SiteGround Hosting Review: Pros & Cons of Using SiteGround

  • Eduard Ramirez
  • Tagged , , ,
  • June 4, 2018
  • SiteGround is an independent web hosting company founded in 2004. They are based in Bulgaria but serve hosting markets globally. SiteGround positions themselves as a company offering high-quality, “well-crafted” hosting solutions.

    They offer a spectrum of hosting solutions ranging from shared Linux hosting (the affordable, versatile kind used by most websites) all the way to Cloud and Dedicated server solutions for large, growing websites.

    They are one of the fastest growing independent (ie, not a brand owned by a larger corporate holding company) hosting companies. I heard about them via their growing event involvement in the WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and marketing communities.

    Like my experiment with Web Hosting Hub, I recently had a couple small sites that needed their own hosting accounts, so I wanted to give SiteGround Hosting a try based on high praise from people I respect in the industry.

    Here’s my SiteGround Hosting review – structured with pros & cons based on my experience as a customer.

    Disclosure – I receive referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All opinions and data are based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

    Pros of SiteGround

    There are a lot of SiteGround reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine but I take a different approach. Like I mention in all my hosting reviews, there is no such thing as a “best” web host. It’s all about the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience & expertise. Here are the pros (advantages) for considering SiteGround.

    Speed & Performance

    When someone types in your website’s address, that request gets sent to your web hosting server for the files. While there are a lot of variables in play with website speed, it’s primarily your hosting server’s job to send the requested files to the visitor’s browser as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

    SiteGround makes a lot of promises about website speed throughout their site. And from all the tests that I ran, they live up to what they promise.

    One of the main factors of site speed is Time To First Byte(TTFB) – ie, how quickly the server sends the first byte of the first file in response to a request. Here’s how my SiteGround website tested out.

    SiteGround Speed

     

    In addition to quick server performance, SiteGround has five major data centers around the globe – Chicago, London, Amsterdam, Milan, and Singapore. This matters because the physical distance that your website files have to travel matters. And many major web hosting brands automatically assign customers to their one data center – often somewhere in the middle of the US.

    That’s fine if most of your customers are in North America. However, if your audience is focused regionally elsewhere in the world, you want your website files located close to them regardless of where you are located. If you are an Australian expat building a site for the Australian/Asian market – you’ll want your website to live in Singapore, not Utah.

    Lastly, SiteGround does a solid job with allocation of resources. By definition, a shared hosting server is sharing resources among several customers. So it’s critical to get the allocation right. Many hosting companies will set very low memory limits on sites to keep a throttle on performance. As far as I can see from my installs, SiteGround allows generous allocations with up to date software.

    SiteGround PHP Limits screenshot for my SiteGround Hosting Review

    SiteGround’s performance, speed, and reliability are major pros for their product.

    Feature Set & Integrations

    SiteGround has a strong feature set – especially if you are more technically biased. They have unlimited databases and email accounts.

    They do daily backups, which is a good safety net feature when your own backups fail. SiteGround also uses industry standard cPanel to manage your server and have a simple user account backend.

    SiteGround Backend screenshot for my SiteGround Hosting Review

    SiteGround cPanel screenshot for my SiteGround Hosting Review

    For starter/beginner websites, they do a free transfer, a free domain name for a year, and have a free site builder. None of these features really stand out, but they do put them above many well-known hosting brands.

    SiteGround does have many unique developer-oriented features though. They integrate well with CloudFlare’s CDN. At their “GoGeek” plan, they do free PCI compliance and free Git & staging areas – both of which are seriously useful to have integrated.

    To reiterate, their WordPress staging feature on the GoGeek plan is seriously useful if you have a high traffic site. Setting up staging servers where you can edit a non-live version of your site and the “push” it live can be a pain to setup – even if they are best practice. Doing “hot fixes” on a live site is simple, but not ideal.

    Additionally, I like how they have a focus on the most popular content management systems like WordPress and Joomla. They don’t upsell any fake “WordPress-specific” features, but instead, show how their built-in features drive better performance for both WordPress and Joomla.

    They are cutting edge on the latest, greatest product integrations.

    SiteGround has a free SSL that rolls out at a click of a button. This removes a big obstacle to going HTTPS / SSL with WordPress. They also have direct integrations with CDNs like CloudFlare. They’re rolling out investments in NGINX, HTTP/2, PHP 7, built-in CDN and Caching, and more.

    Lastly, SiteGround offers a full-spectrum of hosting solutions. If you have a rapidly growing site, you can grow your site with them from StartUp all the way to an Enterprise Dedicated Server.

    Like performance, if you are focused on what your hosting can do – rather than as a raw utility and/or website cost, then SiteGround is really impressive.

    Customer Support

    Like I’ve mentioned in other hosting reviews, reviewing customer support is tricky. Just like your local restaurant on Yelp, the most positive and most negative reviews are generally worthless.

