It isn’t uncommon for new food bloggers to somehow end up hosting with Bluehost. I am here to tell you that if you want to compete with other food bloggers, you probably have to move or pay more at Bluehost. My experience is that Bluehost is a bad host and having your food blog on it will make you less competitive. I was an early adopter of Bluehost, with my account first opening with them in 2008 or 9, but have since moved away. Today, I am going to share how you can tell if your hosting is bad, why it is happening, and offer a few suggestions to get on a good host.
How is Bluehost impacting you?
So, you started on your blogging journey and everything looks just the way you want it! It looks beautiful! Great. Things should start looking up for you. People should start showing up and seeing your recipes.
Unfortunately, server speed might be impacting your ability to get traffic. Great content is the most important factor in writing a blog or building a website, but the speed of your server is an important tool. It is both important for your users and also for Google searches.
If you have not run your page through Google PageSpeed Insights (GPSI), I suggest you do so now and become familiar with it. This score and the opportunities it reveals is a good indicator of your user’s experience on your website. Also, it is a glimpse into how Google views your site and might help them rank your page
The resulting number is not the end-all-be-all of best practices and speed, but it is important to pay attention to. If you score really low on this, Google may penalize you. This could impact where you show in Google results or perhaps if your recipe shows as a snippet or rich result. Ultimately, it can impact how many people visit your site.
Let’s say you make the best Ding Dong Cheesy Casserole (yuck) and when people are searching “Ding Dong Cheesy Casserole”, you want YOUR recipe to be the first that shows. There are several things that impact this, but the speed you find in Google PageSpeed Insights can be one of these things. If your score is really low, you could be penalized by Google.
If you are on Google’s naughty list, they might put other websites ahead of you or not give your site the advantage of having a rich recipe card that shows at the top of the page.
One of the opportunities that might show up for in you on the GPSI report is Time To First Byte(TTFB).
Time To First Byte
In the bottom area of your GPSI screen, you may have an area that shows Opportunities and one of them may be Time To First Byte. In fact, if you are using Bluehost, it probably does show. That is how much confidence I have in their speed.
TTFB Is A Hint To Other Speed Issues
TTFB shows up in the GPSI opportunities, but that is only part of the picture. As a user navigates your webpage and scrolls, it may make additional requests to the server. While the TTFB might reveal a lag in your page’s initial load, it may also be an indicator on how the server treats all requests.
Google has indicated several times that page speed is important and TTFB is like starting a marathon with a 20lb weight on your back. Beyond Google considerations, it is important to consider how it might impact your users. According to this Google article, the probability that your users will leave (bounce) goes up dramatically as your page load time increases.
If all of the requests have similar speed as your TTFB, then it could be an overall indicator that your website is just dang slow and your server isn’t helping.
Can Slow Speed Be Other Things Besides Server Issues?
Yes, it can. When GPSI measures TTFB, they are not concerned with which server you are on, but only the time it takes to get that first byte. Any time delay can cause this opportunity to be shown. Another reason that this could happen would be that there is a blocking layer of code between the requesting application (GPSI or a person’s browser) and the code being able to send any HTML back.
It is a possibility that things like themes and plugins could impact this and it would need to be addressed by the developers. I can’t think of a great reason for any theme or plugin to significantly impact an application from starting to send back any information to the client (the person requesting a website page).
A slow TTFB time could be caused by something other than hosting. If, however, you are on a Bluehost server and you are getting this opportunity in GPSI, hosting would most certainly be my initial instinct. If I first visit your website and everything looks like a reasonably well-designed website and then see TTFB being shown as an error in GPSI, my first question would be where you are hosting.
The simple reality is that hosting is the most likely culprit if you are on a known offender! Bluehost is one of them.
Why is Bluehost so Popular?
Marketing and price. It is that simple. They offer rock bottom prices with an entry-level of $2.95/month, but that comes with a trade-off. You are sharing space with other websites. Other hosts have similar plans, but Bluehost really digs deep to the bottom of the corporate barrel in terms of price.
To top off their stellar marketing program, we must mention their affiliate program, which is likely a huge driver of sales for Bluehost. For the uninitiated, an affiliate program is when a company offers a bounty on a sale. So, if I sign up for the Bluehost affiliate program and a user buys a hosting plan after being referred from my website, I get a chunk of money. This really is common practice, but Bluehost offers large sums of money. Currently, they offer $65 per sign up. You read that right. A person’s little account nets the referrer $65.
Why Would A Trusted Source Send Me To Bluehost?
If you haven’t figured it out by now, money is the huge driver, here. $65 for every sign up is a significant amount of money for a single sale. While I don’t know all of the affiliate programs, I believe it to be the best in the industry. The simple reality is that money is the biggest why people recommend Bluehost, not quality.
Outside of quality is money. The referrers often don’t know or don’t care that Bluehost is bad.
Are There Legitimate Reasons Food Blogger Recommend Bluehost?
I think there are some pure reasons why people might recommend this host and I am really trying to reach here and give folks the benefit of the doubt. There have been some people I know to be great bloggers and good people that recommend Bluehost. In fact, at Ramshackle Pantry, I even had a page up for a short while that had a referral link up.
