This post has been updated as of February 2019 for accuracy.
It’s no secret that I think everyone should have a blog. Even in a world dominated by social media influencers, where so many people think blogging is dead.
Trust me, there are still a lot of reasons to create a blog or a website.
Having a blog has led to hundreds of relationships I never would have formed otherwise.
It’s led to bucket list experiences, I never could have imagined happening.
And it’s given me a business that has allowed me to work from anywhere in the world (including some pretty cool spots).
But for a lot of people, the process is daunting.
Maybe you don’t feel like you have a good idea….
Maybe you aren’t a technical person….
Maybe you don’t know where to start….
Well here’s a very simple thing I learned a long time ago.
If you want to take a meaningful step towards making a change in your life, all you need to do is buy a domain, get a hosting account, and install WordPress.
Even if you go no farther than that, you’ll have taken one actionable step towards your goal, and that can help swing the momentum in the right way.
But if you’re not a technical person, those three things can seem like a foreign language.
The goal of this post is to help make things as simple and straight forward as possible.
You’re going to learn what hosting is, what types of hosting are out there, and which hosting option is best for your needs as you get your website or blog setup.
Many of the hosting services out there look the same, and if you don’t know what you should be looking for in a web hosting service, then it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel like everyone is out to get you.
Never fear, this post is the only one you’ll need to make sure you get setup with the right blog hosting service, as quickly and easily as possible.
How to Choose the Best Hosting Service for Your Blog
In this post we’re going to look at all of the following:
- Why good hosting is really important
- The One Thing More Important than Hosting
- The difference between shared, VPS and dedicated web hosting
- What the pros and cons are of each of the most popular hosting companies
- What features you should be looking for from any hosting company you choose
- How and where to buy your first domain
Want some help setting up your new blog? Check out our step by step guide to starting a blog.
Why is Good Web Hosting Important?
If you’re building a business online or online asset, there are very few upfront expenses that you have to make – at least for the type of businesses we’re advocating on this site.
That said, there’s one area where it’s worth spending a little bit of money: hosting.
Your hosting is the foundation for your entire business. If your hosting goes down, your entire business goes down. If it’s too slow, people will look elsewhere. If it doesn’t have the features you want, you’ll get stressed and frustrated.
Because of all of these reasons, it’s generally worth spending a little bit of time really figuring out which hosting service is right for you.
If you truly have a very limited budget, then the shared hosting solutions we talk about in this post will be fine – after all, that is what I personally had for years.
But read on, and really think about where you’re at and what’s right for you.
Before We Start, Here’s The Only Thing More Important than Web Hosting
So it’s clear hosting is a really important component of your online business. That said, there’s one thing that I dare say is more important.
If you’re just getting started online, this is the most important word for you to understand.
WordPress is a blog/content management platform that makes it incredibly easy to build and manage a good looking website. There’s a huge support community, plugins that can do anything you want, and thousands of beautiful themes and templates.
When I first started online I built a site on Drupal, and then Joomla thinking they were the best platforms. I was an idiot. (If you’re new, just ignore those terms altogether – you don’t need to know anything about them).
Start whatever you’re doing on WordPress and you’ll be glad you did. Most hosting companies have one click WordPress install, as you can see in the picture below.
That makes it easier than ever to use WordPress.
Now that I got that out of my system, let’s move onto the next step.
What Makes a Good Hosting Service?
There are so many factors that go into this, and things you can get confused by, so I’m going to make this as simple as I can for those of you who are just getting going.
Something you should realize is that most web hosting providers are all going to be relatively similar with the same features at the lower level.
But, here’s what you want to look for in a good hosting company:
- Security: Website security is important, you don’t want to get hacked, and if you have a few customers, you certainly don’t want their information hacked. So note what kind of security features are offered.