    You never know when issues are customer-caused or when someone simply encountered that one amazing/horrible employee.

    I’ve had a good experience with SiteGround. But that’s very anecdotal. So, I also like to look at “proxies” for customer support. In other words, things that indicate something about the culture & processes of customer support.

    SiteGround does especially well with a few of these proxies. First, they are transparent and responsive across a range of channels – including phone.

    SiteGround Support times screenshot for my SiteGround Hosting Review

    Second, they’ve invested in a mostly custom knowledge base with comments customer support monitoring.

    SiteGround Knowledgebase screenshot for my SiteGround Hosting Review

    Third, it’s apparent that they invest a lot in their employees, because their employees actually put on technical events to train developers.

    Those factors plus their endorsement from high profile WordPress core contributors puts SiteGround’s customer service in the pro column for me.

    Transparency* & Community

    *SiteGround does have one challenge on transparency that I cover in the Cons section. Even though they do a lot as mentioned below, do also read about the exception that I wish they’d fix.

    SiteGround is transparent and supportive of community in an industry that is usually pretty closed off. It’s refreshing to work with a company that is straightforward and supportive instead of working with a giant company that’s short on details and long on product upsells.

    They have a simple sign up process.

    SiteGround Transparency statement screenshot for my SiteGround Hosting Review

    They put an uptime monitor in their main navigation.

    SiteGround Uptime status screenshot for my SiteGround Hosting Review

    They even put the IP addresses of all their data centers on their site so that you can test their speeds from your location without having to sign up for an account.

    I like how in their Plans under GoGeek, they straight up tell you that you will have “fewer accounts on your server.” The fact that shared hosting companies have an incentive to jam as many websites on a server as technically possible is normally hushed up and never mentioned. To borrow a web developer saying, SiteGround turns that “bug” into a feature.

    And like I briefly mentioned in Support, SiteGround spends a lot of time and money supporting web communities. Building and maintaining communities like WordPress and Joomla requires a lot of volunteer hours – and SiteGround does an excellent job supporting them. They have sponsored, attended or spoke at more than 400 community events. In addition, they do it from Bulgaria with all the travel that entails.

    Their transparency and community support is a major pro because it indicates a deeper culture of investment in the long-term. If you’re a customer, that’s a good culture to buy from.

    Global Oriented

    The last major pro of SiteGround is their global orientation. They’re from Bulgaria, which is neither a major tech hub, nor is it a major English-speaking cultural hub.

    In a way, they have to be twice as good to compete in the global web hosting industry. From their website copy and interface design, it looks like they go above and beyond to create a global look and feel that works for anyone – not just an American small business person.

    They accept multiple currencies (AUD, USD, GBP, EUR) and offer multiple local toll-free lines + free country specific domains. The hosting industry is typically very US-centric, so this change is a welcome.

    I like how they have a dedicated Spanish language site. Their distributed data center locations are also a big advantage for businesses building an international audience, especially for Europe and Asia.

    Cons of SiteGround

    Like any web host, SiteGround has disadvantages. Remember, that like the pros, these are all in context of your goals & priorities. With that said, here are the cons that I found while using SiteGround.

    Overall Pricing Point

    Like I’ve mentioned in other hosting reviews, comparing pricing across hosting companies can be maddening. It’s very difficult to compare apples to oranges because plans generally come with various caps.

    That said, I try to compare pricing based on the 3 “D’s” of core hosting features – Domains (how many websites you can run on your account), Databases (how many software installs you can run) and Disk Space (how many files you can upload to your account).

    SiteGround’s runs 3 shared hosting plans – StartUp ($9.95/mo), GrowBig ($14.95/mo) and GoGeek ($29.95/mo). They all limit Disk Space. And StartUp limits you to a single domain.

    SiteGround Plans screenshot for my SiteGround Hosting Review

    SiteGround usually runs heavily discounted rates for the *any* sign-up period (this link should show plans with up to 60% off, ie $3.95/mo for StartUp).

    Those intro prices are competitive – especially considering they are for any signup period. However, their standard renewal pricing is expensive compared to the industry, especially for their StartUp plan.

    With SiteGround, you are paying for quality. So I want to emphasize that this con is focused on their raw price point – not overall value. However, they are still a bit expensive than other high-performing, independent hosting companies like InMotion and Web Hosting Hub.

    And if pricing is a major factor for you, you can get much cheaper discounting, good features (and monthly renewal pricing) with a host like Bluehost or HostGator .

    In addition, since SiteGround prices their plans based on caps instead of features, they leave many typical top-tier plan bonuses as upsells. For example, Dedicated IP addresses are usually built into higher-priced plans at other hosts, but they are an upsell service at SiteGround.

