WordPress is the most popular blogging platform available, but self-hosted WordPress is usually where all the action is, especially if you want to use your site commercially. To use self-hosted WordPress, you need to rent a server where your WordPress installation will live – that’s the “self-hosted” part.
Before we get into the part where we look at the best web hosts for your WordPress blog, let’s determine if self-hosting is even right for the type of website you want to create.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org
WordPress.com is a free blogging website, managed by Automattic. Your blog lives on their servers rather than your own.
WordPress.org refers the version of WordPress that you can download and install on your own server, so you have control over everything and can modify it however you wish.
Both run off the open source WordPress platform, one is just hosted on a company’s servers and another is hosted on your own.
For those of you looking to start a commercial blog (meaning you want people to visit it and have plans to monetize it), self-hosted WordPress.org is what you want.
For those who aren’t so sure about blogging yet, don’t plan on monetizing, or just want a place to write down their thoughts on the internet, WordPress.com is a much better place to start because you can use it for free.
Why go self-hosted?
So if you can blog for free, why would you ever self-host? That depends on your goals. As I said before, if you plan on making any money for your site at all, whether its through ads, sponsored posts, or selling your own products, self-hosted is the way to go.
For one, you don’t really own a free platform which means you don’t have full control over your content. You’re also expected to follow the guidelines and Terms of Service of the platform. Your blog could be deleted at anytime if you’re found to be against ToS, and if you didn’t read the ToS before hand it doesn’t matter.
Another reason is because WordPress.com limits the plugins you can install. For a lot of plugins, you have to have a paid Premium or Business plan, which costs several times more than buying a web host plan.
Yet another reason is because you can’t fully monetize your site on a free plan with WordPress.com. Options like payment buttons and ads are available for WordPress.com blogs, but again only on the Premium or Business plans.
To top it off, you’ll also have limited options for themes. The WordPress theme library is extensive, but you won’t be able to use that perfect theme you saw on Creative Market or that awesome free theme you downloaded last week.
For full control of your website, you need to go self-hosted.
Managed vs Shared vs Cloud Hosting
To better understand some of your options, you need to understand the difference between shared, managed, and cloud hosting.
Shared hosting is cheap because you split a server with several other people. This is good if you’re just starting out, you’re not sure if you’re really going to stick with blogging, or if you need to start out with something cheap and you plan to upgrade later.
Managed hosting can be shared or dedicated (on your own server), but servers are optimized for WordPress usage. They’ll often have extra tech and maintenance stuff set up for you, like server optimized caching, backups, and automatic updates.
Most webhosts offer all three options, so you can stick with a company you love as your website grows.
Understanding Web Hosting Deals
One thing a lot of people get tripped up on is price changes after their first year hosting.
Domain names are usually around $11-15 per year depending on where you buy it. With some web hosts, you can get your domain included in with your hosting plan or first year free.
I personally have all my domains hosted somewhere different than where I host my website just so it’s easier to switch hosts if I need to. If you’d like to do this same thing, I recommend using Namecheap.
At Namecheap you can get your .com domain for $8.88 along with free Whois protection (keeps away spammy emails from people who target email addresses on new domain registrations). Regular price is $10.98 per year.
Most web hosts sell you your first 1-3 years at a discounted rate. After you initial period is over, you’re back on the regular pricing, which is usually around $12 per month, depending on the host.
I suggest purchasing as many years as you can afford up front if you KNOW you’re 100% into this whole blogging thing, especially if you plan on monetizing. That way you’ll get the best value. Depending on how you monetize, you’ll make way more than the cost of hosting anyway.
Sometimes web hosts will have sales where you can renew your hosting at a discounted rate. I know SiteGround usually does this around Labor Day or Black Friday.
Best Web Hosts for Self-Hosted WordPress
SiteGround – Best for new bloggers
SiteGround is what I recommend for the 100% new, never-used-a-web-host-before blogger. The price is good, the service is great, and they work with a lot of other new bloggers already. Lots of people end up moving over to SiteGround after having horrible experiences with other web hosts. SiteGround is an excellent place to get your first experience with owning your own website.
Special Deal: Get up to 3 years for $3.95 per month (domain name not included)
Dreamhost – Best value
Next we have Dreamhost, which is a host I’ve been using for over 12 years now. Dreamhost is a bit more expensive than SiteGround, but is still a great option for new bloggers.
They now offer managed WordPress hosting which means they’ll keep WordPress updated for you, will provide better WordPress specific support, and your site will be on servers specifically optimized for WordPress. Managed WordPress services cost more than basic shared hosting, but are worth it if you need extra help with the tech stuff.
Special Deal: $50 off + free domain on Dreamhost’s Unlimited Shared hosting annual plan making it only $5.78 a month for your first year.
Cloudways – Best for tech savvy bloggers
Cloudways is an option for the more tech savvy blogger, because you’ll have to get a few things set up on your own. You’ll have direct access to your server, which means if there’s an issue, you can restart it whenever you need.
This also means there isn’t necessarily a team watching your server so if it goes down and the automatic restart can’t restart it, your site is down until you notice the email about (which unfortunately happened to me once recently while I was asleep.)
Using a cloud server is great though because you can upgrade or downgrade it at anytime without any downtime. So if you’re in the middle of a huge influx of traffic, you can upgrade your server for a few days until it calms down. Shared hosting services don’t offer this, so often people are left with a slow loading site or massive downtime in the middle of a peak moment for them.
Special Deal: $15 account credit for Cloudways hosting