You can accomplish pretty much everything you need by just pointing and clicking. You don’t need any coding knowledge to manage the backend of your site.
If you’re a more advanced user, the control panel also offers all of the technical options that you’re may need. For example, you can access your website’s files and databases to change pretty much anything on your site. You can also change your server and domain settings. The control panel does a great job of being user friendly but still powerful.
Bluehost also makes it easy to manage all of your products. With one username and password, you can manage your server, your email, and your domain. You can easily also upgrade, downgrade, cancel, add to, or renew services. Everything feels pretty streamlined.
To make building your site even easier, Bluehost also offers several website builders including Drupal and Weebly. Many people consider these easier to use than WordPress. These allow you to simply drag and drop to build and customize your site. They are just a bit more limited than WordPress in what they can achieve.
Before opening my Bluehost account and starting this site, I had zero experience with building websites, WordPress, or web design. I didn’t know anything about cPanel, themes, plugins, databases, domains, or anything else related to websites or hosting. Blehosts’s platform was easy enough to use that I was able to register my domain, install WordPress, install a theme, customize my site, and grow it all by myself.
Of course, these things are easier said than done. If you’re starting from scratch it takes quite a bit of time and effort to research and learn how to build and grow a blog. The point is that the Bluehost’s platform is user friendly enough that a complete novice, like myself at the time, can start a website and find some success.
Free SSL Certificates
Bluehost offers a free SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt for every domain. This way, you don’t have to buy or install your own. This isn’t much of a selling point anymore because pretty much every decent host offers this. An SSL is pretty much required these days for site security and SEO purposes.
SSL certificates automatically install on most new domains registered with Bluehost. In some cases, you may need to click a button to turn SSL on. If you’re installing an SSL certificate on an existing site, you’ll also have to do a 301 redirect so you don’t get mixed content errors. For more info, check out this step-by-step guide to migrating from HTTP to HTTPS from Search Engine Watch.
Around every 2 years, your SSL certificate expires. If you enable AutoSSL on your account, Bluehost will automatically renew your SSL certificate for you before it expires. This way, you never have to worry about it.
What is an SSL Certificate and Why do you Need it?
SSL is a security protocol that stands for Secure Socket Layer. It allows you to use the HTTPS protocol which is much more secure than HTTP. Your SSL certificate is linked to your domain, host, or server and acts as the identity of your site. SSL is sometimes described as a passport for your website.
The SSL certificate establishes an encrypted and authenticated connection between the server where your site is hosted and your visitor’s web browser using cryptographic key pairs. There is a public and private key. These small data files are used to encrypt and decrypt data that is sent between the server and your visitor’s computer.
When someone clicks on your site, the server sends them the public key. The key allows your visitor’s web browser to securely communicate with your server. It essentially acts as proof that you and your visitor are who you say you are. This way, you know that the data passing between the server and browser is reliable and has not been tampered with.
You install an SSL certificate to migrate your site from HTTP to HTTPS. You can tell whether or not you have an SSL certificate installed by looking at your URL. If it starts with HTTPS, the certificate is installed. You can also look for the small lock to the left of your URL. This indicates that your site is secure.
The SSL certificate serves three purposes:
- Increase your site’s security- The SSL certificate prevents data from being intercepted and stolen or altered by a criminal. The data stays private. The SSL certificate allows users to safely send login information, credit card info, personal information like their name or address.
- Improve search engine rankings- SSL certificates also play a pretty major role in SEO these days. Starting in 2014, Google began encouraging everyone to migrate install an SSL certificate to migrate their site from HTTP to HTTPS. In 2018, Google began flagging sites without an SSL certificate by marking them as unsafe in the URL bar. These days, SSL is a ranking factor for SEO. In other words, if your site doesn’t have an SSL certificate, your search engine rankings will suffer which costs you traffic.
- Increase trust- When a customer sees that your site runs on the HTTPS protocol, they know that the site is secure. They can safely enter information without having to worry about falling victim to internet crime.
SSL is considered best practice these days, regardless of whether or not you’re selling anything or collecting any user data.
For more in-depth info, check out this guide to SSL from ssl.com.
Bluehost Uses cPanel
cPanel is a Linux-based control panel that is used for web hosting. It allows you to easily manage all of your hosting services including your email, domain, databases, website files, server settings, FTP, software installed on your server, subdomains, etc. You can change pretty much everything related to your site in the same place. cPanel is the current industry standard for managing a web hosting account. It is so popular and user friendly that some people won’t even choose a web host that doesn’t use it.