- SSL Certificates: Google is all about making sure sites are secure today, especially if you’re going to be collecting personal data or credit card information. SSL Certificates helps encrypt data, you can tell if it’s there when you see https on the URL (like on this one). If you’re running an eCommerce shop, this is non-negotiable, and these days as Google as placed an emphasis on sites that are secure, it’s best to set this up from the beginning.
- Cost: A shared hosting account should be pretty affordable, certainly under $20 a month at the max while VPS and dedicated hosting will cost more.
- Backups: It is very important to backup your site on a regular basis, so make sure your hosting provider gives you backup options.
- Customer service: When you start building a site, you’re going to run into issues so it’s really important that you chose a hosting service that has really good customer service to help you out of the trouble you are (very likely) going to get yourself into.
- Email: You want to have a professional email address that is the same domain as your URL. So make sure your hosting provider can also give you the opportunity to add on email as well.
- Reliability: You don’t want your site to be down, ever. That means it’s important to work with a hosting company that is reliable and keeps downtimes to a minimum.
Your natural inclination is going to be to go with the value option, something that’s affordable, yet has some good features and offers plenty of customer service.
If that’s what you want, go with Bluehost. It’s affordable, and their customer service has always been fantastic (a very important thing if you’re just starting out).
However, before we can look at exactly what hosting company to use, it’s important to understand what the different types of hosting are. Let’s take a look at your options.
Why You Don’t Want Free Hosting
Let me tell you right now, you don’t want free web hosting. Sites like Wix or Weebly, which offer “free online website builders,” will give you zero flexibility, and pretty much make it impossible to actually run a business on your site.
Only use this if all you want to do is create a site that you’ll never update about your uncontrollable love of poodles.
All jokes aside, the biggest reason why you want to avoid going free is you have no control. You might have a ton of awesome content up on your blog and then all of sudden one day its gone because you’ve accidentally posted something that’s against the terms of service.
There goes your business, right down the drain.
In other words, don’t even think about going this route, I promise you it’s not worth it.
Free Hosting is Best for: People that don’t know any better.
The Most Common Types of Web Hosting
Once you start digging into hosting services, you’ll find there are a couple of different types of hosting options available to you. This is where it can get confusing and you can end up going with a more powerful hosting option than you need.
So, in this section, we’ll cover the common hosting choices you’ll face, plus our recommendations for each.
But first, check out this graphic. It’s going to be a nice visual illustration of the hosting options below.
The easiest way to understand the types of web hosting is to think of real estate.
Dedicated hosting is like a stand-alone alone single-family house. You control everything. VPS hosting is like a condo or a townhouse, you share a building (server) but you control your home. Shared hosting is like an apartment building, you have a space but you’re sharing it with everyone else and you don’t control anything.
So with that in mind, let’s look at these options a little bit more in depth.
There’s a good chance this is where you’ll want to start if cost is an issue for you. Shared hosting means that your website is hosted on the same servers as hundreds if not thousands of other websites. This is what makes these options more affordable.
While inexpensive ($3-15/month), there are some things you should pay attention to. Namely, site speed, email deliverability, and security issues. You want to research each of these as you look at shared hosting because site speed problems can impact your SEO rankings and well security issues are something you always want to avoid.
That being said, there are quite a few benefits on top of the price. Most shared hosting providers have one click WordPress installs, an easy to manage backend, good support, and limited database access. In most cases, you won’t see a massive hit on site speed and you can install other plugins for security measures to give added protection.
Best for: People with brand new sites with growing traffic, are on a budget, and need good customer support. These typically give you the best value for your needs.
With shared hosting, you have thousands of sites on one server, dedicated hosting essentially means you have an entire server just to yourself. It’s fast, expensive, and if you’re reading this article, it’s not for you, so move along.
Eventually, you might get to the world of dedicated hosting, but for people who are starting out or have small sites, this is not going to be the best fit.
So, yay, you don’t have to worry about it!
VPS (Virtual Private Server) Hosting
VPS hosting is a cross between shared hosting and dedicated hosting, and is the next logical step up from shared.
