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Nick Wharton By
Posted 06 May, 2018 | 5 Comments
Posted in: Travel Blogging, Travel Blogs

Now that we’re stationary for a while, living and working in the Caribbean, we’ve finally been getting some things done on this website that were way overdue. One of those things was creating our Free Beginner Blogger Course for all new bloggers who start their blog with us, and another important job was moving our site to a new host.

In this post, I’m going to explain not only why we switched from Siteground to Bluehost, but also how this switch helped our site more than we ever thought possible. Believe it or not, our load speed is twice as fast, our traffic is 20% higher and we have the best service I could ask for, and all of this is cheaper than the hosting plan we were paying for at Siteground.

What is a host?


Basically every blog online has a host. It’s the big company that has massive servers all over the world that “host” your website so that it can be served to viewers worldwide. All bloggers have to pay for hosting if they own their domain and brand, but not all hosts are created equal! If you don’t have a blog yet, Click Here to start one with Bluehost and receive our Beginner Blogger 4-Part Video Course & 200-Page ebook for free.

When we first started out, we were on HostGator, but we soon realized that HostGator wasn’t the best host in the world. The site was loading pretty slow and we had a lot of down time. That’s when we moved to Siteground. Siteground was totally fine, but as their company started to grow, and as our blog started to grow, we noticed that we were still having a lot of downtime and we started to question the quality of the host.

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It wasn’t until this past year, that we really became frustrated with Siteground. Just to be clear, Siteground isn’t a bad host. No host is perfect and because they’re so massive, there are going to be times when they’re unable to serve their customers the way they expect to be served.

online jobs Travel Blogging at Petit Bacaye Grenada

But Siteground actually made some CRITICAL mistakes to our site on two separate occasions and we became totally fed up. On top of that, the site was running extremely slow, despite us spending over $175 / month on our hosting plan (which is quite high).

Disclaimer: It’s important that I’m 100% transparent before writing this post. I have not been paid by Bluehost to write this article, nor am I sponsored by Bluehost. Goats On The Road is an affiliate for Bluehost which means we receive free hosting and a commission when our readers start a blog using their service. Bluehost did not request that I write this article and our partnership with them does not change the speed test results or stats within this article, nor my opinion of their hosting service. In fact, I could earn the same commission recommending Siteground or Dreamhost, but I believe Bluehost is the best, so I use and recommend them.

Siteground Problem #1

At the beginning of 2017, our site was going down, A LOT. I mean, if I was working on Goats On The Road for 4 hours, I’d probably see it down 3-4 times in that period, which is unacceptable. Not only does this slow down our workflow, but it means that we’re potentially missing out on thousands of visitors to our blog. Not cool.

When I contacted Siteground, they said the issue was too many bots crawling our site and overloading it. So, they recommended that I upgrade and pay more money. So I did. But the issue kept happening, so I upgraded again. Eventually, the problem got so bad that I had to turn on “Auto-Scaling”, which basically meant that Siteground would automatically upgrade my account and charge me accordingly.

Every month my bill was changing but it was usually around $175, and yet still, this blog was going offline WAY too often. On my final call to Siteground I was complaining about the issue and saying nothing is fixing it and I was tired of throwing money at it. So, the customer support rep said he added some code and everything would be fine.

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Finally the site was running and me, not knowing the first thing about “code”, thought it would be okay. Over a month passed when we realized that our traffic was down by nearly 50%. At the time, I didn’t really put two and two together to realize that it may have been this “code” causing the drop in traffic.

We tried everything to boost up our traffic again. We wrote a lot of articles, boosted our social shares, but still, Goats On The Road was suffering. Finally I had to hire our developer who immediately noticed a code in the .htaccess file which was blocking ALL bots from crawling our site. This means that Google wasn’t sending us traffic (or very little traffic).

After the code was removed, it took another couple of weeks for all of the bots to “recrawl” the site and finally our site was back to normal.

In total, this little “coding problem” cost us over 100,000 new visitors in just under 2 months time and who knows how much revenue. At this point, we stopped recommending Siteground on this blog and began recommending Bluehost. We also started a new site on Bluehost shortly after this was fixed.

Siteground Problem #2

A few months after fixing the code and sending in a complaint to Siteground, I realized that the site needed to have a SSL certificate. I won’t get too geeky in explaining this, but basically it makes our site “secure” with an https:// at the start instead of an http://.