Bluehost uses cPanel. The beauty of this is that you don’t have to relearn everything when you switch from one host to the next if both hosts use cPanel. You’re already familiar with the system for managing the backend of your site. Because cPanel is so widely used, you can find tutorials and support all over the internet to help you solve pretty much any problem or learn anything you need about the system. It is also very reliable because it has been thoroughly tried and tested. Millions of websites use it.
There are some drawbacks to cPanel as well. First, the sheer amount of features can be overwhelming. It would also be pretty easy to accidentally change a setting and mess up something on your site if you’re not sure what you’re doing. Some people also complain that cPanel is too bloated with unnecessary features and that it slows your site down. For these reasons, some web hosts decide to design their own control panel that is lightweight and fast. To me, the pros of using cPanel outweigh the cons.
Another problem with cPanel is that it adds cost. Hosts have to pay for licensing to use the software. When the owner of cPanel decides to increase the price, your hosting prices will increase soon after.
Bluehost Offers Plenty of Storage Space
Bluehost’s cheapest shared hosting plan offers 50GB of SSD storage. That is one of the most generous storage space offerings of any host. The higher range plans don’t meter the storage. Instead, they limit you if they feel like you’re using an unreasonable amount of space.
For comparison, Siteground, WP Engine, and WPX hosting basic shared WordPress hosting plans only offer 10GB of storage space. This is pretty standard for the industry. For reference, most small to medium-sized websites only need 2-6GB of storage space. If your site has lots of photos, you may need a bit more.
The basic plan allows you to create up to 20 databases with a maximum size of 3GB each. The higher-end plans offer unlimited databases with a maximum size of 5GB each. This is very generous as well. Most small or medium website databases are between 10 MB and 200 MB.
Bluehost Offers Good Security Options
Site security is incredibly important. If your site gets hacked, you could lose all of your data. If it gets infected with a virus or malware you could end up the victim of identity theft.
Luckily, Bluehost offers some decent security options including:
- Free SSL certificates- This protects mainly against man-in-the-middle attacks. Your data is encrypted when sent between the server and your visitor’s web browsers so criminals can’t steal or manipulate the data. Free SSL certificates come with every Bluehost plan.
- Domain privacy (WHOIS privacy)- All website owners must make their contact information publicly available, according to ICANN. Domain privacy service hides your personal information by replacing it with contact information from a forwarding service. This helps to protect you from spam, phishing attempts, scams, and potential identity theft. Most of the higher-level plans such as Choice Plus and Pro shared hosting include domain privacy. You can also purchase it as an add-on for around $1 per month.
- SiteLock- This tool protects your site from malware and various types of attacks from hackers. It periodically scans your site and removes malware it finds. SiteLock is available as an add on. There are several plans to choose from ranging from $3.99 per month to $29.99 per month.
- CodeGuard- This is a backup service. It allows you to back up your website’s files and databases daily. It can also monitor for malware. If you lose your website data somehow, you can restore your backup from CodeGuard. Some hosting plans include CodeGuard. It is also available as an add-on. Several plans are available. They range in price from $2.99 to $23.95 per month.
- Two-factor authentication (2FA)- This is an extra layer of security for your account. Even if someone else knows your password somehow, they still can’t log in with two-factor authentication enabled. This system only allows you to access your account if you present two pieces of identification. One is your password. The other is a one time code that you get through email or an authentication app like Google Authenticator.
- IP Blacklists- You can create these to block traffic that is illegitimate for potentially malicious from accessing your site.
- Secure FTP- This allows you to securely transfer files to and from your server.
- Password protected directories- You can set specific folders to require a password in order to open or change them. This adds another layer of security if you allow someone else to work on the backend of your site.
As far as I’m aware, pretty much every plugin, theme, and website builder is compatible with Bluehost’s servers. Also, Bluehost does not ban or restrict plugins like some other hosts. You have the freedom to do pretty much whatever you want with your site in terms of design and function.
Of course, this isn’t to say that everything is cross-compatible. For example, you may encounter a plugin that doesn’t work with your theme.
Bluehost offers email hosting with all plans. This allows you to create a domain-specific email like firstname.lastname@example.org. This appears more professional than using a Gmail account for your business.
The basic plan allows you to create up to 5 email accounts. The higher range plans allow unlimited email accounts. You can access your email through Webmail or link it to your existing email account. This is great if you’re already used to using Gmail or Outlook for example.
