SiteGround vs. Bluehost
Bluehost vs. SiteGround is a proper match up. It isn't a faux one either because both Web-hosts are immensely popular (with millions of websites hosted between them) and have great performance stats. How do we know? We've been writing comparison articles for a while and Bluehost and SiteGround almost always trump any other host they come against.
Except for today, though.
A winner must emerge and we'll finally get to see the best Web-host between Bluehost and SiteGround, two hosts who have dominated our rankings. We'll be comparing the key things that we always watch out for in Web-hosts; speed, uptime, money-back guarantee, customer service, ease of use, security and pricing. We'll dissect the features of both hosts and see exactly how they compare when they face each other. As usual, you will most likely see things from our perspective— and even if you don't, you'll have the stats and information to make your choice.
So let's go.
Bluehost vs. SiteGround: A Complete Overview
Bluehost is one of the most popular names in hosting and was founded in Utah by Matt Heaton and Danny Ashworth. One of Bluehost's standout qualities (and a fact that is plastered almost everywhere you go on their website), is that they are an officially recommended Web-host by WordPress. Which, in all fairness, is a pretty big deal because there are only three such Web-hosts. We assume that this means that using WordPress should be a dream on Bluehost – in any case, we'll find out soon enough how much of a dream it is. Bluehost also offers a whole lot of plans from dedicated hosting to VPS to managed WordPress hosting plans. However, for the sake of this comparison, we'll only be looking at Bluehost's shared hosting plans. For more in-depth details about Bluehost's Higher-Tier plans check out our in-depth Bluehost review.
If Bluehost is an American company, SiteGround is an International one, with data centers spread across three continents. The headquarters of SiteGround is just outside the capital of Bulgaria, a country that we imagine doesn't have a lot in common with the US (we covered this subject in-depth in our Siteground review article).
SiteGround is known for its amazing customer support and decent performance with budget shared hosting plans. Let s see how SiteGround compares to the Bluehost.
This is a really hard one to call— thankfully, it isn't something that we care a lot about. It isn't anything anyone should care a lot about, really. The most popular Web-hosts have lost to the ones known by only a few nerds and their mums, so popularity isn't proof of great hosting. It's proof of great marketing— and no one purchases a hosting plan to enjoy marketing. Let's go to the crux then— performance.
Buying a hosting plan means that you're purchasing a promise. A promise that your website will online and accessible an overwhelming majority of the time (at least > 99.9% of the time) and will be accessible within a reasonable period of time. The simple truth is that some Web-hosts are better at fulfilling this promise than others. Let's see how well SiteGround and Bluehost deliver on this promise
Google says that 40% of visitors would stop visiting a site if they experienced problems with speed. This means that the speed of a Web-host has a direct influence on the conversion rate of a business or the traffic of a blog, therefore it isn't a vanity metric.
Before diving into the results of the speed test, let's look at the infrastructure put in place by SiteGround to ensure better speed. Actual speed stats fluctuate, but the infrastructure remains. SiteGround makes use of SSDs on all their plans which are more faster than the traditional hard drives. There's also a special cache protocol that allows WordPress and other optimized content management systems like that run quicker. SiteGround, unlike many competitors, doesn't offer “unlimited” bandwidth. This is because this can be a problem if too many websites on the same server are using too many resources. Instead, SiteGround gives every website a dedicated bandwidth that can only be used by them so issues of resource sharing don't enter the conversation.
SiteGround Speed Tests
We bought a basic SiteGround shared hosting plan and fired it up, built a test website and filled it with dummy content (nothing too fancy). We disabled all plugins to get a fair test result and we began testing response time. On average, we recorded a response time of 421ms, which is quite fast and is faster than an overwhelming majority of the Web-hosts we've measured. Would SiteGround enter any top anything list regarding speed? We actually think so, yes. But it isn't the best we've seen, and seeing as Google says the optimum response time is under 200ms, SiteGround could still do much better. Visitors start leaving a Website when a page spends more than three seconds to load, but we don't think anyone would leave SiteGround with an average page load speed of 718ms.