    The one exception to this con is in the world of mid-size websites that don’t really need a VPS plan but do need a stable, highly reliable shared server. Many of those website owners opt for managed hosting solutions like WP Engine. However, they also add a lot of limitations to your plan. In this case, SiteGround would be at a cheaper price point with more flexibility than those plans.

    If raw price is your primary goal, then this point is a disadvantage for SiteGround. If value pricing or other factors are important, then the price + features are a good value. To help you sort the factors, I have a Buzzfeed-style shared hosting quiz here and a WordPress hosting quiz here.

    Plan Limitations

    On a related note – I found their plan limitations to be a disadvantage in and of themselves. They limit disk space across all their shared plans – instead of databases or domains.

    Shared hosting servers usually struggle to handle many visitors on your site at the same time (ie, you get mentioned on CNN.com). So typical caps go after the number of websites that are bringing in visitors, instead of the files that simply live on the server.

    I’m sure SiteGround has excellent arguments for capping what they cap – and it likely makes their service more reliable. And in fairness, their setup can definitely handle more than 100k visitors if your website gets featured on a popular website as a one-time activity, and they will not suspend your account. Even if you’ve had something go viral – you’ll know that that is a *lot* of traffic.

    And technically, no host can offer truly unlimited plans – there’s always abuse caps detailed in the terms of service. However, the low caps on storage space (especially for StartUp plans) should make some types of sites – image or video heavy – think twice about what they’ll be using, especially when most hosts allow unlimited disk space, only subject to policy abuse rules.

    For example, the space is fine for a typical WordPress site, which uses ~2GB, but a comprehensive beauty blog or social networking website might need a lot more image space – even if it doesn’t generate a ton of traffic.

    As I’ve mentioned in other reviews with this disadvantage, the days of hosting companies promising “unlimited” are coming to an end. You may notice that many hosting companies now talk about “unmetered” – and this is why. As a consumer, it’s important to really think through what type of site (or sites) you’re going to have, and focus on your specific needs.

    Developer Orientation

    Every web hosting company has an initial target market and then tries to expand out to complementary markets (ie, they start with small business and expand out to agencies or medium businesses). SiteGround seems to position themselves towards the professional developer market, ie, developers building websites for businesses.

    That’s not a bad thing in itself – it’s a good thing if you’re a developer – but it does make it more difficult to appeal to a more general audience. While most of SiteGround’s overall feel is simple and straightforward, many of their features do not have much appeal or use for a general audience, especially compared to other hosts like Web Hosting Hub, InMotion, Bluehost, HostGator, etc.

    Their top tier plan sells a WordPress staging area and Git integration. Those are incredible features. But the average person creating a website will not use those. Not even small developers or agencies use those for many clients.

    SiteGround also does not offer the range of marketing bonuses that other hosting plans come with – the Google AdWords credits, Facebook ad credits, free premium WordPress themes, the free iStockphoto credits, etc. I used to think those were universal, but they’re not at SiteGround.

    Their Site Builder software is alright, but it’s not free to use. And it’s nowhere near as useful as the BoldGrid WordPress-based website builder that InMotion and Web Hosting Hub have.

    In fairness, if you are a customer who values convenience & onboarding more than other factors – then I’d also recommend looking at my website builder quiz which includes options beyond hosting companies.

    Overall, SiteGround’s appeal to developers is great. Even if you don’t need all the advanced features (that are mainly in the GoGeek Plan anyway), then you don’t have to use them – and they’ll be there when you do want them. SiteGround’s StartUp plan is simple and straightforward. Again, it’s about what features you are looking for – and what features you are actually going to use.

    Custom WordPress Install & Link Schemes

    Editor’s Note 1 – to clarify this section, this disadvantage is a bit different than the ones previously mentioned. It’s not on par with pricing / features / etc – but falls in the bucket of something that I think is a negative based on my career as an SEO consultant and my philosophical bent to products that are provided clearly with nothing “hidden” under the hood. Be sure to read SiteGround’s response at the end.

    SiteGround has an automatic WordPress installer like most web hosting companies. But it installs a slightly customized version of WordPress.

    I’m generally not a fan of the practice. But it’s also not outside the norm – HostGator automatically installs a widget that advertises their theme store. Other hosting companies will automatically include basic security or caching plugins.

    In both cases, the change is obvious and simple to deactivate the plugin.

    *Note – in all cases, you do not have to use the auto-install. You can always do a manual install.

    SiteGround takes a different approach. They automatically install WordPress with a published page that includes general tips and links to their WordPress resources.

    As an administrative matter, I thought it was odd to use a published Page visible to the general Internet instead of simply publishing a note on the Dashboard – which will be visible only to the website owner.

    SiteGround WordPress Install

    But then I looked closely at the page and noticed that they have some exact-match anchor text within the page. And the page is published, live on the internet and crawlable to the search engines.

