Is your WordPress hosting slow on Bluehost?
I had this problem too. I was with Bluehost for 2 years until I joined the WordPress Hosting and other Facebook Groups to see what unbiased people say (who actually knew their stuff).
Turns out, Bluehost is owned by EIG and is infamous for cutting costs by packing too many people on the same server (they have shareholders to please). People promote them because their aggressive affiliate program, but they underperform even on their managed WordPress hosting. They were also rated very poorly in Facebook polls, with SiteGround being the leader.
There’s an easy way to tell if Bluehost is the problem. Run your site through Google PageSpeed Insights to see if reduce server response time shows up in your report (see screenshot). You can also use bytecheck.com to see your time to first byte (TTFB). Both should be under 200ms.
We will use multiple speed testing tools throughout this tutorial (Pingdom, GTmetrix, Google PageSpeed Insights) since each tool helps in different areas of speed optimization.
Pingdom is the most accurate speed testing tool according to WP Rocket who says “the most important metric is load time!” When you’re done, hopefully your report looks like this…
Here’s my GTmetrix report which is good for learning which images need to be optimized (steps 5-7) and using the Waterfall tab to see individual elements (eg. plugins) that load slow.
This video should help (timestamps are in the video description):
Run your site through Google PageSpeed Insights to see if reduce server response time is in your report. If yes, this means your server (on Bluehost) is slow. A high number of websites on Bluehost have a slow server especially since Google recommends it should be under 200ms.
The only way to fix this is by lowering the amount of CPU consumed by your website (eg. deleting high resource plugins in GTmetrix’s Waterfall tab). Or upgrade your hosting to include more server resources (either with Bluehost or someone else) – but this is the #1 speed factor.
Slow response times? Do yourself a favor and switch to SiteGround. They are 10x better than Bluehost, will migrate you for free, and is who I used to get 100% prefect scores in GTmetrix.
Bluehost customers are constantly complaining about their slow servers on Twitter, and if you search Bluehost’s WordPress forums you can see tons of people are also having this issue…
Most WordPress users are running outdated PHP versions when upgrading can easily make your site 2-3x faster. Bluehost will not upgrade you automatically (because they don’t want to risk breaking your site) so you need to do this yourself as Bluehost releases new PHP versions.
Step 1: Run the PHP Compatibility Checker plugin to make sure your plugins work with the newest PHP version. This is why you should use reliable plugins that are actively maintained.
Step 2: Go to your Bluehost cPanel and click the PHP Config option…
Step 3: Select the latest PHP version…
Step 4: Check your website for errors. If you see any, you can always downgrade to the PHP version you were using previously. Errors are likely caused by themes/plugins that are not updated frequently by the developer, so make sure you’re using reliable plugins and theme.
Step 5: Keep your PHP updated to the latest version. Bluehost does an OK job in releasing new versions, however they don’t fully release the stable version (as oppose to the beta) for quite some time, when other hosting companies already have a stable version of PHP 7.2.9.
WP Rocket was the #1 rated cache plugin, costs $49 and is what I use on my site. WP Fastest Cache was the top rated free cache plugin and is super easy to setup. Both can shave multiple seconds off your load time and I wrote tutorials for both, plus W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache. Only use 1 caching plugin on your site – I recommend WP Rocket or WP Fastest Cache.
WP Rocket is better because it has more features than other cache plugins (lazy loading, database cleanup, hosting Google Anallytics code locally, and integration of Cloudflare + CDNs) which if you were to use another cache plugin, you would likely need to install 1 extra plugin for each of these features. WP Rocket has these built-in and for that reason, should give you better load times. It’s easy to setup, is updated frequently, and has less chance of errors.
Here’s a glimpse of the WP Rocket settings, but see my tutorial for full instructions…
Here’s a glimpse of the WP Fastest Cache settings…
If you’re already using W3 Total Cache…
Check my W3 Total Cache settings tutorial which has over 500 comments and has been used by over 250,000 people. Sometimes this plugin can work extremely well for some websites.