Generally, we don't think users of SiteGround have anything to worry about concerning speed.
There are a few things to say about Bluehost's infrastructure too. For example, CDN is put in place on all plans so visitors are able to have content delivered to their addresses faster than ever.
Bluehost Speed Tests
Using the same methods used for measuring our SiteGround speed stats, we set to work on Bluehost. With Bluehost, we saw a respectable average response time of 461ms, which to us was quite impressive. Especially as we didn't expect Bluehost to perform well regarding speed— if the few bad reviews about them we've read are anything to go by. But it seems that in the last six months, Bluehost has really picked up. We sent virtual users to our dummy site to test whether the speed will suffer too much because of higher traffic, but that wasn't so. In fact, we recorded pretty stable speeds. That means if you have a traffic spike or a flash sale, you can expect that your site's speed levels won't suffer too much.
Will Bluehost users have a lot to complain about as regards speed? We think that's quite unlikely.
Both Web-hosts are really quick and just a few milliseconds apart in terms of speed. Going with either one is unlikely to jeopardize conversion rates but we have to declare a winner. For that purpose alone, SiteGround wins this one for us.
It is important for a Web-host to have fast servers, yes. But we think it is even more important for a Web-host to have impeccable uptime. Why? The fastest servers are useless if there is no website to access.
We tested Bluehost’s Uptime
We already have a Bluehost account, so we went to work testing uptime with our tools. Over our testing period, we recorded uptime of 99.99% which is really impressive, and as close as you can get to perfect uptime. So if you're looking for a reliable Web-host, Bluehost is the one for you. However, we like to check whether a host has an uptime guarantee too. This is because uptime is fickle and can change, therefore it is important to know that a host has measures put in place to compensate users if uptime gets bad. Unfortunately, Bluehost doesn't offer an uptime guarantee. This is disappointing, especially as having an uptime guarantee is standard industry practice— even with hosts with less than impressive uptime. But, seeing as Bluehost has great uptime, there might be no need for an uptime guarantee. But we only know of today, how about tomorrow?
We tested SiteGround's Uptime
Next, we measure SiteGround's uptime. We already had an account so it was pretty easy to get to work and test for uptime. Over a three month period, we recorded an amazing 99.99% uptime. So, like Bluehost, SiteGround is really reliable. Little wonder that both Web-hosts have been at the top of our ratings for a while. What of an uptime guarantee? SiteGround covers that too, with the user agreement guaranteeing a 99.9% uptime on an annual basis. It's pretty low, as we've seen Web-hosts guarantee 99.99% uptime. However, we suppose that half a loaf (or 99.9% of a 99.99% loaf) is better than none. As far as the combination of great uptime and uptime guarantee go, SiteGround is legitimately killing it.
Again, both Web-hosts are not likely to give users any concerns concerning reliability. However, whenever we can pick a winner, we are obligated by the sacred oath of service reviews to pick one. SiteGround takes this one for us because they provide an uptime guarantee, while Bluehost does not. However, we do not think that it is likely to matter in the long run.
Money-Back Guarantee Policy
it can be discouraging if, after signing up and purchasing a plan from a Web-host, some essential service flaws become noticeable. So what can be done when the service provided is found to be unsatisfactory. Will the money paid be refundable? Is there a money-back policy? And if there is, how long is it?
Bluehost has a 30 days money-back guarantee. This means that when payment is made for an annual plan (an annual plan is any plan longer than a year), thirty days maximum is given to decide if you want to continue with the services you signed up for. If the services are not satisfactory enough, a refund will be granted under three conditions. First is that refund can only be gotten on web hosting cost, not on other add ons or domain products. Secondly, a fee of $15.99 will be deducted if a free domain name has been received. Thirdly, if the cancellation of services is made after thirty days, a refund will not be granted.