    SiteGround Anchor Text

    Quick background. Search engines use links to other websites to judge how relevant and “authoritative” they are. They also look at the anchor text (ie, the actual text of the link) to judge what the website is. So if I link to my website with the text marketing website – Googlebot will say “ok, ShivarWeb.com is a marketing website.”

    Now, back in the late 2000s, this factor started getting abused. Google made “link schemes” a breach of their quality guidelines. Google also released an algorithm update called Penguin that looks for and devalues abuses of anchor text. If it gets egregious, Google will even slap a “penalty” on your site.

    Links are a wonderful thing if they are placed by the website owner or with the website owner’s approval. Links that are injected without a website owner’s approval or knowledge are spam. SiteGround may argue that this page is easily deleted, but even though it is, most website owners have no idea.

    SiteGround Exact Match Links

     

    That’s a lot of links to get from users who might not want to endorse your website with a link. And yes, there is an irony that WordPress, design agencies and theme makers use the same tactic (look at website footers). However, those links are visible & known to the website owner. An automatically published page that is not connected to the rest of your website is suspicious and spammy. It also adds a factor of risk for their customers – they are the ones unknowingly participating in a link scheme.

    Here’s why this matters to you.

    1. If you don’t delete the page, you are in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and open to a manual penalty.
    2. The fact that SiteGround uses customer websites for their search engine optimization without disclosuredecreases the trust you can have with them compared to other hosting companies.

    Editor’s Note 2 – here is the response from SiteGround’s marketing team.

    “The motivation for this is to actually provide a better client experience by pointing the just-starting customer to useful resources we have created. We have never ever had any complaints from customers for our default install, nor anyone has been penalized. And also, our experience shows that once people start developing their website, they delete those pages just as they would delete the default Hello World post.”

    Either way, you can decide if it matters to you. Just remember to delete that page.

    SiteGround Comparisons

    Out of the most well-known hosts that I’ve used as a customer or consultant, here’s how SiteGround compares directly to each. Or skip to the conclusion.

    SiteGround vs. GoDaddy

    GoDaddy is the biggest brand in the web hosting industry. GoDaddy has better overall and short-term pricing. However, SiteGround’s support and technology are much better than GoDaddy, despite GoDaddy’s improvement in this area since 2013. Unless you have reasons to go with GoDaddy, you’ll get a much better product from SiteGround. I’ve written an entire post on SiteGround vs. GoDaddy here.

    SiteGround vs. InMotion

    InMotion Hosting is SiteGround’s big independent (ie, also not owned by a big holding company) competitor. I use InMotion VPS for this website. They both have great features, knowledgeable support, and high performance. However, InMotion’s pricing is better overall, especially once you factor in upgrade fees. InMotion also has a longer guarantee(90 days), better onboarding, and clean WordPress installs. On the flip side, SiteGround has features like automatic staging, free SSLs, and global data centers. I use InMotion for most of my projects, but SiteGround is a solid choice as well, especially if you value their unique features.

    SiteGround vs. Bluehost

    Bluehost is one of Endurance International’s most well-known brands. They beat SiteGround on pricing. However, SiteGround does much better with performance and core hosting features whereas Bluehost has better “bonuses” and side upgrades. If performance matters more to you – then pay a bit extra for SiteGround. If you’re just running a simple, straightforward project, then Bluehost is good.

    SiteGround vs. HostGator

    HostGator is one of Endurance International’s other well-known brands. They are best known for offering good web hosting with unmetered features for very affordable prices. I use them for small personal projects – and they beat SiteGround on pricing and core hosting features. However, SiteGround has better support and performance. So again, between them, go with SiteGround for better value & better performance and HostGator for better (or short-term) pricing and/or unmetered features.

    Conclusion

    There’s a reason SiteGround Hosting is one of the fastest growing independent hosting companies. They have a solid product and a great support. Being headquartered in Bulgaria allows them to be much more globally oriented than many US companies while offering a truly world-class product. If they would disclose and/or remove their auto-WordPress install, they would be that much better.

    If you are looking for a hosting company with an international bent, a focus on solid technical features, and a full path of plans for a website that will grow, and really don’t care about SiteGround’s link schemes, you can get a 60% off discount on SiteGround’s plans here.

    If you are looking for a hosting company with all the benefits of SiteGround – but with better pricing and guarantees, I’d go with InMotion Hosting. Get InMotion’s discount here.

    If you are more confused than ever – then take my BuzzFeed style WordPress Hosting quiz here, the Web Hosting Quiz here or use my website setup guide here!

    SiteGround Hosting
    SiteGround is a independent hosting company with developer-focused features.
    SiteGround Review
    Written by: Nat Shiva
    Date Published: 03/02/2018
    Great product especially for globally focused websites. Cutting-edge features with good performance. A bit pricey and more focused on developers than general audience.
    4 / 5 stars

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