Think of VPS as your own little mini-server within a server. You don’t have the whole thing to yourself, but you have a portion of it that’s totally dedicated to you and your sites. So all of the downsides of shared, such as viruses and traffic slow down, don’t affect you as much with a VPS solution.
This is going to be more expensive than shared (obviously) but still isn’t outrageous.
A hosting bill for the year on Linode (which is where I used to have my site) is about $250 but it’s very easy for it to go up from there.
Best for: People who want better speed and reliability from the get-go.
One More Option: Managed WordPress Hosting
So we’ve covered the most popular types of hosting, but there are a couple more that have become increasingly popular over the last couple of years, so it’s worth mentioning them.
The first is managed WordPress hosting.
Since millions of sites out there are on WordPress, there are a handful of companies that specialize specifically in hosting sites that are on the WordPress platform.
These are usually a little bit more expensive, but if you’re using WordPress, and especially if you actually have significant traffic coming to your site, it can be worth it.
Some benefits of managed WordPress hosting:
- Automatic WordPress Updates – These services handle all of the updates to WordPress for you.
- Plugin Notifications – If you have plugins that won’t cooperate with new versions of WordPress, they will tell you and make sure you don’t have any site issues.
- Servers optimized for WordPress – Specifically, this helps make your site faster and more secure
- Testing Platform – Most of these services all you to make a backup of your site in a testing environment. So if you want to make a big change, you can test it first to make sure it works, before implementing on the live site.
- Built-in CDN – A CDN stands for Content Delivery Network. Basically, it means it will speed up your site if you have a lot of media or images.
By far the most popular managed WordPress hosting option is WP Engine. I run this blog on WP Engine and my golf site Breaking Eighty with them as well. Overall it’s been a really good solution and I highly recommend them.
Managed CMS Platform
Finally, the last big type of hosting you’ll see is the managed CMS (content management system) platform.
Essentially platforms like this combine numerous services into one large service.
A lot of people chose this because their sites are really big and they use a lot of different services to run things like a blog, membership site, storefront, etc., and they want to streamline it.
So rather than having a different company or service for:
- Landing Pages
- Membership Site Protection
- Affiliate Program
- A/B Testing
There is one service that does all of this for you.
There are definitely some big pros and big cons to this route. A few years ago, I decided to move the site over to a platform called Rainmaker as a CMS (I go into detail about here) however, this particular service hasn’t worked out and now I’ve moved it back.
That’s not to say these types of systems don’t work, but I would suggest doing your research first! In fact, Rainmaker doesn’t even offer this service anymore.
Most of these aren’t built on WordPress, and reduce some of your long term flexibility, so at this point I wouldn’t recommend them for your new site.
Knowing What You Need When it Comes to Blog Hosting
Alright, you know about all of the different kinds of hosting out there, but what about your needs? Depending on what you’re planning on doing with your site, one type of hosting might be a better option for your needs.
So, you’re going to need to think about your ultimate plans for your site before you jump into picking the right hosting.
Here are a few things you might want to consider:
- What platform are you using to build your blog? For example, using WordPress (more on why that’s a good choice below) or a setup that includes hosting.
- Are you going to be seeing tons of traffic? Yes, that’s the dream but for new bloggers, not something that is going to be likely for a little while, at least.
- Are you going to have periods of large influxes of traffic? A big sale, for instance, could end up driving thousands of extra people to your site, so you want to have a hosting situation that can handle it.
- Do you have any coding experience? Some hosting sites are very beginner friendly while other cater to people who are able to make tweaks on their own.
- How many sites do you have? If you’ve got one site, then it’s no big deal, but if you have multiple sites (or plan on it) you’ll need to know if you’re going to be set adding these to one hosting account.
- Are you very concerned about security? While all hosting sites are going to provide basic security features, someone who is running an eCommerce shop is going to need a higher security level than a standard freelancing portfolio.