One limitation is that you can’t send more than 500 emails per hour so you’ll need to find another solution if you want to send out bulk emails.
If you prefer, you can also add Office 365 to your plan starting at $4.99 per month for a basic plan.
Up to Date Server Software
Bluehost currently allows you to run PHP 7.0, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, and 7.4. They generally offer the newest version reasonably soon after release. PHP is a scripting language that is run on the server. Keeping PHP up to date helps with site security.
Bluehost also allows you to run your databases on the latest version of MySQL. They also support other languages.
30 Day Money Back Guarantee
To score the best deal on hosting, you usually have to pay for at least one year upfront. Most hosts don’t offer introductory rates on monthly plans. Bluehost is no different. In fact, they don’t even offer monthly plans for new customers. This is tough because you don’t want to sign up for a service for a whole year without knowing whether or not you’ll like it.
Luckily, Bluehost offers a 30 day money-back guarantee on all of their plans. This allows you to test out the service for speed, reliability, features, etc. before you commit to a whole year. If, after trying the service out, you decide that it’s not for you, you can cancel and get your money back. This removes all of the risk.
Of course, there are some terms and conditions. If you cancel within the first 30 days, you get all of your money back that you paid for hosting. Some add-ons and extras are non refundable.
For example, if you took advantage of the free domain when you signed up, they will deduct $15.99 from your refund for the price of the domain. Of course, you still own that domain name as long as you keep renewing it every year. You can use your domain name with any host by simply changing the name servers. Some add-ons are non-refundable as well. Check out Bluehost’s refund policy for more info.
I have never tested out Bluehost’s 30 day money back guarantee so I can’t speak to how difficult it is to actually get your money back.
Cloudflare CDN Integration
A CDN or content delivery network is a group of servers that are distributed geographically around the world. For example, there may be multiple servers located in North America, Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, and Oceania. Some of your site’s content is cached on these servers. This way, when someone visits your site from the other side of the world, the page loads faster than if the data had to travel all the way from your hosting server. This is possible because the CDN server is physically closer to them. It takes less time for the data to travel less distance. Using a CDN can also offer some security improvements as well.
For example, imagine your site is hosted on Bluehost’s servers in Utah, USA and someone in Thailand visits your site. If you have a CDN service activated, this visitor may load data from a server located in Bangkok, which is over 8000 miles closer to them than Utah.
Bluehost does not have its own CDN. Instead, they offer Cloudflare integration. At this time, Cloudflare offers a free version of their CDN. They offer 154 datacenters across the globe to help your site run fast and efficiently. This isn’t much of a selling point for Bluehost because you can use Cloudflare’s CDN with pretty much any host.
To set the CDN up, you’ll need to create an account with Cloudflare, enable CDN integration, then change your name servers in the control panel.
Check out this guide to Cloudflare from Bluehost for more info on setting up the CDN.
Cloudflare is a great company that offers a shockingly great service for free. One thing to consider is that Cloudflare probably won’t offer this free CDN service forever. They offer this service for free to grow market share. At some point in the future, they will probably begin to charge. At that point, you’ll need to pay, shop for a different CDN, or migrate to a host that includes CDN service.
For more info on Cloudflare’s CDN, check out their website here.
Bluehost isn’t perfect. It has flaws. Some are minor annoyances and others may very well be deal breakers. In this section, I outline everything I don’t like about Bluehost.
Bluehost offers all of the standard support options including 24/7 live chat, phone support, and email tickets. They have three different support departments that you can contact depending on the nature of your problem or question.
- Technical support- This department handles technical issues related to your server, domain, email, or WordPress.
- Account management- This department handles billing, questions regarding terms of service, and the products in your account.
- Sales- For general questions about Bluehost’s services. These are the guys you’ll contact if you’re a potential new customer thinking about migrating to Bluehost or opening an account with them.
Bluehost also offers a large knowledgebase of blog posts, video tutorials, FAQs, how-to guides, etc. that outline how to solve common problems related to your hosting or make basic changes to your site. For example, if you want to activate an SSL certificate, you can find a walkthrough in the knowledgebase.
Most of the time, you can accomplish what you need to accomplish without even contacting support if you’re willing to spend some time reading up on your issue and working through it yourself. This is a great option if you like learning about the technical side of your site.