I contacted Siteground and they helped set up the SSL certificate. But, no surprise, they messed it up somehow. For months, our site was not properly secure and thus, Pinterest wasn’t allowing any users of their app access our site. We normally see around 20,000 visitors per month from Pinterest, but during this period we were down to around 7,000.

We didn’t notice this for over a month and when we finally did, it took weeks of emailing Pinterest, contacting Siteground and bugging our developer to help us with the problem.

During this time of the Pinterest issue, I moved the site over to Bluehost. I had asked Siteground numerous times to help me with the problem, but they claimed it was my developer’s fault. I was simply fed up with the poor customer service and terrible issues we were having with Siteground. Lo and behold, Pinterest started working as soon as we switched the site to Bluehost!

Switch To Bluehost

After the site was moved over, I finally got a reply from Siteground and the advanced tech team told me that there was actually an issue with the SSL certificate that was causing the Pinterest app to not load our website. They told me that they fixed the code and all would be fine, but by this time, I was happily moved over to Bluehost.

How Good Has Bluehost Been?

I have to say that the change has been much more effective than we ever thought it would’ve been. We moved from an auto-scaled “GoGeek” Shared Hosting Plan at Siteground, to a Premium Dedicated Hosting Plan at Bluehost.

Shared Hosting vs Dedicated Hosting

First, I should explain the difference between these two. Shared hosting means that many blogs are sharing the same server, meaning that if one blog is getting a ton of traffic, and your blog isn’t, your blog will still slow down. Dedicated Server means that you have your own server specifically for your own blog.

Migrate Site To Bluehost

Lower Price

This is the amazing part. The dedicated hosting plan that I have at Bluehost is actually cheaper than the GoGeek Shared Hosting Plan that I had with Siteground. With Siteground, the cost was $155 / month on average (depending on the auto-scaling), and with Bluehost the total price is just $119 / month… flat rate.

Of course, new bloggers would never have to spend that much, but even Bluehost’s basic hosting is cheaper, particularly when you use our Goats On The Road discount.

The normal price for the cheapest hosting with Siteground is $4.95 per month, while Bluehost usually charges $3.95 / month depending on the available deals, but with our discount it’s just $2.95 / month. That’s a discount of around 40% when compared to similar plans with most other hosts.

Whether you’re a pro blogger or you’re just starting out, Bluehost offers cheaper hosting plans and, in my experience, faster servers and better customer service.

Speed Increase

This was the main reason we were moving to Bluehost. We knew that we had outgrown our current hosting plan with Siteground and we were looking for a dedicated server plan. It took us a long time to switch because with a site as large as Goats On The Road, you really have to be online for a few weeks to ensure that the move goes well and everything is still working properly.

As we had been travelling around South America, Europe and Asia for most of 2017, we kept putting off the big job of migrating to Bluehost.

We looked at quite a few different hosts, because there are some excellent ones out there for bigger blogs, but they cost $250 / month. I assumed that I would have to go with an expensive host like Performance Foundry or WPEngine because our site has a considerable amount of traffic.

We’ve been recommending Bluehost on this site for over a year, because we use them on our other site and they have great support and speed, but we didn’t realize they had such an epic Dedicated Server plan.

Before moving over, Bluehost confirmed with me that our blog would be faster on their server, period. This was enough to help me make the decision, so we started the move.

The numbers really speak for themselves:

Speed Test On Siteground Servers ($155 / month)

VS

Speed Test on Bluehost Servers ($119 / month)

Okay, so for non-bloggers or new bloggers, the images above might look a little bit confusing. In the most basic terms, The site was loading at 5.13 seconds with Siteground and now it’s loading in 3.55 seconds with Bluehost. That’s over 30% increase in load time!

But that’s the time it takes to actually load the entire site. What’s more important is what the user sees and what Google Sees, which is why I’ve also circled TTFB (Time To First Byte) and DOM (Document Object Model). TTFB is the time the server takes to respond to the query and this is what Google uses to measure (and potentially penalize) sites for their load speed time. DOM is basically how long it takes for the user to be able to fully see and interact with the page.

So, as you can see from the screen shots above, The user is now able to fully see and interact with the page within 1.4 seconds, while at Siteground, it was taking a full 3.3 seconds.