Like Bluehost, SiteGround also features a 30 days money-back guarantee on all shared hosting plans. Siteground's cloud, VPS and other dedicated hosting plans come with only a 15 days refund. Domain name and extra add on fees are also non-refundable.
Siteground's refund policy applies only to new customers which means that people who purchase renewal plans are not eligible for refunds.
Since both Web-hosts offer similar money-back guarantee policy of 30 days and extra fees for a domain name and extra add ons, it is safe to say this round is a tie.
Ease of Use for Bluehost compared to SiteGround
Controlling a hosting account can be a very difficult job some times. But it gets easier if you're making use of a Web-host that tries, as much as possible, to take the trouble off users. The measures hosts can take to make use easier for users can range from providing free SSL certificates, to using cPanel, and to offering easy options for scalability. It's the sum total of everything and anything that makes using the host worth it.
Bluehost, like many Web-hosts on the market, make use of cPanel. cPanel isn't only a user-friendly interface, it is also the standard industry interface. Therefore users moving from another Web-host will find have no problems getting used to the interface of the new Web-host. In addition to making use of cPanel, Bluehost makes use of a highly customized version of the interface. This means that it is even easier for beginners to get used to controlling their website. The cPanel has important features that make the task of controlling the interface easier for the user. Some of these features include the MySites feature which allows users to control multiple websites using a single account. There's the Marketplace feature which, just as the name implies, gives users access to a marketplace where they can buy WordPress themes, professional services and even purchase new add-ons/plug-ins to boost performance. The domain manager feature allows users to manage their domains. That is, they can keep an eye on their registration status, buy new domains, setup redirection and update information through the tool. WordPress users don't need to worry about updating the core of the WordPress software because Bluehost handles that automatically. New applications can be installed using one-click installations and users have access to a plethora of popular apps that can be added in one click. If you want to build a website, Bluehost has got you covered with Weebly website builder, a third-party app. We've made use of Weebly before and it is quite easy to use. You can create from scratch with a wide collection of themes and templates without having to write a single line of code. In addition to all these, Bluehost offers free SSL certificates on all plans so users have one less add-on to pay for.
Unfortunately, there is one thing that we were not impressed with; Bluehost doesn't offer free site migrations (that's a surprise because when we compared it to other EIG hosts such as Bluehost vs. HostGator, those were offering the migration for free, we can't really understand why Bluehost it's one of the few hosts in the EIG network still charging for migrations.). Users migrating from other sites either have to migrate their sites themselves or pay a one time fee of $149.99 that covers the migration of up to five websites, 20 emails and database files. Asides the not so inconsequential fact that Bluehost doesn't offer free site migrations, we actually found it really easy to accomplish basic tasks on Bluehost. Easier than many of the Web-hosts we've reviewed, in fact.
SiteGround, unlike Bluehost, offers a free single site migration for new users. They do this by offering a free WordPress migration plug-in. To activate the plug-in, users have to generate a token from their SiteGround account, and then the plug-in does most of the heavy lifting. This plug-in makes it easier to migrate your site. . .which means at the end, you're the one carrying the task out. They just make it easier— which is more than can be said for Bluehost. Like Bluehost, SiteGround also offers free SSL certificates from Let's Encrypt on basic plans, so users don't have to pay extra for premium SSL. SiteGround also has Weebly support, so the experience of building a website is roughly the same with Bluehost. Weebly has drag and drop functionality so users do not have to know the first thing about coding to get their website online. SiteGround also supports one-click installations of popular apps like Joomla, Drupal and Magneto so new users can get their operations up and running as quickly as possible. Most importantly, though, SiteGround provides a staging environment for all hosting settings. That means that you can make changes to your site, check out the changes made and tweak it as you like, without it affecting the version of your site online. This feature will definitely be invaluable to beginners who are bound to make a few mistakes on their journey to being competent webmasters. However, this feature is only available on premium plans. We might add that SiteGround also makes use of cPanel, however, in our opinion, their version isn't as highly customized as Bluehost's. While we didn't have any problems accomplishing basic tasks (this is because we are fairly used with cPanel), other users new to the hosting environment may find accomplishing some basic tasks tricky. SiteGround isn't only great for new users, there are Git, SSH, WP-CLI, SFTP, phpMyAdmin and multiple PHP versions pre-installed on higher-tier plans so advanced users will also find heavy customization and control to be fairly easy as well.