Cloudflare is free if you set it up through your cache plugin, otherwise Bluehost tries to charge you for this which is complete BS. Cloudflare’s CDN has 200+ data centers which reduces the geographical distance between your server and visitor, resulting in faster delivery of content. Most cache plugins also have an option to setup Cloudflare which make this pretty easy.
Sign up for Cloudflare, add your website, and it will run a scan. You will go through a set of pages until you see this dashboard, then change name servers in Bluehost to Cloudflare’s…
Global API Key – go to your Cloudflare account and click your name (in the top right) and go to your profile. Scroll down and you will see your global API key, then paste this into WP Rocket.
WP Fastest Cache also has an option for Cloudflare…
Here are the Cloudflare settings with W3 Total Cache (activate in the “extensions” tab first)…
Bonus Tip: StackPath’s CDN is $10/month but has 35 more data centers (more data centers = faster content delivery) which are heavily focused on the US. You can set this up with your cache plugin – just create a StackPath CDN URL and paste it into your cache plugin…
You can optimize images 3 ways: serve scaled images (resizing large images), specifying a width/height in the HTML, and optimizing images through lossless compression. All 3 are high priority items in GTmetrix which is the tool we’ll use for this and I will go through each one…
To find images that need to be resized, run any page through GTmetrix and expand the “serve scaled images” item (photo below). GTmetrix will show you which images need to be resized and their correct dimensions. Start with images that appear on multiple pages (logo, sidebar and footer images) since this improves load times for multiple pages (eg. your logo appears on your entire site). Then run other important pages through GTmetrix and work on those too.
It’s good to create a cheat sheet of your image dimensions so you can resize images accordingly (content body width, widget width, sliders, featured images, carousel images, etc). This way you or your designer can crop/resize images before uploading them to WordPress.
This means you need to specify a width and height in the image’s HTML or CSS. The WordPress visual editor should take care of this automatically, however you usually need to do this manually with images that appear in certain places like your widgets and CSS.
Again, expand the “specify image dimensions” item in your GTmetrix report and find those appearing on multiple pages. Locate each image in WordPress then view it’s HTML or CSS.
Add a width/height like this…
HTML Example (Shown Above):
<img src=”/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/example-image.jpg” alt=”Example Image” width=”360″ height=”180″ />
First find the image id or class then go to Appearance → Editor → Stylesheet). To specify your logo dimensions you would add this:
logo width: 180px (retina: 360px;) logo height: 110px max (retina: 220px;)
Imagify and Kraken are the best plugins to losslessly compress images in bulk (Imagify is free until you reach a 25mb monthly quota). Even then it should only be $4.99 to optimize ALL images on your website depending on how many you have. Other completely free plugins can break images and even your website. Trust me – I have tried many plugins and did my research.
WP Disable lets you disable settings in WordPress that consume CPU and slow down your site. Go through the settings and disable anything you don’t use. Enabling heartbeat control, deleting spam, minimizing requests, and disabling Gravatars/pingbacks/trackbacks will help.
If you’re using WP Rocket for your cache plugin, you can skip this step since there’s an option to do this in the WP Rocket “database” settings. Otherwise WP-Optimize does the same thing… it deletes garbage files like your spam and trash folder, pingbacks, trackbacks, and the potentially thousands of post revisions every time you click “save as draft.” Just install the plugin and click the WP-Optimize button on the left of your dashboard, then delete these…
Deactivate and delete all plugins you don’t use. If you only use plugins at certain times (Imagify, P3 Plugin Performance Profiler, WP Optimize…), delete it then reinstall it ONLY when needed. Hello Dolly and WordPress Importer can be deleted, you don’t need a Google Analytics plugin since the tracking code can be inserted directly into your footer, Facebook widgets can be created on the Facebook website, and same thing with Twitter widgets.
Disable any plugin settings that require ongoing scans/processes like Broken Link Checker’s ongoing scans, Wordfence’s live traffic reports, etc. These put constant stress on your server, will slow down your site, and in some cases it may cause bandwidth limitations on Bluehost.
Some plugins are infamous for being slow: Jetpack, Revolution Slider, event and calendar plugins, Disqus (and other comment plugins), live chat, and social media sharing plugins can all slow down your WordPress site. It’s key to use fast plugins – like Soliloquy Slider. Test your website in Pingdom after you install EACH plugin to see how it affects your page load times.
