Online Marketing Strategies - Money Journal

Bluehost Review and Case Study with Page Speed Metrics

Before we dive into a quick case study, an epic Bluehost review, and a clash of the titans (Bluehost vs. Hostgator)…

bluehost vs hostgator

I need you to know one thing:

I understand what you’re looking for.

We all want to save money without compromising quality. And we all want web hosting services that will never crash.

Let me tell you a story about how I and many of us shop for web hosting.

I started my first online business in January, 2009. I was a new college graduate with a health science degree, a few hundred dollars in my bank account and tens of thousands of dollars in student debt.

Every nickel and dime counted.

I spent hours searching for the cheapest web hosting with top of the line up-time. Of course when I was Googling, every company advertised a 99.8%+ up-time.

All of the hosting review sites I came across knew nothing about web hosting or had lame charts with prices that didn’t match the corresponding websites. Sure, it enticed click throughs and I’m sure they got paid a bunch in affiliate commissions, but the fact is:

I never found a helpful review on a hosting company.

Since I registered my domain with Godaddy, I ended up hosting with them on a promotional sale for $1.99/month back in 2009.

Here’s what I got:

A dollar ninety-nine worth of services.

My website took 15+ seconds to load a plain HTML file with minimal images and external scripts.

I spent another 20 hours trying to figure out how to move my website to a new hosting service. I compared Bluehost, Hostgator and Siteground.

Siteground was selling their hosting services for $0.30 less/month than the others with of course a 99.996% up-time.

Irresistible right?

Well that journey quickly ended after I hit over 400 daily uniques. My website wouldn’t load or would mimic the same brutal behavior that Godaddy first gave me.

Okay… I’ll stop. This isn’t meant to be a malicious attack on other hosting services. This was back in 2009 and I’m sure their services are better now than they were back then.

My point is: web hosting is one thing that you don’t want to cheap out on. I’m not recommending a $300 per month dedicated server for your brand new website.

But don’t let a dollar or two extra per month influence your purchasing decisions.

Hosting is what allows your website to be seen by your potential customers and leads.

Why would you compromise the user experience for one cup of coffee per month?

Unbiased Review of Bluehost or Another Affiliate Push? You Decide…

Let’s get one thing out of the way…

Yes.

I am a Bluehost affiliate. But I’m not a hungry mammoth affiliate marketer who tries every trick in the book to deceive my wonderfully loyal readers. If you already have web hosting that’s working for you then good on you!

I only recommend Bluehost because I’ve had fabulous results from them and direct friends and family to them too. You won’t find any Hostgator affiliate links here as I can no longer vouch for their services.

This case study is meant to show you tangible evidence of the results we got when switching from Hostgator to Bluehost.

To those who decide to go through my Bluehost affiliate link, I appreciate your support and I can assure you that it won’t come at an extra cost to you. If you’re an affiliate hater, feel free to go directly to their site without my link and you’re still just as cool 😉

Bluehost vs. Hostgator Case Study – 18+ Seconds to 2.5

Before starting Money Journal, I did some work for clients in web development, SEO and digital strategy. Simon, a former client and personal friend told me about the issues he was having with his site’s load time.

His website was taking over 18 seconds to load on his Hostgator server.

I spent hours reviewing the site in case I had missed something.

  • Optimized images: check
  • Caching: check
  • Combining external scripts: check
  • Minifying CSS and JS: check

I also had a bunch of niche sites on Hostgator at the time, so I put one of them to the test. Instead of my usual 2.5 second load time, my website took almost 15 seconds to load, which is unacceptable! Period. Exclamation point. #FBomb.

I checked my Adsense revenue for the last 3 days, and guess how much it dropped…

99.5%! Instead of making a couple hundred dollars from that site, I made a total of one dollar.

I had had a Hostgator shared account for over 3 years before and recommended it to Simon along with a handful of other clients. We decided to give them a few days and the problem seemed to resolve itself.

But not for long.

The same problem came back sporadically and it was time to make the move.

My niche sites were back up to par at 2.5 seconds on the homepage load, but poor Simon’s site was still facing 10-20 second load times with some major packet loss.

Time for the move.

He scored a free domain and a boost in page speed. Not just any boost in page speed though…

When we had originally built his site, it was loading at around 3 seconds on my development server (dedicated hosting).

