Can Bluehost Still Make It in Today’s Crowded Web Host Market?
Bluehost is fine, but fine is not good enough. While Bluehost is a decent web host, you can get better quality hosting at a cheaper price with Hostinger, for example.
With over 20 years in the website hosting business, Bluehost has definitely managed to make a name for itself.
Is it a good one? Depends on who you ask. While some celebrate it as reliable and easy to use, not everybody on the internet has been so kind.
The company’s services are available in English and include shared, VPS, and dedicated hosting solutions. Sadly, despite powering over 2 million websites, Bluehost does not provide any information regarding the location of its data centers.
Wanting to check it out myself, I signed up to Bluehost’s basic WordPress plan and took the service for a ride. I’m here to share with you everything I found, along with my honest opinion.
It’s been quite the experience. I saw things with Bluehost that I’ve never encountered with any other web host. With any other company, actually.
Now, If you research Bluehost online, you’re going to see that many sites rank it very high. I suspect the reason for that has less to do with their honest opinion on Bluehost, and more with the generous affiliate programs that Bluehost offers. We’re going to go a bit more in-depth, and see if it’s really worth your money.
It’s time to find out if Bluehost can provide your website with the speed, availability, features, and support it deserves. Ready? Let’s go.
Bluehost Covers the Basics
Feature lists should always be taken with a bit of skepticism. It’s not uncommon for website hosts to list cPanel’s advantages as “special features,” while in reality they’re available with almost every hosting plan in existence.
What kinds of features do I want to see mentioned? The important ones. A content delivery network (CDN) service that improves your website’s availability and speed worldwide. An integrated firewall and security suite that ensures your visitors’ safety and your website’s condition.
Unfortunately, most of the features Bluehost advertises belong to the first list. We’ll go over them in a bit, and we’re going to have some fun doing so. Before that, let’s give Bluehost some credit.
All plans are packed with resources, starting from 50GB of disk space in the basic plan. I’ve seen basic plans from other hosts that come with 500MB. This is more than enough for a medium website. It’s enough for an e-commerce store with hundreds of HD product pics.
You’ll also get the following with every BlueHost hosting plan:
SSL Certificates Ensure Your Visitors Safety
All Bluehost plans include an SSL certificate. Providing some kind of SSL has become standard procedure with most website hosts, but it’s nothing to take lightly.
SSL certificates give your website that wonderful padlock in the address bar. They encrypt your visitors’ connections and guarantee the authenticity of the data sent between your server and your visitors.
Why is it so important? Because you can’t run an e-commerce store without it. Additionally, Google has admitted to giving higher ranking in search results to websites with SSL. If your competitors have it and you don’t, guess who’s coming in second.
To install the SSL certificate, you’ll have to talk with support. This isn’t as easy as you think, but once asked, they’ll be happy to take care of it for you.
Automated WordPress Installations and Updates
Installing WordPress isn’t difficult. It used to be annoying, but today there are one-click scripts that take care of it quickly. Still, it’s great that every Bluehost WordPress plan comes with WordPress preinstalled. No need to even enter cPanel.
Additionally, Bluehost takes care of updates for you. Updates aren’t complicated either, as they mostly require just pressing an “update” button, but it is easy to forget about them.
A Detailed To-Do List for Every New Website
I thought this was one of the coolest features Bluehost provides, and I have no idea why the company never mentions or advertises it.
Building a website is a process. Like all processes, it’s easy to get lost in it. The first steps are clear—you need to install WordPress on your server and connect your domain. But what happens next?
Designing your pages is one step. Making SEO configurations and optimizations is another. You can find yourself lost in no time. I once thought I finished a website, only to wake up that night sweating after realizing I didn’t configure backups.
Right after setting up your account, your Bluehost dashboard will show a neat to-do list of all necessary steps. After finishing a step, just mark it as done and move on. What’s better than crossing items off a list? Nothing’s better than crossing items off a list.
The list includes everything I mentioned earlier, as well as adding users, increasing performance, scanning for malicious files, and more. Just press “Let’s Go” next to any item and you’ll be directed to the appropriate screen.
If you are building a website for the first time, this list will be a blessing.
Bluehost Also Has Some Non-Features for You
All right, we’ve been nice—now let’s enjoy ourselves. Bluehost advertises a list of “features” on its WordPress hosting page that’s just too great to ignore.
First, did you know that Bluehost installs “the latest and most secure version of WordPress”? This is amazing, because I was expecting an old, deprecated, and less secure version. I’m feeling lucky already!
Another gem is how Bluehost gives you access to “hundreds of themes,” free and premium. This is … literally the idea of WordPress. Designers and developers make themes for the platform, which you can then install on your own site. This isn’t a feature of Bluehost, it’s a feature of WordPress.
My favorite has to be the “Secure Configuration of Login Credentials.” This feature has Bluehost letting you change your login credentials to, and I’m quoting, “something of your choice.” You choose your own password with Bluehost! Why hasn’t anybody thought of this before?
But seriously folks. This last one actually results in more work for you. Instead of letting you just choose your password from the start, you’ll have to go into your WordPress user list and edit the administrator user’s password. There was no need for this silliness.
Ease of use
It’s Definitely Easy to Use … Most of the Time
As a web designer and developer, let me first start by commending Bluehost’s design team. Understanding what users require is no simple task.
Right from the homepage, I felt at ease. Soothing blues and whites, a clear page structure, and a detailed breakdown of the differences between each hosting plan. This is something a lot of other website hosts could learn from.
Creating an Account with Bluehost
Choosing your plan is easy, and then you’re off to the signup process. I chose to use a domain of my own, entered all my personal details, added my payment information, and was officially welcomed to Bluehost! All that was left was to create a password.