List of slowing loading plugins taken from the WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group…
Rerun your site through Pingdom and you should see a significant improvement in scores/load time. If not, this probably means you’re on Bluehost’s cheapest $3.95/month plan and you’re getting what you pay for. Any serious website should not be on such a cheap plan especially if it’s a business website and you rely on it to make a living. Let me know your new page load time in the comments! Or send me your Pingdom/GTmetrix report and I’ll send a few suggestions.
SiteGround is used by Yoast, myself, and recommended by WordPress. They are #1 in nearly every Facebook poll and give most people significant load time improvements especially if they were using mediocre hosts: GoDaddy, Bluehost, HostGator, InMotion, Dreamhost, EIG.
I use their semi-dedicated GoGeek plan which comes with 4x more server resources than shared hosting. Click through my pages to see how fast they load, check out my GTmetrix report, or see people who migrated and posted new load times. They also do free migrations.
DigitalOcean on Cloudways and Kinsta are also good and start at $10/month and $30/month. Cloudways is more for developers who don’t need cPanel, email hosting, or the support you get with SiteGround. Kinsta is basically what WP Engine used to be (pricey, but awesome). My entire blog is basically dedicated to helping people make their website load faster. I refuse to recommend $2/month hosting since it’s most people’s biggest regret when running a website.
They’re recommended by WordPress:
And by Ivica who runs the WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group with 16,000+ members.
A few threads:
SiteGround has 3 plans:
Higher plans include more server resources (#1 factor in the WordPress optimization guide). Here’s the full comparison chart, but GrowBig gives you about 2x more server resources than StartUp, and GoGeek is semi-dedicated hosting which gives you even more. GrowBig and up comes with a free migration, staging, advanced caching, and ability to host multiple websites. GoGeek comes with priority support. Their cloud hosting is quite the price jump at $80/month.
You can see this on their features page:
People usually migrate because their speed technology can cut load times in half:
See my WordPress speed optimization guide to learn how to:
If you have a high server response time in Google PageSpeed Insights, Bluehost may be the problem. Bluehost is owned by EIG who is infamous for overcrowding servers, causing them to be slow.
Upgrade to PHP 7.2 in your Bluehost dashboard, activate Cloudflare, use a good cache plugin like WP Rocket, configure it with optimal settings, and optimize images and plugins.
Yes, but you should optimize your website first and consider alternative hosts. Bluehost's Optimized WordPress Hosting or VPS plans aren't nearly as fast as semi-dedicated or cloud hosting from other providers. Join some Facebook Groups and do your research.
WP Rocket, ShortPixel, and Asset Manager are 3 key WordPress speed plugins. If you're not using WP Rocket, you will need to install additional plugins to take care of Heartbeat Control, database cleanup, lazy loading, and hosting Google Fonts and Analytics locally.
GTmetrix has the most robust recommendations and is great for finding slow plugins and unoptimized images. Google PageSpeed Insights is primarily good for measuring server response times. Otherwise, follow the speed recommendations provided by GTmetrix.
Most slow WordPress plugins include social sharing, statistic (analytics) plugins, sliders, portfolios, page builders, calendars, chat, contact form, related post, sitemap, Wordfence, WPML, WooCommerce, and any plugin that runs ongoing scans or processes. Your slowest loading plugins can be found using Query Monitor or in your GTmetrix Waterfall.
Other external scripts like Google AdSense, Facebook widgets, and high CPU plugins, are nearly impossible to optimize and best to avoid all together.
Did this tutorial work?
Let me know in the comments and feel free to share your new load time! If you still have a slow WordPress site on Bluelost let me know about that too… I will gladly look into your Pingdom + GTmetrix report and send you a few suggestions (just please do what you can from this guide).
I have a confession…
Years ago, I used to be one of those bloggers recommending Bluehost as an affiliate. But that changed after joining over 30 Facebook Groups and reading hundreds of conversations where people asked about the “best” hosting. I immediately transferred my website from Bluehost to SiteGround (spoiler: my loads times are now under 1s). I also stopped recommending Bluehost since there was no comparison between these two – please do your research on social media!