This all sounds great but the problem is that the most important support department, technical support, isn’t all that knowledgeable or helpful in my experience. There are some issues that the basic phone and chat support staff don’t have the knowledge to solve. In this case, you’ll have to wait for higher-level support.
Support is also somewhat limited in what they will help you with. If your problem is related to the server, they will assist you. If your issue is related to WordPress, support is pretty useless, even though Bluehost considers itself a managed WordPress host. For those who aren’t technically inclined, this can be an issue.
The support is also quite slow and understaffed. Support requests get backed up. Sometimes for 2-3 days.
Having said this, after your site is up and running, you probably won’t need technical support all that often. If you’re the kind of person who likes to tinker with your site and solve your own problems, this poor support isn’t an issue.
Before opening an account with Bluehost, I recommend you test out their support to see for yourself. Open up a live chat with their sales department and ask a few questions, even if you already know the answer. This way, you can see how quickly they respond and gauge the quality of their response. If you prefer, you can give them a call.
My Experience with Bluehost Support
Over the years, I have had to contact technical support on two occasions when something broke on my site. The first time, I began receiving an error message when updating blog posts. I contacted technical support through live chat. An agent connected within two minutes and was able to replicate my issue on his end. He told me that the issue was related to the server and he would try to fix it.
After 10-15 minutes, he messaged me back explaining that he couldn’t solve the issue and that it would need to be elevated to the next level of support with an email ticket. This is fine. Some problems are beyond the lower level support staff.
The problem is that there was a 48 hour wait for someone at the next level of support to even look at my issue. That’s unacceptable but there was nothing I could do but wait. For two days, I was unable to update some of my blog posts. Not the end of the world but imagine if my entire site had gone down for two days. Anyway, support eventually solved the issue.
The second time I needed to contact support, my site wasn’t loading properly. The site was slow and some elements just weren’t showing up or working properly. After trying to solve the issue myself without any luck, I decided to contact support. In this case, support was downright useless. They took 15-20 minutes between responses and eventually stopped responding completely. Pretty disappointing.
In Bluehost’s defense, the issue turned out to be plugin related. Plugin and theme issues are not generally covered under managed hosting. Still, I would have preferred for them to at least check to make sure everything was operating correctly on their end instead of doing nothing.
I have also contacted the account management department a few times to ask some questions before renewal. In one case, I was able to score a major discount. In another case, I had the support agent remove some products from my renewal that they were trying to upsell. Both times, account management support replied quickly, answered all of my questions, and solved my issues. No complaints here.
In my experience, Bluehost’s support is slow and not quite knowledgeable enough. If you expect to require support often, you’ll want to avoid Bluehost.
Slow Site Loading Speed
Your host plays a major role in your site’s speed. If the shared servers are overloaded or poorly optimized, your site speed suffers. This results in an increased bounce rate, reduced conversion rate, and even a decrease in search engine rankings.
Bluehost offers average loading speed at best. The best site speed comparison I have found is this one from Matthew Woodward. His test shows that Bluehost had time to first byte (TTFB) speed of 452ms and a page load time of 2.03 seconds according to GTMetrix. With Pingdom, Bluehost had a page load time of 2371ms.
These speeds aren’t great but aren’t horrible either. In most web host speed comparisons, Bluehost falls somewhere in the middle. A fast site would have a TTFB of around 100ms and page loading speed under 1 second. Ideally, you want your site to load in under 2 seconds.
These days, site speed is more important than ever. The main reason is that page loading speed is now a ranking factor according to Google. This is true of both desktop and mobile pages. If your site is too slow, it will rank lower in search engine results pages (SERPS) and receive less organic traffic. In other words, a slow site is bad for SEO.
When your site takes too long to load, user experience suffers as well. In fact, according to this study from Google, 53% of your users will leave your site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. This results in a higher bounce rate and reduced conversions. If your site is slow, you’re really missing out.
To check your site speed, I recommend you run several of your URLs through Google Page Speed Insights. This tool tests your page speed of a specific URL and gives you a performance score on several important metrics including First Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, Largest Contentful Paint, and Cumulative Layout Shift. Optimize these to increase your site’s speed and improve SEO.
Of course, your hosting isn’t the only factor that affects your page speed. To keep your site running fast, you need to optimize your code and properly size your images. A bulky theme and large images really slow you down. You should use caching and a CDN to speed things up more.
High Renewal Price
Bluehost offers introductory rates which are only valid when you open a new account. You can take advantage of the introductory rate for one, two, or three years. The more time you sign up for, the more money you save.