Here are the results we got when migrating his site from Hostgator to Bluehost:

pagespeed improvement

You can see from the end of September 2014, his company’s website was loading at just under 20 seconds. He continued having the problems which we kept a close eye on throughout the months.

We migrated his site in March 2015 and instantly, Bluehost’s speeds crushed Hostgator’s to a lightning fast 2.5 seconds…

A full half second faster than my dedicated server.

All for $3.95/month.

What does $3.95/month include?

bluehost plans

Let’s disect Bluehost’s hosting plans. Each plan caters to different people in different stages of their online business.

The pricing can seem deceiving on all of these plans. Here’s why:

They advertise the price as $3.95/month, $6.95/month and $14.95/month.

But here’s the deal:

These “starting from plans” are all based on 3 year terms with the full amount paid upfront as a one-time payment. But this is standard for any hosting company out there.

Here’s a table of what you can expect to pay upfront for the entire year(s) and the key factors to note:

StarterPlusBusiness Pro
1 year (12 months)$5.95 x 12 = $71.40$8.95 x 12 = $107.40$19.95 x 12 = $239.40
2 years (24 months)$4.95 x 24 = $118.80$7.95 x 24 = $190.80$16.95 x 24 = $406.80
3 years (36 months)$3.95 x 36 = $142.20$6.95 x 36 = $250.20$14.95 x 36 = $538.20
Websites Hosted1UnlimitedUnlimited
Website Space100 GBUnlimitedUnlimited
BandwidthUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Free DomainYesYesYes
Email accounts100UnlimitedUnlimited
Marketing offers$50 worth$200 worth$200 worth

Here’s my two cents:

If you plan on running more than one website, I recommend the plus plan because it supports unlimited domains.

If you’re like most people who only need one website, then I recommend sticking with the starter plan.

I honestly think the Business Pro plan isn’t necessary for anyone unless they require an SSL certifiate and private IP address. This would apply to eCommerce websites that plan on taking payments directly from their website without redirecting to another merchant like PayPal.

At the end of the day, we all have different budgets. You want to choose the plan that’s going to best fulfill your needs without compromising the user experience, mainly page speed.

What are these Marketing Offers?

The marketing offers that Bluehosts provide are free credits for Facebook, Google Adwords and Bing ad credits.

bluehost marketing offers

I haven’t used the Starter Plan, but since it includes $50 in marketing credits, my guess is that it is for a Facebook advertising code.

Although it says $200 worth of marketing offers in the Plus and Business Pro plan, it is actually $250 worth. Here’s what you’ll get with the plus plan and business pro plan:

  • Facebook ad credit: $50
  • Google Adwords credit: $100
  • Bing Ad Credit: $100

These credits aren’t your lame “spend $50 and get $100 in free credits”.

They are legitimate credits that you can use with a new advertisement account. No questions asked.

If you’re building your first website, you’ll be getting $250 in marketing credits which will help bring in some traffic quick to your site.

Start ups are no joke and getting leads, customers and an overall audience is tough. This is a great way to experiment with ad networks without spending a dime from your own pocket.

Bluehost Roundup and One Lesson to Take Away:

Is Bluehost the best hosting company out there? I can’t say it is with certainty. What I can tell you is that myself and my buddy Simon have had fabulous results with them and will stick around unless something goes sour like Hostgator had done to both of us.

For the single site blogger, save yourself some money and go with the starter plan.

For a multi-site owner, the plus plan will be your best bang for buck.

For the eCommerce owner or site owner that requires a securely encrypted website, the business pro plan is an option too.

The one lesson to take away from this is:

Don’t cheap out on hosting.

If you went to McDonalds to grab a burger, but there was a sign that said “gone indefinitely”, would you wait around or go to the Burger King across the street?

If you plan on monetizing your website or want to create a seamless experience for your blog visitors, you don’t want to lose traffic because you weren’t willing to pay an extra dollar or two for quality hosting.

Your hosting powers your website and it shouldn’t be compromised for a cup of coffee….per month.

Your Turn:

If you’re making a blog or website for the first time, I would highly recommend following this tutorial to make and design an awesome WordPress site. No coding is required and you’ll be able to make a killer site on your own without hiring anyone else.

If you’re frustrated with your hosting services, I highly recommend trying Bluehost.

Feel free to leave a comment and let me know your experiences with your current web hosting company.

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