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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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%!
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.
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.
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.
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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!
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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