Do we have any major complaints about either host? Not really. We found them both easy to use, and they provide the basic things that you would expect a Web-host to provide. Both Web-hosts make use of Weebly, so there is little difference in that count. SiteGround impressed us with the staging environment feature, and we found the Bluehost interface to be extremely user-friendly. But, if we were to choose, we would go with Bluehost because we had an easier experience on a whole.
SiteGround vs. Bluehost: Customer Support and Reliability
A big part of every business is customer satisfaction, and it is almost impossible to have reasonable customer satisfaction without great customer support. This is felt more acutely in hosting since hosts are providing a service that is quite technical and might need experts to guide users. Even the most advanced webmasters run into hosting problems, and it is important that when problems arise, customer support is easily reachable and is very helpful.
First off, when we were doing preliminary investigations to see what we might watch out for in our SiteGround testing, we discovered that a lot of people are of the opinion that SiteGround has impeccable support. So we were excited to check them out since we are always quite wary of the customer support of sufficiently large companies like SiteGround. The set-up is fairly ordinary, with SiteGround offering the basics— a live chat channel, a ticketing channel, and a phone-in option. The first thing we noticed is that SiteGround must have an actual army of customer reps because the wait time was almost non-existent. We don't know how they managed to pull that off and to be honest, we don't care. We are just glad that a Web-host has been able to solve the wait time hurdle that we've always found to be a bit annoying.
SiteGround's support are very real human beings (we said what we said). If you're talking to a live chat rep, you'll see an actual profile of the rep you're speaking to, complete with a list of hobbies. At times, it was surreal. The reps we spoke to on phone and through live chat were also extremely knowledgeable and cordial. The entire experience of contacting SiteGround's live reps was quite almost like heaven, for us.
Like SiteGround, Bluehost has three channels ( the phone, live chat and ticketing channels) of contacting support all available 24/7 and all available on all plans. We contacted Bluehost's live chat support and experienced an average wait time of about five minutes. While this may not be as impressive as with SiteGround, it is still manageable compared to the wait time experienced with other big hosts, like GoDaddy for instance. We spoke to the live reps and, while they were courteous and friendly enough, we were too often met with spells of silence. This implies that the reps we were speaking with needed to check for the information that they wanted to tell us. What this tells us is that Bluehost has reps who can help us with quality support, but unfortunately there aren't many of them. Coupled with decent wait time, this makes Bluehost's customer support decent— not great, but not terrible either.
At last we have gotten to a point where the difference between both Web-hosts is significant. We had a much better customer experience with SiteGround than we did with Bluehost. SiteGround wins this one comfortably for us.
All Web-hosts (Yes, all) have some security in place. After all, responsible business owners don't leave their goods unguarded. However, the difference is how much the customer has to pay to access these services and how effective these features are.
Bluehost has a lot of security features, starting with Sitelock. Sitelock is a security tool that scans websites for malware and removes them when found. Another important security tool is domain privacy. This tool works by hiding the private information of users from public WHOIS listings. Users of Bluehost also have access to Codeguard, a backup tool that provides daily backups. This tool is available for free on select plans, and if you purchase a basic plan, you have the option to pay for Codeguard separately. This brings us to an important question. Does Bluehost provide backups? Well, yes, and no. Bluehost provides backups on a courtesy basis— that is, they aren't required to backup your account. However, they just might. Why? Because they are nice like that. But it is not guaranteed, so you'd be better served to purchase a Codeguard plan or backup your website manually. There is also access to Postini, a tool that provides spam protection for email accounts so your emails are saved. Bluehost also has single sign-on support so you don't have to make use of insecure passwords. What of the two-factor authentication? Bluehost has got that too. There is also OpenPGP/GPG support that allows users to send and receive files securely. In the case that a website you're sharing a server with is taking up a lot of resources, Bluehost has a special isolation technology that keeps your website performance topnotch.