For example, the Basic shared hosting or shared WordPress hosting plans cost $4.95 per month if you sign up for 1 year, 3.95 per month if you sign up for 2 years, and just $2.75 per month if you sign up for 3 years. You need to decide when you first sign up.
With this pricing model, the price appears very low at first. $2.75 per month is nothing. If you want to pay that rate, you must commit to 36 months with Bluehost and pay around $100.
When it’s time to renew, you’ll be charged the regular rate. For the Basic shared hosting plans, that’s $7.99 per month which equals $95.88 per year. If you want to pay monthly, prices are even higher.
All of Bluehost’s plans work this way.
The prices increase substantially once your initial plan expires. For the inexpensive shared hosting plans the price increases by over 100%. For the more premium VPS, WP Pro, and Dedicated Plans, the renewal price increases around 50% from the introductory rate.
You’ll want to consider the renewal price when comparing different hosts. For example, Bluehost’s Choice Plus shared hosting plan costs $6.95 per month for the introductory period and $14.99 per month when you renew. You can get comparable hosting for $10 per month from a host like Cloudways. Over the long run, you’ll be paying more if you stick with Bluehost.
Of course, you can always migrate your site to another host after the introductory period ends. At that point, you can take advantage of another host’s introductory offer. Most hosts use a similar pricing strategy to get people in the door.
How to Save Money When Renewing
When my first year of hosting was about a month away from expiring, I contacted the sales department through chat and sent this message:
“Hello, my hosting plan is about to expire but the renewal price is too high for me. I’m thinking about moving to Siteground but would rather stay with Bluehost if I could get a better rate. Is there anything you could do for me?”
The woman replied that she would see what she could do. A few minutes later, she returned with an offer. She could give me 2 years for $178.80 or 3 years for around $250. I jumped on the 2 year plan, even though the 3 year plan was a better deal.
I ended up saving 50% off the standard rate just by asking for a discount. Instead of paying $14.99 per month, I paid just $7.45.
Bluehost Backups are Not Guaranteed
According to Bluehost’s Account Backup Policy, “We do offer complimentary backups for our customers. They are created on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. These backups are not guaranteed in any way. We highly recommend all Bluehost customers create and manage their own backups.”
Basically, Bluehost makes backups as a courtesy but doesn’t’ guarantee them. I imagine they do this to try to upsell you on their paid backup add-on. Most hosts make daily backups and keep them for around a month. They also typically offer some type of guarantee.
To prevent data loss, you need to make your own backups and store them somewhere other than Bluehost. Preferably in multiple locations. If Bluehost makes a mistake and loses your data, everything is lost if you didn’t back it up.
There are two main ways to go about backing up your site:
- Manual backup- You can make manual backups using cPanel then download them to your computer or upload them to the cloud. You’ll need to back up both your site’s files and your database. Personally, I prefer manual backups.
- Use a plugin- These can automate the backup process for you so you don’t have to worry about it. UpdraftPlus is a popular WordPress backup plugin. Bluehost includes CodeGuard Backup with some of their plans. You can also purchase CodeGuard as an ad on.
Ideally, you want to take a backup every day and before you make any major changes that could potentially break your site. If you have a backup, you can restore your site to exactly the way it was when the backup was taken.
How to Make a Manual Backup on Bluehost
To make a manual backup, start by navigating to your site files. Highlight them, right-click, and select compress into a Zip archive. Once this finishes, download the file to your computer. You can also do this through FTP.
Next, you’ll need to back up your site’s database. To do this, navigate to phpMyAdmin in cPanel. Select your database on the left side of the screen, click export, then click go. The file will download to your computer.
For a complete step-by-step guide to taking a manual backup, check out this great article from Blog Vault.com.
No Uptime Grantee
One fairly significant difference between Bluehost and most of its competitors is that Bluehost does not offer an uptime guarantee. They don’t even claim to meet the industry standard of 99.9% uptime. Instead, they offer this Network Server Uptime Agreement.
The agreement basically says that servers go down from time to time for a variety of reasons and that they’ll try their best to fix any problems within 15 minutes but sometimes it can take longer. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound too encouraging.
Having said this, Bluehost does offer excellent uptime in my experience. In my testing, I found that monthly uptime ranged from 99.4%-99.99%. Even though uptime is great, it would be nice to have a guarantee like other hosts offer.
