WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system (CMS) and for good reason: the software is flexible, easy to learn, and free to use.
With a huge library of free and premium themes and plugins, WordPress powers millions of websites around the world; if you’ve been thinking about creating your first professional website, it’s a solid place to start!
But while WordPress itself is free to use, you’ll need some place to house all your images, blog posts, and data to make it easy to reach over the internet.
That’s where WordPress hosting comes in.
In case you missed our What is Web Hosting guide, hosting is basically a service that provides servers or “land” on which your website or “house” is built on the internet.
But a quick Google search will show you there are a ton of WordPress hosting sites out there.
Which is great, we love options.
Until it’s time to make a decision about which offers the best WordPress hosting for you!
Figuring that out is exactly what this beginner’s guide is for.
What is WordPress Hosting?
While web hosting can be used to build websites using a ton of different web technologies and platforms, the popularity of WordPress has inspired a lot of providers to offer WordPress specific features and services.
But when it comes to WordPress web hosting, there are basically two options: Managed and Unmanaged.
Managed WordPress Hosting
Managed WordPress web hosting is built specifically for websites created with the CMS. It’s optimized for speed and ease of use.
With managed hosting, WordPress comes pre-installed so you don’t have to mess with installation, and most web hosts will offer other site-friendly features like automatic backups, caching, and updates.
And when you need help, managed hosting plans will have customer support teams that are super-knowledgeable in all things WordPress so you won’t have to worry about digging into your site’s backend (the code and server stuff) to fix a problem yourself.
These awesome benefits usually come with two downsides: managed WordPress hosting tends to be more expensive than unmanaged, and you’ll be more restricted in the plugins you can use (as the web hosting provider wants to make sure they can maintain top speed and performance for all their customers).
Unmanaged WordPress Hosting
The other option here is “unmanaged” WordPress hosting.
We’ve covered the different types of web hosting before, but here’s a quick rundown of those:
Shared WordPress Hosting
- What it is: Your website is placed on one server with a bunch of other sites – from a few hundred to thousands of other sites.
- Pros: Low cost, good for beginners
- Cons: You’ll run into trouble as your traffic grows
VPS WordPress Hosting
- What it is: Uses technology to digitally divide one server into multiple “virtual” servers.
- Pros: Offers more customization and scalability than shared hosting.
- Cons: Costs more than shared hosting and requires some technical know-how to set up.
Dedicated WordPress Hosting
- What it is: You’re website runs on an exclusive server, no other websites will be hosted on it.
- Pros: Maximum customization and scaling.
- Cons: Expensive.
When you’re just getting started, Shared Hosting is definitely your best bet as it’ll keep things simple and cost-effective to run.
How to Choose the Best WordPress Hosting
It’s important to consider what you really need when choosing a WordPress web host as you want to find a balance between what you’ll need to get started, what you’ll need to grow, and how much you spend while building your site up.
WordPress hosting prices are all over the place, with the cheapest entry-level plans starting at as little as $0.99 a month (we’ll tell you more about that tastiness below), while higher-tier plans can cost upwards of $60 a month.
So what matters when you’re looking for the best WordPress hosting site?
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re looking:
- Cost: Obviously. Compare prices from different hosting providers to see how much each will set you back. Also be sure to figure out the difference between “getting started” offers and how much the regular price is (usually you’ll get a discount for the first year or so). Most web hosts also offer discounts for multi-year contracts.
- Domains: Does the hosting package offer a free domain? (Don’t know what that is? Check out our guide: What is A Domain Name)
- Number of Sites: Can you build and run more than one website with that package? (This might not seem so important when you’re starting out, but a lot of successful online entrepreneurs fail with their first blog).
- Speed: How fast your website loads is an important factor in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and creating an overall positive experience for your website visitors. Most plans will be fine when you’re starting out but this can make a big difference as you grow.
- Bandwidth: This is how much traffic your hosting plan can handle per month. Just like speed, you’ll be fine with just about any plan to start but this will have an impact later on. Be aware that plans with “unlimited” bandwidth often have certain terms and conditions.
- Storage Space: How much data you can store on your website’s server (for images, pages, videos, email, etc.).