In general, we were not too let down by Bluehost's security infrastructure. Importantly, the fact that the host hasn't suffered a great security breach in recent times, as did some of the Bluehost Alternatives, shows that it must be doing something right.
SiteGround offers a free SSL certificate, so the basics of security are covered. There is also a partnership in place with Sucuri.net that allows SiteGround to make use of SG site scanner, a security tool that works like a defence system. It allows end-users to detect threats easily and carry out an in-depth analysis of firewalls and defence infrastructure. Like Bluehost, SiteGround also has an advanced account isolation system. There is also access to a proactive tool created by collaboration with The Guardian by 1H that provides a multilayered defence system. There is also a Web Application Firewall (WAF) system enabled on all servers. Since SiteGround makes use of cPanel, like Bluehost, it also comes with the traditional security measures like SpamAssassin and IP blacklisting. In addition to all these, SiteGround has free daily backups enabled on all plans, something that is dearly missing with Bluehost.
Both Web-hosts provide decent protection against viruses and hacks, but only one provides free daily backups. With Bluehost, it is a courtesy that may or may not be available. SiteGround wins this round for us.
Plans & Pricing
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that cheaper is always better. But, as we've seen, that isn't always so. So instead of looking at the price tag first, we look at the value offered, and then we look at the industry average and ask ourselves if the value offered is worth the price. Most Web-hosts we've reviewed pass this test, but as you would imagine, some pass better than others. That means that some hosts offer a better deal. Let's see the quality of the shared hosting deals that Bluehost and SiteGround offer.
Bluehost offers four Shared hosting plans. Most Web-hosts just offer three, but we like how Bluehost leaves a lot of room for scalability. The three plans are the Basic plan, Plus plan, and the Pro plan.
The Basic plan comes with;
- 1 website;
- 5 parked domains;
- 25 subdomains;
- 50GB of storage;
- Unmetered bandwidth;
- Free SSL certificate;
- 1 free domain.
The plan costs $2.75 (renewal costs $7.99 per month).
The Plus plan comes with all the features of the basic plan plus;
- Unlimited websites;
- $200 marketing offer;
- Spam experts;
- Unlimited storage;
- Unlimited domains;
- Unlimited subdomains;
- Unlimited parked domains.
The plan costs $5.45 per month (normally $10.99).
The Choice-plus plan comes with all the features of the Plus plan plus;
- Domain Privacy and protection;
- 1 office 365 mailbox – free 30 days and Codeguard basic site backup.
The plan is the same price as the Plus plan but renewal costs $14.99
The Pro plan is the most expensive shared hosting plan offered by Bluehost. The plan costs $13.95 per month (renewal is $23.99 per month) and it comes with all the features of the Choice-Plus plan with a dedicated IP address and high performance. So what's “high performance”? According to Bluehost, high performance means that Pro servers allow for a 300,000 file count and are deployed with fewer users per server than the standard shared hosting servers. Basically, what this means is that there are greater resources allocated to one user on the Pro plan. Ideally, this should offer better speed and greater visiting capacity. Neat.
SiteGround toes the industry line and offers three shared hosting plans. They are the StartUp, GrowBig, and GoGeek plans (We asked SiteGround's customer support if the GoGeek plan was only for geeks, and they laughed and told us to try stand-up comedy).
The StartUp plan costs $3.95 per month ($11.95 per month) and comes with:
- 10 GB of space;
- Unmetered data transfer;
- Free Email accounts;
- 10,000 visits per month (can be higher, but any higher means lower performance);
- Unlimited parked and subdomains;
- Free CDN with each account;
- Automatic daily backups.
The next plan is the GrowBig plan and it costs $5.95 per month (renewal costs $19.95) and comes with:
- 20 GB of space;
- Capacity for 25,000 visits per month;
- Unlimited websites;
- Free site transfer ;
- All the other features of the StartUp plan.