The increase in DOT page load time is more than double, which means that the site is loading twice as fast for our website visitors. In fact, TTFB time with Siteground was a grueling 1.6 seconds. That means it took 1.6 seconds before the Siteground server even reacted to someone requesting access to the site.

With Bluehost, that reaction happens in just 200 milliseconds and the entire site loads before Siteground’s servers even reacted to the query. This means that the entire site now loads faster than Siteground’s severs even knew a site existed there.

This is incredible for us and it will not only mean faster load times, but far better SEO.

Which brings me to my next point…

Increase in Traffic

When moving from a shared hosting plan to a dedicated server, it’s really no surprise that the site is twice as fast. There’s a lot more power in this server and it’s working overtime to help Goats On The Road serve the quarter million page views it sees each month.

What comes with increased speed however, is increased traffic. For one, Google penalizes sites that have less than 2 seconds to first byte load time on mobile search queries, so speed is definitely a factor in SEO, but also, users simply click away if your site takes too long to load.

Our traffic has gone up from 31,700 / week to 37,800 per week since moving to Bluehost and it’s still climbing. That’s an increase of over 20% so far. Of course, a ton of factors can contribute to a traffic boost like this, but we’re just happy to see it.

Google Analytics is also reporting far better load speeds for our site. With Siteground we were averaging 27.73 second speed rating, which is very high. Since switching to Bluehost and fixing the caching for the site, we’re now loading at an average speed of 17.28 according to Google. That’s an increase of 37%!

Customer Service

I was fed up with the customer service at Siteground. Period. They answer quickly, but for the most part they were unable to help us with the site and if they did help us, they often make vital mistakes that caused serious issues for our site and our business.

I’ve been working with Bluehost for our other site and for all of our new bloggers who learn how to start a travel blog with us, and they’ve been amazing. Sure, there are some issues from time to time when people have a hard time figuring out what needs to be done, but that’s bound to happen with the complexity of a WordPress Website.

Overall, I’m extremely happy with their support.

For Goats On The Road, I have a dedicated support team to help me with my site, but even for my other site that’s running on the cheapest and most basic hosting plan, I’m getting a customer service chat response time of under a minute and I’ve had great customer service so far.

The Bluehost tech support agent who moved Goats On The Road from Siteground to Bluehost for me was also amazing. Not only did he move the site with no downtime, he also sent me speed reports and exact details of how the site improved via a 10 minute video uploaded to YouTube! Talk about going above and beyond.

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Bluehost hasn’t always been such a great host and they have had some customer support issues in the past.

For a while there, they grew so quickly that they really couldn’t keep up with the customer demand. One of my favourite bloggers Pat Flynn, has been recommending Bluehost for years and he actually went to their headquarters to talk to them because his readers had been complaining about their customer service.

Since then (early 2017), Bluehost smartened up… big time. Their customer support now usually answers in under a minute and they have a massive advanced tech team that can help with pretty much any problem. I hosted with Bluehost a few years ago and since moving back, I definitely notice the improvements and my team at Bluehost keep reassuring me that they’re only getting better.

Should You Switch Hosts?

If you’re a new blogger, it’s probably not worth it to switch hosts right away. Your site will run just fine on pretty much any host until it gets a lot of traffic. But as your blog starts to grow, you will want to consider moving it to a faster plan and a better host.

One bonus of moving over to Bluehost from another host is that you can get access to our free course and our free blogging ebook. These days you can complete a migration for free using a migration plugin, or pay someone on Fiverr to do it for you.

That’s not the purpose of this post though. I’m not trying to “convert” everyone who reads this post. People love different hosts for different reasons. I’ve been reading a lot of comments from people complaining about all different hosts online. Some complain about Siteground, some complain about HostGator or Dreamhost and some complain about Bluehost.

migrate hosts
Image By: WPbeginner

The fact is, everyone will have a different experience with their host and no host is perfect. But the way I see it, the most important thing for my site is speed and reliability and that’s what I’ve received from Bluehost that I never had from Siteground and HostGator. Their servers are super fast (even the cheapest plans) and they have amazing prices, often 25%-35% lower than the other, slower hosts.

That’s why I switched and we had so many issues with Siteground and HostGator that I thought I’d write this post.

Want To Start a New WordPress Blog With Bluehost?