When signing up and renewing your services, Bluehost likes to try to upsell you on products that you probably don’t need. They do this by giving you a free year of the service when you initially sign up for hosting. They then try to renew it automatically by adding it to your renewal invoice.
A few common upsells include SiteLock, CodeGuard, and Domain Privacy. These aren’t necessarily bad services but there are alternatives that are better and cheaper or free. Some people just don’t need these services at all.
The worst part is that Bluehost likes to make the add-on products impossible to remove without contacting support. For example, the first time I renewed my domain, I found that Bluehost added a backup service and security service to my account. Rather than the normal $17.99 per year, they wanted me to pay over $40. The fact that I was unable to remove products without contacting support put a bad taste in my mouth.
In addition, they like to place banner ads, links, and various sales pitches around their site. When you’re already a paying customer, it’s kind of annoying to see ads and upsells everywhere.
Of course, Bluehost isn’t the only web hosting company guilty of this. Upselling is a pretty common sales technique in the hosting industry. Particularly among budget web hosts. I imagine they make a nice chunk of their revenue by upselling services that their clients don’t need or don’t even know they’re paying for.
All I’m saying is, be sure to check your invoice thoroughly before signing up and before renewing so you know exactly what you’re paying for. If you notice that you’re being charged for a service that you don’t need, contact support and have it removed.
No Free Site Migration
Most hosts these days offer at least one site free migration when you sign up as an incentive to switch over to their service. Bluehost charges $149.99 to migrate your site from another host to their servers. This fee includes migration for 5 sites and up to 20 email accounts. In most cases, there will be no downtime. If you already have a site up and running and don’t want to do the migration yourself, this could be a deal-breaker.
Migrating a website from one host to another is a fairly easy job. There are even plugins that can do it for you for free with just a few clicks. Still, it’s nice to have an actual human professional oversee the process to make sure everything transfers correctly.
Unfortunately, Bluehost has some very strict content restrictions. You can’t post whatever you want on your website, even if it’s perfectly legal in your jurisdiction. If you violate their policy, they can remove the content or terminate your service.
For example, according to Bluehost’s acceptable use policy, a few types of prohibited content include adult related content, gambling related content, sales of weapons or ammunition, and drug-related content. If you want to cover any of these topics, you’ll want to choose a different host.
Bluehost also has a Defamatory, Obscene, or Abusive Website Policy that bans content that Bluehost considers to be obscene, defamatory, harassing, abusive, or threatening. This sounds like a great policy on paper but can be problematic in practice. The reason is that these terms are incredibly vague. Everyone has a different idea of what is obscene. Who is to judge your content and by what standards?
The problem with these policies is that they are a form of censorship. If Bluehost decides that it doesn’t like your content for whatever reason, they can remove it, even if it is perfectly legal. For example, maybe you write a controversial political post that Bluehost doesn’t agree with. In theory, they could use this policy to say that you post is defamatory or obscene and deplaftorm and censor you. This doesn’t sit well with me, personally. Of course, legally Bluehost has the right to restrict whatever they want on their servers.
I don’t believe Bluehost put these restrictions in place for any moral or political reasons. I believe the policy is strictly to avoid litigation. Any host that allows adult, gambling, or drug related content is opening themselves up to trouble with the law.
If you want to create a site or write a blog post that’s a bit edgy or controversial, you may run into issues or simply have to censor yourself. This isn’t just a problem with Bluehost. Most hosts restrict content in some way. If you plan to start a site that covers adult topics, read through the terms first to make sure you don’t break the rules and get kicked off.
Personally, I have never run into any content restriction or censorship issues because I keep this blog family friendly and PG rated. Having said that, I have had to self censor on a couple of occasions. For example, I wanted to write a post about a casino I visited in Mexico. This could be considered gambling related so I didn’t want to risk it.
Of course, some content restrictions are necessary. It is understandable that anything that breaks the law of the country where the server is located wouldn’t and shouldn’t be allowed. Bluehost doesn’t allow any sites that engage in phishing, identity theft, Ponzi schemes, distribution of viruses, etc. These are good policies that help to keep everyone safe from various internet scams and crimes.
You Can’t Pick your Server Location
Bluehost does not allow you to choose where in the world your site is hosted. Supposedly, Bluehost picks the ideal data center location for you based on your geographical location. The problem with this is that you may be located in a different region than your target market.