SiteGround was rated the #1 host over 34 Facebook polls (even when compared to Bluehost) and is also used by Yoast. People who migrated from Bluehost to SiteGround were able to cut 7s off their load time. Do your research on Trustpilot, Advanced Twitter Search, and Facebook Groups. You’ll see tons of current Bluehost customers complaining about their slow servers, downtimes, and super slow support. While most SiteGround customers are genuinely happy.
Who did I end up with?
SiteGround, and obviously glad I did, because there are tons of Bluehost affiliates out there who will steer you in the wrong direction. There is also an overwhelming amount of social media evidence that SiteGround is faster. With their GoGeek plan and a few website optimizations, I was able to get <1s load times and 100% GTmetrix scores. I never was able to get that on Bluehost. So why is SiteGround better? That’s what you’ll be learning in this review.
SiteGround was ranked #1 in 34 different polls while Bluehost was pretty much nowhere on the map. Many of these were taken in private groups, so you will need to join them to see the polls (I also provided screenshots). The WordPress Hosting Facebook Group is a great place to get unbiased opinions about hosting – since they don’t allow affiliate links and self-promoters.
Bluehost affiliates are littering Google, Quora, and Facebook Groups with bad advice. Bluehost is incentivizing them with high commissions and that is really all they care about.
Where to get truly unbiased hosting opinions
Of course, there are plenty of SiteGround affiliates too (yes, including me). But I pull most of my reviews from social media and will address the 2 main concerns of SiteGround – high renewal prices and CPU limits. I will also tell you that most people who migrate away from SiteGround either go to DigitalOcean on Cloudways or A2 (see my other hosting alternatives).
The same company (Endurance International Group) owns 60+ different hosting companies including Bluehost, HostGator, HostMonster, Site5, iPage, Unified Layer, and many others.
Why you should avoid EIG
Read this about EIG…
If you care about fast load times and good GTmetrix/Pingdom reports, Bluehost won’t help. They overcrowd their servers and tons of people complain about this on Facebook + Twitter.
Here’s what Bluehost says in their user agreement:
Just to give you an idea, SiteGround has a 150,000, 300,000, and 450,000 inode limit for their StartUp, GrowBig, GoGeek plan accordingly. Which hosting plan is Bluehost referring to when they mention these 200,000 inode limits? We can only guess, but judging by the amount of people complaining about their servers, that limit probably applies to most plans on Bluehost.
How To Check If Your Server Is Slow
You can run any website through Google PageSpeed Insights to see if reduce server response time is in your report, which means your server (host) is slow. This happens a lot with Bluehost.
Do a Twitter search for “Bluehost down” and you’ll see tons of people experiencing downtime issues. Some websites have been down for over a week and Bluehost’s support could care less.
When I was with Bluehost, my site would go down about once every week, sometimes for multiple hours. It was really painful questioning whether it was their hosting, or whether something I did was wrong. Once I migrated to SiteGround, all my downtime problems went away. Again, if this is a business website you rely on to make money, do not choose Bluehost.
This got so bad Bluehost wrote an apology letter:
Bluehost is constantly apologizing:
Bluehost’s support is incomparable to SiteGround. With SiteGround, you can get ahold of live chat within seconds and tickets answered in 10-15 minutes. Bluehost can takes hours or even weeks to reply. The worst part is, there have been numerous reports of them saying they will “follow up” but never do. If your website goes down on their servers, it can be very frustrating.
To get Bluehost’s advertised prices ($2.95/month) you need to pay 3 years upfront, otherwise you will pay more for 1-2 years. You will only find this out once you get to their checkout page.
SiteGround’s renewal prices are high. You can get up to 3 years of their promotional price, then it jumps. That’s why if you can, I would pay for 3 years because at that value, it is likely the best shared hosting you will find. Last year, I signed my girlfriend up for SiteGround and regret not paying for 3 years. Once it was time to renew, we ended up moving to A2 (it’s a restaurant website and she just wanted it up and running for as cheap as possible). I tried to convince her to renew or go to Cloudways. She wanted cheap, and I know better than to argue with women.