- Uptime: This is the percentage of time your WordPress hosting provider promises to have your website live on the internet. Stuff happens, technology fails, so this will never be 100% of the time but it should be 99%+
- SSL: This stands for “Secure Sockets Layer” and it keeps traffic to your website secure (when you see the “https://” in your search bar that website uses SSL). In addition to protecting your website from hackers, having SSL is now an important part of SEO. Some hosting providers will offer this for free, others will charge you as much as $100 per year.
- Customer Support: Especially when you’re starting out, you’ll want to make sure your WordPress hosting comes with solid support so you can get problems sorted out fast (because trust us, you will run into problems). Customer support that specializes in WordPress is a plus here.
- Email: Having a custom email to go with your pro website is good for branding – some providers will include this, some will charge you for it (you can also use your custom domain to get a professional email address with Gmail).
- Marketing Bonuses: Finally, some hosting packages will include things like free Google Adwords or Facebook Ad credits which can be handy for starting your website out with some ad traffic.
Top WordPress Hosting Sites
Now that we’ve covered your options and how to choose a WordPress hosting plan, let’s jump into a few of the top WordPress hosting providers.
To come up with this list, we used a combination of our personal experience in creating dozens of websites, as well as some stellar hands on research from our friends over at Hosting Facts and codeinwp.
Cheap WordPress Hosting: 1&1
1&1 also made it into our list of best web hosting companies and for good reason: they’re starting plan is CHEAP – at just $0.99 cents a month for their basic package, they can’t be beaten.
For our purposes here, they also offer cheap WordPress hosting at the same price ($0.99 the first year, $7.99 after that).
And in 1&1’s case, the low cost doesn’t mean you’re missing out on important features – there’s no setup fee, 50GB of storage is included (plenty for getting started), there aren’t any bandwidth or visitor limits, you can set up as many email accounts as you want, and they throw in a free domain name and SSL too (to be honest it’s worth it for that alone – most domain names will cost you $13 a year anyway)!
And all that’s on top of the managed WordPress hosting features you’d expect like easy WordPress setup, automatic updates, and 24/7 WordPress expert support (including by phone).
If you’re a WordPress/website beginner, it’s probably worth signing up with 1&1 for the first year to get that free domain name and learn how to build a website.
Then after that, if you want you can keep using them or take your existing website and knowledge to a new hosting provider with a better hosting plan for your needs.
Fastest WordPress Hosting: GoDaddy
Most WordPress web hosting plans are straightforward and easy to use, but GoDaddy stands out from the rest by making the whole process of setting up and building a WordPress site incredibly easy.
On top of offering the usual automatic setup and updates, they also offer pre-built websites and a drag and drop builder with access to a library of thousands of high-quality images – even in their basic plan (which is just $3.99 for the first year – not bad)!
Plus they also include one of those handy free domain names, unlimited email accounts, and award winning customer support.
And on top of all of that awesomeness, GoDaddy proved to be the fastest WordPress hosting site we found in multiple tests, making them a solid choice for hosting your first website.
Most Reliable WordPress Hosting: HostGator
HostGator is home to more than 10 million websites (including this one) for good reason – the offer an all around amazing web hosting service and experience.
Sure, they make it easy to install WordPress in one click, offer all the support and monitoring you need, and make sure your website is alway backed up.
But where they really stand out when it comes to WordPress web hosting is their reliability.
HostGator’s WordPress hosting uses a Content Delivery Network to make your website load super fast across the world.
They also use cloud hosting to make scaling your website’s performance just a click away for when you create that viral content that sends a huge spike of traffic to your website.
On top of that, they offer free automatic malware removal, $100 in Google Adwords credit, and free site migration with even their basic “Hatchling” plan (which starts at $3.95 a month for one website).
Plus, based on an average uptime of 99.96% and an average load time of 462 ms, you’ll be able to trust your WordPress website is fast loading and online when your audience wants to find you.
Best WordPress Hosting as Rated by Users: SiteGround
Rounding out our list of WordPress web hosting sites is SiteGround.
They’ve become hugely popular in the WordPress community due to the strength of their hosting platform (which includes servers optimized just for WordPress) – they’re one of the few hosts recommended by WordPress.org.
They offer good uptime, speed, some of the best WordPress support, free SSL and backups, the list goes on.
And they offer some of the best managed WordPress hosting prices around (starting at $3.95, you really won’t find managed hosting cheaper than this; at least we didn’t).