For example, maybe you live in the UK but you want to target US traffic. Chances are, your site will be hosted at Bluehost’s UK datacenter. Your site will load slightly slower in the US because it’s hosted across the Atlantic Ocean. One solution is to set up Cloudflare CDN. This helps minimize delays greatly so it doesn’t matter as much where your site is hosted physically.
Most other large hosts allow you to pick the continent where your site is hosted. Often you at least have a choice between North America, Europe, or Asia and sometimes Oceania. This allows you to better optimize your site’s speed for the location of the majority of your visitors.
Bluehost Gets Poor Reviews
While researching Bluehost, you’ll probably find that they get some pretty bad reviews. For example, on Trustpilot, Bluehost gets a 1.6/5 star rating with 627 reviews. That’s pretty poor. In fact, it’s so poor that it’s a red flag.
If you read through these reviews, you’ll see plenty of complaints of poor customer service, data loss, poor support, slow site loading speeds, excessive downtime, billing problems, and more. These kinds of reviews can really scare you away. Particularly when there are so many of them. Personally, the only issue I’ve had with Bluehost is that the technical support is lacking.
Of course, you will see some bad reviews for every host. That’s why it’s important to do your research before choosing. Hopefully, this review is helping.
Vague Service Limits
On Bluehost’s shared hosting plans you’ll see phrases like unlimited SSD storage or unmetered bandwidth or unlimited websites. These things aren’t actually unlimited or unmetered. They just don’t have hard limits.
The problem with this is that it’s simply inaccurate and feels like false advertising. Bluehost absolutely limits your storage and bandwidth. For example, you can’t upload 10 terabytes of video to your site and serve 1 million visitors and expect to pay 5 bucks per month.
It would be nice if they would just tell you exactly how much storage and bandwidth you get with each plan like most other hosts do instead of using shady marketing tactics. Instead, you have to guess. If, at any time, your website starts using too many resources, you’ll be forced to pay more or your site will go down.
In Bluehost’s defense, I believe they are fairly lenient. If you have a sudden surge in traffic because a post went viral, they won’t shut your site down. They will require you to upgrade to a more expensive plan the increased traffic becomes normal.
I imagine they market their plans the way they do in hopes that you’ll buy a more expensive plan than you really need. For example, according to this interesting article from Search Engine Journal, 50% of local businesses see less than 500 visitors per month. All of these websites could get away with the smallest hosting plans available. I would guess that at least some of them pay for more than they need.
No Monthly Billing Option
Bluehost doesn’t offer the option to pay monthly for new customers. The shortest plan duration for new customers is one year. When the time comes to renew, you can opt to pay monthly. The problem is that they charge a much higher fee if you decide to do this. You’re better off going with a different host if you want to pay monthly.
If you’re working on a short term project that you only need to host for a couple of months or if you’re looking for a host that allows you to pay by use, check out Cloudways. They allow you to only pay for the resources that you use or pay month to month.
Endurance International Group (EIG) Owns Bluehost
Some people don’t like EIG and don’t want to give them any business. There are several reasons for this. The main ones being poor technical support and site speed.
EIG tends to buy up small but well run hosting companies then starts integrating them into their ecosystem. So far, EIG owns around 60 hosting brands. Once they buy a new host, they often reduce or remove the original support staff and use their own instead. EIG uses the same support staff for multiple hosting companies. The technical support is lower quality than many smaller web hosts. There are also fewer support staff members so you have longer wait times.
Additionally, EIG also tends to migrate the customers to their own data centers and servers. The problem with this is that EIG’s servers may be slower, inferior, or just overloaded. EIG has also had a few massive outages in its history.
Tip: If you decide that you don’t want your site hosted with an EIG owned hosting company, be sure to do your research before signing up with a new host. Because EIG owns over 60 hosting companies, it’s easy to pass on one EIG owned host and unknowingly sign up with another one of their hosts.
While researching hosting, I have come across several ‘best host’ lists that suggest mostly EIG hosting companies. These are clearly made by affiliates. It’s funny because they’re basically suggesting the same thing over and over. While researching hosting, try searching “who owns______” to determine whether the host is privately owned or owned by a larger company.
A few non-EIG hosting companies include Siteground, Cloudways, Kinsta, DreamHost, WPX Hosting, and GreenGeeks.
Who is Bluehost Good For?
Bluehost is a great choice if you’re starting your first website or you’re starting a new website or blog. You can get your site online for a year for around $60 or 3 years for less than $100, including a domain name for the first year. Bluehost’s shared hosting is about as cheap as it gets.