Look at people who migrated from Bluehost to SiteGround and posted their new load times. Affiliates can say whatever they want, but these are non-affiliated customers who actually went through the experience. SiteGround’s speed technology is so much faster than Bluehost.
Not to mention my own GTmetrix report:
Here’s my Pingdom report:
Now that you’ve seen the load time improvements of people who migrated, I want to cover a few things you can do within your SiteGround dashboard that will make your site even faster. You can check out their cPanel demo if you want to become familiar with where everything is.
I recommend either using their SG Optimizer plugin or WP Rocket (only use one, no need to use both). SG Optimizer is faster than any other cache plugin because it uses server-side caching instead of the file-based caching used by other cache plugins. But, it doesn’t come with as many features as WP Rocket. It’s a tradeoff between faster caching or more “miscellaneous” speed optimizations. I would test both to see which one gives you the best results in GTmetrix.
In your SiteGround dashboard, you can activate Cloudflare in 1-click. It’s a free CDN with 200+ data centers and there’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t be taking advantage of this.
In your SiteGround PHP Manager, you can upgrade all the way to PHP 7.3. This alone can make a noticeable speed improvement even when clicking through your pages. SiteGround is always one of the first hosts to release newer PHP versions, while Bluehost is late to the party.
Higher Plans = More Server Resources
Higher plans come with more server resources (#1 factor of site speed). Head over to their features page and scroll down to “we allocate the resources you need” then hover over the “server” tab. You can see how many server resources come with each plan along with a side-by-side comparison of their StartUp vs. GrowBig vs. GoGeek plan. I at least recommend their GrowBig plan since it’s only $2/month more and comes with more server resources, priority support, and unlimited hosted websites. GoGeek comes with even more resources + staging.
SiteGround is used by Yoast:
They’re recommended by WordPress (so is Bluehost but they don’t deserve to be on there):
And by Ivica (Admin of the popular WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group):
Here’s my website monitored by Pingdom Tools which is 100%. This is because their uptime technology is super reliable with Linux containers, server monitoring, an in-house backup system, and secure account isolation (which SiteGround was the first company to create). A lot of hosting companies CLAIM to have 99.99% uptimes but with all the errors you get with bad hosting it’s definitely not 99.99%. With SiteGround your servers will be super reliable so you’ll never have to worry about your website going down for no reason (trust me, I’ve been there).
I don’t care how many features your hosting company has, if their support sucks, they suck. I can pick up the phone and get ahold of SiteGround support in under a minute. It makes such a big difference. Their team is super knowledgeable especially when it comes to WordPress.
SiteGround customers love their support.
SiteGround has tons of WordPres features you can find on their features page:
I covered this earlier, but SG Optimizer not only does caching, but a lot of other speed optimizations: minification, image optimization, lazy loading, and upgrading PHP versions.
You can enable autoupdates for WordPress core/plugins in their cPanel.
SiteGround is literally on their game when it comes to WordPress and security. They are constantly monitoring vulnerabilities and updating their servers to protect you against the latest threats – they posts updates on their Facebook page all the time and customers praise this with awesome feedback. You also get periodic emails letting you know your site is secure.
Staging comes with their GrowBig/GoGeek plan and lets you create a demo website to test new plugins, designs, and updates before launching them on your site (which is done in 1 click).
I have a feeling most SiteGround customers use WordPress, and they are extremely knowledgable in troubleshooting plugins, helping you block unwanted crawlers that consume resources, and fixing bugs. Most websites don’t go down on SiteGround, but if it does, they are super responsive in helping you getting it back up. Their support for WordPress is awesome.
All SiteGround plans come with eCommerce hosting features like a free SSL from Let’s Encrypt. GoGeek comes with PCI compliance which prevents credit card fraud on eCommerce sites. And if you’re not comfortable installing a shopping cart, SiteGround’s will do this for free.
SiteGround tells you how many visitors each plan can handle, but you should really be looking at their features page which tells you each plan’s CPU limits. If you exceed them, they will send you warnings and eventually, shut down your site. That’s why it’s best to reduce your CPU usage ahead of time (which can also improve load times). Many things are as easy as installing the Heartbeat Control plugin, Blackhole For Bad Bots plugin, and using Cloudflare’s free CDN.