A case could be made that for the price it is a good host and it is better to get started than not start. That $2.95-$10 price point provides something you cannot find, for the price, from other hosts. That is true. Additionally, my experience is that Bluehost does make it easy to set up a WordPress installation.
If your goal is to occasionally put up a recipe and you don’t really care much about execution, Bluehost is fine. If you are not concerned with things like ‘getting traffic’ or growing, Bluehost is ok for you and might be worth the $2.95 price.
If you are reading this, however, I suspect you are a little more than a casual blogger. Anybody who wants to compete in the food blogging niche simply cannot do so on the lower-cost plans at Bluehost. I cannot speak to the higher cost ones, as everybody I know moves off of them once they figure out they are a weight.
We are all running marathons. We are all in the middle of long, difficult paths to find our traffic. We put out content week after week. We toil over photography, content, recipes, and SEO. Being on Bluehost is like starting that marathon with a 20 lb weight on your back. Just move.
It Isn’t Just Bluehost
Bluehost is owned by Endurance International Group(EIG). This is a big conglomerate that owns several hosting companies including a few popular ones like HostGator.
In my eyes, all of these companies fall under the same umbrella, with Bluehost probably being the best in class. I have never personally hosted on anything other than Bluehost that has been owned by EIG, but I have seen a few speed tests. If the name of your host is on that list, run.
I Have Seen a Fast Bluehost Site in Our Niche
I have. One. Just one. I suspect there was some caching stuff going on to make it happen. But maybe it is just the lower tiers of hosting that have problems. Perhaps some people get lucky and get put on a cluster of fast hosting? I don’t know.
What I am trying to say is that it is possible to be on Bluehost and have a fast website, but it is rare.
So What Host Do You Recommend?
If I am going to talk a little smack about Bluehost, I suppose I should recommend a few, eh? In full disclosure, the two of the links below are affiliate links, so I will get a few bucks if you sign up for hosting from them. I am only doing this for products that I actually use. My goal is not to sell you hosting, but to inform you.
I use a few different companies. I like Veerotech and have gotten great speed from them. I would say that the support is prompt, efficient, and fast, but you can definitely tell they are not really geared to customer support. They also heavily pushed me to use LiteSpeed caching (don’t worry about it if you don’t know), as they have some integrations built-in. I wasn’t opposed to trying, but WP Rocket worked better and it took me time and effort to show them.
It is as though I was supposed to use this caching ‘just because.’ Well, Google PageSpeed Insights don’t lie. I am all for integrations that improve my speed, not being pushed into worse products. So, I like Veerotech and plan on sticking with them, but it is a bit of a push/pull relationship in terms of support.
I also use Cloudways. They are barebones and very reasonably priced at $10/month on the base plan. There are two downsides to them. First, support is just ok. Everybody is nice. It is what you might expect from overseas customer support. They can be a little near sighted, in that they have a tough time thinking about some pretty common website setups. “No, I don’t need to change my DNS… That is not the problem… I just have a Web Application Firewall between the domain and server.”
The second is that you are missing a few common things that you find in other hosting like email and the cPanel (although I think you can get it now). Both of those are not huge deals if you have the capability to do it yourself, but it can be a bit more of an issue if you don’t want to deal with the technology part of things.
On the positive side, they are LIGHTNING fast. Also, I feel the interface is really nice. In general, I really like Cloudways for the price, but support is going to be a little on the light side. I think the support are all capable, but they sometimes lack real troubleshooting skills.
Another host that I don’t use, but is good is BigScoots. They are attentive to their customers, are fast, and reasonably priced for what you get, IMO. They are a little spendier than the other options I mentioned, but people really seem to like them.
Quality of Hosting Can Change Over Time
What I am presenting in this article is not static. The quality of hosting can change and 2 years from now, the hosting landscape might be much different. I get the impression that this is a tough business with low margins.
That means that sometimes people just stop doing it, or some stop taking on new customers. It also means that some of the smaller, or boutique, hosting offering might sell out to larger hosts and the quality might change (usually for the worse). Large companies might also get better as time goes on.
Perhaps at some point Bluehost realizes that they are a punchline to nerd jokes around the globe and do something to provide better services. Today, however, I just can’t recommend them.
A Challenge to Bluehost
I doubt that anybody at Bluehost will read this. Heck, I have serious doubts that anybody will, but I am always open to learning and changing my perspective. There is a reality that Bluehost could be better at some point in the future. They might have a great plan somewhere that is wonderful for food bloggers.
They might be ultrafast with great support and no downtime on some plan I just have never heard of. Sure, I would love to hear about it or a demo.
My goal with this post is about facts and not some grudge I have against Bluehost. I hold no grudge against this company.
Also, if you have had a great experience with Bluehost and also have a great GPSI score and are in the food blogging niche, I would love to see it!
Here is the deal. If you are wondering why your website is slow and you are on BlueHost, know you have an easy thing to investigate. Hosting and TTFB are only the beginning of speed issues, but also one of the easiest to solve. If Time to First Byte is slow for you and you are on Bluehost, you know to look at your hosting. Consider moving over to a quality host and get a leg up on your competition.