When you’re just starting a website, you want to spend as little as possible on it until you’re sure you will continue with it and that it has the potential to be successful and profitable. So many people start a website then abandon it a few months later when it’s not getting as much traffic as they expected. Some website ideas just don’t work out. You don’t want to waste a bunch of money on premium hosting when you’re just getting started
You also don’t need much storage space or bandwidth for a new website. Chances are, your new site will be less than 1 GB. Most new websites don’t get much traffic for the first 1-2 years. For example, it took me 2 years to grow this site to 10,000 visitors per month. If you’re experienced, you can probably grow much faster.
It doesn’t make sense to pay $20-$40 per month for premium hosting for a brand new site that gets a few hundred views per month. Bluehost offers a great stepping stone for getting your blog or website off the ground cheaply and easily. If you stick to working on your website and find some success, you can migrate it to a more premium host after your plan expires.
Who Should Avoid Bluehost?
Those with established websites or high traffic websites are probably better off going with a more premium host for three reasons:
- Site speed- Bluehost’s shared plans just aren’t as fast as most premium hosts. If your site is too slow, you’ll lose business.
- Price- After the introductory rate ends, Bluehost isn’t really all that cheap. Their premium WP Pro, VPS, and dedicated server plans aren’t any cheaper than their competitors. In some cases, they’re more expensive. You can find shared hosting for comparable rates.
- Support- If your site is established and making money, you need every problem to be fixed as soon as possible. If your site goes down, you can’t afford to wait two days for technical support to get your server fixed if something breaks. You need good support. That is something that Bluehost doesn’t offer, in my experience.
Where are Bluehost’s Servers Located?
Oddly, Bluehost doesn’t publish much info about their datacenters, their locations, or their security practices. What we do know is that Bluehost owns a large data center in Provo, Utah. According to this article from sitesource101.com, Bluehost also has data centers in Orem, Utah, Mumbai, London, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.
What is the Best Bluehost Alternative?
Probably Siteground. They offer better customer service and faster loading speeds. The drawback is that their plans cost quite a bit more. Particularly after the introductory period. I have read reports that Siteground’s service has declined over the past couple of years, unfortunately.
A few more decent Bluehost alternatives to look into include Cloudways, Dreamhost, A2 Hosting, and WPX Hosting.
Do I Recommend Bluehost?
Yes, I do recommend Bluehost but certainly not for everyone. It’s a great choice if you’re just starting your first blog. Bluehost a one-stop-shop where you can get your site up and running for less than $100. The control panel is easy for new users to learn to use. The servers are fast and reliable enough to get a new website off the ground.
If you’re site is already up and running and getting around 10k visitors per month or more, you’re probably better off going with a more premium hosting option. You’ll benefit from faster loading speeds, automatic backups, and better support.
If you need help migrating your site from your old host to your new host, you’ll also want to avoid Bluehost. Having to pay $150 for website migration service is a dealbreaker for many.
Last month my Bluehost plan expired. Instead of renewing, I decided to switch hosts. My main motivation in doing this was to increase site speed. I also wanted to choose a host that offered better support.
I ended up moving this site from Bluehost to WPX Hosting. After I get to know WPX a bit better, I’ll write a review of their service and how they compare to Bluehost. So far, I’m really impressed.
Final Thoughts About Bluehost
Choosing a host is one of the most important decisions you must make for your blog or website. Your host plays a major role in your site’s speed and uptime. They assist you with technical issues and keep your site secure. Hosting is also one of the biggest expenses of maintaining a website.
Choosing the wrong host or sticking with a bad host can really put your behind your competitors and cost you big time in the long run. If your site is slow or experiences excessive downtime, you’ll lose traffic and money. If support can’t help you fix a technical problem, you’ll have to hire an expensive developer to help you out. It really pays off have quality hosting.
When compared to other budget web hosts, Bluehost ranks somewhere in the middle. They offer great prices, plenty of functionality, and good security. When it comes to speed and uptime, they rank somewhere in the middle. As far as support goes, there is a lot of room for improvement.
Have you used Bluehost before? If so, leave your Bluehost review in the comments below to help other users in making their hosting decision!
More from Where The Road Forks
- How to Make $100 Per Month Blogging
- Multi-Niche Vs Single-Niche Blogging: Pros and Cons
- How to Grow a Blog to 10,000 Visitors Per Month