The last shared hosting plan offered is the GoGeek plan. It costs $11.95 per month (renewal costs $34.95) and it comes with:
- Capacity for up to 100,00 visits per month;
- 30 GB of Webspace;
- A staging environment;
- And all the features of the StartUp plan.
While SiteGround's performance is great, applaudable even, we don't think that it warrants such a hike in price. Other hosts, Bluehost for example, offer more or less the same services for less.
The most expensive Bluehost plan costs around $23 per month, while SiteGround most expensive plan costs $34.95 per month. A difference of ten dollars adds up over the course of the purchased plan and you end up paying quite high for services that could be gotten at a lesser price with Bluehost. While SiteGround performance is decent and the host can boast of excellent customer support, we think these services can be gotten (more or less) with other Web-hosts. Perhaps this is just the cheap in us talking, but Bluehost has an overall better pricing structure for us.
What extra features do these Web-hosts have in store for us?
Bluehost has the following extra features:
- Has a running partnership with Weebly, a premier website builder. Weebly is one of the best at what it does, and this feature makes it even easier for amateurs to get their websites up and running;
- It is an officially recommended web host by WordPress. Only two other Web-hosts share this status;
- Bluehost has both MySQL and PostgreSQL databases and you can use either phpMyAdmin, Remote MySQL, or phpPgAdmin to manage your databases. Bluehost supports the use of Perl modules, Cron jobs, PHP PEAR packages, and Apache handlers;
- The security infrastructure allows you to set up SSH access to your account, block IP addresses and install your own premium SSL certificate if you so wish;
- Blue flash feature is a special customer care feature which allows you access to experts dedicated to helping you get your WordPress website up and running;
- To make life even easier for content developers, Bluehost has a managed WordPress plan called WP pro;
- In case you need to manage your domains through them, Bluehost has a domain manager;
- One-click installations for over 100+ apps from MOJO;
- Bluehost offers CDN access;
- Automatic WordPress Plugin and Theme updates.
SiteGround also has some extra features on the ground too:
- SiteGround's 99.9% uptime guarantee compensates users with one free month of hosting if annual uptime drops from 99.9%;
- Free Cloudflare CDN;
- Av free WordPress Migration Plugin;
- SiteGround is optimized for WordPress and Joomla;
- Unfortunately, SiteGround doesn't offer a free domain name with plans;
- Unlimited number of MySQL & PostgreSQL databases;
- Free installation of shopping carts;
- SiteGround has HTTP2 /enabled servers;
- It supports Weebly;
- Offers SSH access with all their plans;
- One-click staging servers (on select plans only).
Comparing extra features is extra difficult because Web-hosts do not have the same kind of extra features and sometimes it turns into a futile attempt at comparing apples to oranges. So we are going to base this verdict on personal opinion, not fact. Personally, we feel that Bluehost Blue flash is extremely helpful to users. This tips the scales for us, so Bluehost is the winner of this round.
Major Differences between SiteGround and Bluehost
What are the talking points of this comparison? Let's run through them once more:
- SiteGround has far better customer support than Bluehost.
- Bluehost offers a free domain, while SiteGround doesn't.
- SiteGround has free daily automatic backups, Bluehost doesn't.
- SiteGround's renewal fees are much more expensive than Bluehost's.
- Bluehost has four shared hosting plans, while SiteGround has three.
- SiteGround has data centers all over the world. Bluehost? They don't state that, but reports say that Bluehost doesn't own data centers outside America.
Bluehost vs. SiteGround: Our Pick
This has been as difficult comparison as any, as both Web-hosts are really good and many times we were left scratching our heads to decide the winner. In fact, we are certain that at the end, it could have gone either way. But we have to choose a winner, and SiteGround had the edge in two important areas; performance and customer support. We have no choice but to declare SiteGround our winner.
So, Bluehost vs. SiteGround? SiteGround wins this one for us.