Be preventative in reducing CPU and don’t let it happen to you:
Bottom line: if you’re running a WooCommerce site, high CPU plugins, or your website consumes a lot of resources, make sure you optimize your site and choose a plan that can support those resources. SiteGround’s support can also help you identify if there’s an issue. Every company who offers shared hosting will throttle your CPU usage, not just SiteGround.
SiteGround does free migrations with their GrowBig/GoGeek plan. Just open a support ticket and request a transfer. There should be 0 downtime and I’ve had this done for many websites.
Here’s the comparison chart:
StartUp ($3.95/month) – good for hosting 1 single website that doesn’t require high CPU plugins, WooCommerce, or have much traffic. You should only use it if you’re just starting and don’t anticipate lots of traffic. It doesn’t come with many server resources, storage, staging, and other features. That’s why I generally recommend the GrowBig plan since it’s $2/month and comes with way more features and server resources. StartUp can’t handle much CPU.
GrowBig ($5.95/month) – host unlimited sites with about 1.5x more server resources, more storage, staging, and advanced caching when using their SG Optimizer plugin. You also get a free website transfer and on-demand backups. GrowBig has the best value and is their most popular plan. Even if you don’t need everything else, the extra server resources are worth it.
GoGeek ($11.95/month) – GoGeek is semi-dedicated hosting which is about 4x faster than regular shared hosting plans. These server resources should make your site load significantly faster and are the main reason to upgrade. GoGeek also comes with priority support, but their regular support is fast anyway. Personally, I would only upgrade if you want more resources.
These are the 4 hosts that have gotten the best feedback in Facebook Groups + Twitter.
Join the WordPress Hosting Facebook Group to see what real, non-affiliated people are saying. I’m a member of 30+ WordPress Facebook groups and here’s a summary of every person asking “what is the best hosting for WordPress?” This is based on 35+ Facebook polls, Twitter evidence, Trustpilot reviews, and way too much time reading these conversations. You can also reach out to Hristo Pandjarov (SiteGround community manager) and Mustaasam Saleem Ansari (Cloudways community manager) which are almost always the top 2 choices.
Spend a few minutes reading these conversations, and the decision is clear.
SiteGround’s semi-dedicated plan is legit as it comes with 4x more server resources than regular shared hosting (one of the largest factors in the WordPress optimization guide). Pingdom and GTmetrix scores are fine and dandy, but load time is the most important factor. It’s what I use and I have a 320ms load time in Pingdom, .5s in GTmetrix, with 100% scores.
View SiteGround’s StartUp vs. GrowBig vs. GoGeek comparison chart
Most bloggers promote Bluehost because they offer the highest affiliate commissions. They also pay a pretty penny to be recommended on the official WordPress hosting page, making it easy to promote them. But if you do your research in WordPress-related Facebook Groups, most people do not recommend them.
Their servers are slow, support is not helpful, and many people experience downtimes. Bluehost is also owned by EIG who has shareholders looking to make a profit instead of taking care of existing customers. They are very aggressive with their affiliate program.
SiteGround is faster especially if you use their SG Optimizer plugin and activate PHP 7.4 + Cloudflare in the SiteGround dashboard.
SiteGround is cheaper upfront but is more expensive than Bluehost once you reach their renewal pricing. You can get up to 3 years of hosting for their promotional price, then you will need to pay the higher renewal prices.
I recommend SiteGround's GoGeek plan. WooCommerce sites usually require more server resources because they typically have more plugins and extra WooCommerce scripts, styles, and cart fragments. You will need a more powerful server to handle this. You may even want to skip shared hosting completely and go with a faster host like Cloudways.
If you have a question about my SiteGround vs. Bluehost review, drop me a line. You can also read my full SiteGround WordPress hosting review if you want to learn more about their cPanel, SuperCacher plugin, more Cloudflare tips, etc. I’ve had a great experience with SiteGround and would use them if you need fast, reliable WordPress hosting. And seriously, even if you don’t choose SiteGround I would definitely stay AWAY from Bluehost. Even though more people heard of Bluehost, the evidence clearly shows SiteGround is the better choice.