- Will you have a lot of data? Traffic volume matters when it comes to hosting but so does database size, so if you’re planning on having tons of large files hosted on your site, you’re going to need to think about going with a host that offers more storage.
- What’s your budget? At the end of the day, you’ve got to be able to afford your hosting. For those starting out price could be a big factor, if you’re looking to switch budget that into your monthly expenses.
Answering these questions is going to go a long way in helping you determine what web hosting company is going to be the best for your needs.
Here are a few more web hosting questions to answer before deciding on the best host for your goals.
Also, think about how your site might grow over the coming years. Sure, you can switch and upgrade hosts if you need to, but it’s always good to find a hosting company that can scale with you as your brand grows.
The Best Hosting for 95% of You
Ok, so that’s a lot of information and you probably got a little bit overwhelmed reading through all of the different options there.
So let’s get back down to business and make it simple for you.
If you’re just starting your website, stick with shared hosting for now.
Most good shared hosting providers will give you:
- Unlimited domains
- Unlimited storage
- Unlimited file transfer
- A free domain
- Unlimited emails
And you should be able to get all of this for under $50 for your first year.
Note: Pricing can be more expensive for people outside the United States.
That’s an incredible deal and makes it a total no-brainer for someone who is just getting going.
Then if your site grows quickly, or you find yourself needing other features down the road, you can always upgrade.
The Best Blog Hosting Service for Newbies
So, when it comes to shared hosting there is one company I always recommend over others: Bluehost.
Why do I think Bluehost is the best shared hosting out there?
Specifically, because I have experience with it. If I’m starting a new, unproven site, that’s almost always where I start it out.
Most shared hosting companies are going to have very similar features, so to many, it’s almost like choosing a commodity.
However, I’ve found the Bluehost Support team to be invaluable. This is especially important if you’re just starting out. You will break something at some point, so having competent and easy to access support is huge.
Bluehost does a phenomenal job with that, so I think they’re great for those just starting out.
Also, if you’re just starting out with all of this and feeling a little overwhelmed, check out our latest course: The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Lifestyle Business. We hold your hand and cover all the basics.
Best Web Hosting for More Established Websites
If you have a blog that is getting a decent amount of traffic (say more than 10k unique visitors a month), then I’d highly recommend WP Engine.
That’s what I use for my more established websites, and while I pay a bit of a premium for it, it’s been worth every penny.
Where to Buy Your Domain
If you’re going the shared hosting route, there’s a very good chance you’ll get a free domain when you get setup, so if you’re just starting one new blog, then go with that and call it good.
I’ve also used Name Cheap which is one of the cheaper services, but the user interface is absolutely atrocious.
For a few extra bucks one of my favorite sites to pickup domains is Hover. Their user interface is super simple and sleek, and over time when you start piling up domains, you’ll be really happy about this.
Best Hosting Service For…
- Best Hosting Service for Most People: Bluehost
- Best Hosting Service for Established Sites: WP Engine
- Best VPS Hosting Service (if you’re technical): Linode
Related Posts About Starting a Blog and Hosting:
Want some more resources designed to help get your new blog up and running? Here are a few of our favorites:
- 56 Reasons to Start a Blog
- Step by Step: How to Setup Your First Blog
- How to Build Your First Online Asset in 48 Hours
- How to Change Your Domain Name: The Complete Guide
- The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Lifestyle Business
What Other Web Hosting Questions Do You Have?
Frankly, there are dozens of web hosting companies out there. Some big, some small, some cheap, some expensive, and I’ve never come across one that is the unanimous recommendation. Many people will have a preference, but almost always they’ll have a complaint or two.
The ones I recommend here are simply my best recommendations after creating sites for nearly a decade.
Have questions about what is right for you or how to go about getting your new site setup? Drop a note in the comments and I’ll do my best to get you the answers you’re looking for!