Bluehost has been recommended by WordPress.com for over 10 years and they have specific hosting plans that are dedicated to WordPress websites. If you don’t have a blog yet and wish to start one today, you will get our free 4-part video course and our 200-page Blogging ebook for free.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

In Conclusion

I can’t believe it took us this long to move over to Bluehost. We’ve wanted to do it for over a year, but just kept putting it off for whatever reason. There always seemed to be some other project we were working on and I wasn’t ready to move the site.

Now that it’s moved, I really wish we had done it sooner. Not only would we had retained that traffic that Siteground lost us by making numerous mistakes, we would have also had faster load time over all of these months and we would’ve saved over $400 / year on our hosting!

working as a digital nomad at C'ugh in canggu bali

Not all hosts are created equal and every blogger has a different story about their current host and their previous ones. All I can say is that we are extremely happy with the customer service, site speed and PRICE at Bluehost and they are an easy host to recommend.

If you want to speed up your site and lower the price of your hosting plan, you may want to consider changing. I know we were happy we did.

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Nick Wharton

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Nick is the co-founder, editor and author of Goats On The Road. He contributes to numerous other media sites regularly and shares his knowledge of travel, online entrepreneurship and blogging with the world whenever he can. Nick’s advice has been featured on the Lonely Planet, CNN Money, Business Insider and Forbes.

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5 thoughts on “Why We Switched To Bluehost & How It Gave Our Blog a Massive Boost

  1. Past hosting, another big decrease in load time comes from using a Content Delivery Network (CDN). This service takes your content and caches it on servers throughout the world, so it delivers your stuff with the closest site. If you have a 3-second load on your site (which is actually very slow even though you are getting better results than your old host), a CDN should get it to just over a second in my experience.

    For my sites, I use Cloudflare.com. It is a free for up to 10 sites, has SSL, and has protections from DDS attacks, which I haven’t had.

    Essentially, what you do is run your site through Cloudflare’s name servers instead of Bluehost’s name servers. You handle domain entries on Cloudflare compared to Bluehost as you do now. So nothing changes about your hosting; they help with speed as well through your dedicated hosting plan. Cloudflare just makes it all go faster.

    I’d highly recommend trying it and then see your results.

  2. Hi Nick! I came across your blog a few months ago and am totally hooked. You guys provide such useful information for new bloggers such as myself, and I am so appreciative of the detailed information you provide! I currently have a blog on WordPress, and I am hoping to start monetizing it soon and turn it into a money-maker, but I’m totally overwhelmed with where to begin. My traffic is quite low; only around 30 – 60 visits per day, and I think my followers are only around 50. I am also ready to change my blog name because my current one is far too long and complicated. Would you recommend that I switch over to BlueHost now so that I can change my blog name simultaneously? If I switched from WordPress to BlueHost, would I lose all my current blog posts and information on the site? How would that get migrated over, and is it a costly and lengthy process?

    I so appreciate your help and look forward to hearing from you!

    1. Hey Lisa,

      I sent you a private email as well

      Thanks for the comment. So cool to hear that you’re totally hooked on blogging. It’s a lot of fun… a big challenge… but a lot of fun for sure. I’m really happy to hear that you’ve found our content useful. By the looks of your website now, it appears that you’ve already changed your name. That’s great! If you were to move your site over to Bluehost, you could do so using a plugin on wordpress. There are many migration plugins like these:
      https://wordpress.org/plugins/all-in-one-wp-migration/
      https://wordpress.org/plugins/duplicator/

      That can help you move. But I don’t think you have to move hosts. It’s really up to you. If you decide to pay for hosting with Bluehost in order to get the course for free, simply click this link: https://www.bluehost.com/track/gotr/ and follow the steps. When you get to the part that says “Choose your domain name”, just click the button that says “Already have a domain” and continue. After you pay for the basic hosting plan, shoot me an email at [email protected] and I’ll send you the course and the free ebook, you’ll also be added to our ongoing email training as well for new bloggers.

      It’s worth noting, before you make the purchase, that this course is for absolute blogging beginners. The first module is all about setting up the WordPress dashboard. By the looks of your site, you may already know much of the first module of the course! Lastly, you don’t have to move hosts. If you’re happy with your host, you can simply purchase the course here: https://www.goatsontheroad.com/purchase-the-wordpress-beginner-blogger-course-by-goats-on-the-road/

      I really hope this helps! If you have any questions, shoot me an email!

      Happy blogging!

      Nick

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