After putting in a password and pressing Create Account, I got an error message.
I re-entered a password and was told I can’t enter a password that was used before. I tried a new one, and I got another error message. After a third password and a third error message, I decided to try a new approach.
I opened Bluehost’s homepage, pressed Login, and entered my username and the latest password. Everything worked. If this happens to you, just try to log in. I have no idea why these error messages show up.
You can find a detailed step-by-step description of my signup process, complete with screenshots, here.
Installing WordPress and Connecting the Domain
After logging into your account, you’ll enter the details for your website, same as you would for a Softaculous auto-installer, then answer some questions.
It seems to me like my choices didn’t have much effect, but I did feel special for a moment. Choose a theme if you want (I didn’t), and you’ll be redirected to your Bluehost dashboard.
A detailed breakdown of the installation process, and my experiences with connecting the domain, is available here.
Half Account Area, Half Loading Screens
The dashboard is also well-designed. I was happy with my to-do list and started checking out the features. Every time you switch tabs, you’ll be greeted with a loading screen that says “Alright world, time to take you on!”
Thing is, this screen will appear quite often, loading for 2–3 seconds every time. And you’ll be ready, so ready, to take on the world. I wish it could have been a more seamless experience. A modern design doesn’t do much good if it’s equal parts functionality and loading screens.
Other than that, just remember to go into WordPress and change your user password. I have no idea what the default password is. Support didn’t either.
Great Performance and Reliable Uptime
After getting my basic WordPress site—The Love of Burritos—up, I chose the Twenty Nineteen theme. It’s a basic theme, and I didn’t add any media files, so it should give us a good idea of the best Bluehost can offer.
The first step is to check page loading speed and site performance. Off to the Sucuri Load Time Tester!
What do we learn from this? Well, a few things. First, while Bluehost does not disclose the location of its data centers, the best total loading times are seen in Montreal, Canada, and in some Western European cities. For East Asia, and most of the U.S., the totals look less promising.
Keep in mind that real website speeds will be slower. A few HD pictures, an extra plugin or two, and your visitor from San Francisco might have to wait a whopping 2–3 seconds before loading the site.
Given these results, I’d say you should think very carefully about where your target audience is located. If it’s any place that’s not in the green, you’ll be wise to consider alternative web hosts.
Alright, on to GTMetrix.
Our basic site fares quite well. Bluehost has taken care of important server-side optimizations like GZIP compressions and also provides a plugin to take care of caching.
Last is uptime. Most hosts advertise 99% uptime, or even 99.9% uptime, and provide strong guarantees to back it up. We all realize 100% is a bit unrealistic—but that’s what we want them to aim for.
Surprisingly, Bluehost doesn’t aim anywhere. It barely even mentions the word “uptime.” Uh-oh.
This is never a good sign. Thinking that Bluehost must be hiding something, I put my site on UptimeRobot and started tracking. A few days’ results are not definitive, but I’m reporting a 99.94% uptime. Not bad at all, but still—no guarantee it will be this way.
This left me wondering: Does Bluehost think uptime isn’t worth mentioning? Did their content researchers decide it wasn’t selling?
So what do we make of these results? To me, the most concerning is still the data center issue. It’s quite ridiculous to not know where you’re going to physically host your website, and as you can see in the chart, performance varies across the globe.
This Is What a Backward Support Experience Looks Like
On paper, Bluehost provides a 24/7 support service, available through live chat and phone. In reality, this is where the whole service comes crumbling down. Support isn’t simply bad, it’s ten different degrees of backward.
My first interaction with the Bluehost team was before purchasing my plan. I contacted the company through the live chat, entered my details, and was promptly connected to a sales agent. After making first contact, it was a minimum one minute wait between each of his replies.
Twenty minutes of chat, just to ask if there’s a monthly subscription option, and how the money-back guarantee works.
This was slow, sure, but I still wasn’t prepared for what happened next. After setting up my account, I looked for a way to contact support through my account area. Nothing. Only a “?” icon that brought me back to Bluehost’s general help center, where I was given the option to log in again.
I pressed Login, and was moved back to the account area. Clicked the icon, and back to the help center. Feeling desperate, I opened up the same chat option that was available for me before I registered, but this time I clicked Existing Customer.
A representative was with me in a few seconds and asked for the last four digits of my password for verification. Wait, what? My toddler nephew knows if there’s something you never, EVER, do, it’s give away your password—or any part of it.
Bewildered, I asked the agent if she could see my password, and could compare it with the characters (not digits) I provide. “Unfortunately, no.” was her answer. Let me be as clear as can be: if she could see my password, it would be a privacy violation of catastrophic proportions.
What happens when you give away four characters of your password? You make it that much easier for others to hack it. I expressed my concerns, and only then was given a second option—a verification token through email.
Can’t they just verify that you’re you because you’re logged in? Nope. The systems aren’t connected. Every time you contact support, you’re going to have to provide a verification of some sort. This is simply the worst and least secure verification method I’ve ever seen.
Still, I played along (with a password I created especially for Bluehost!), and was “verified.”
I asked about an easier way to contact them, and, surprisingly, the agent referred me to an old cPanel page where there was supposed to be a link at the bottom. At the bottom I found a link to oDesk, a company that’s been known as Upwork since 2014, but no support link.
After realizing the agent did not know what she was talking about, I started a new chat. Again, I had to be verified. I asked about a better way to contact support and asked to hold while the representative asked the “higher experts” about it.
After 15 minutes of waiting, the answer was that there isn’t any better way of contacting support.
Wanting to be done with it, I asked for the nameservers in order to connect my domain. After providing them, the representative promptly proceeded to upsell me with an unneeded service.
My last interaction was asking for the SSL to be installed. The agent said it would be done in 1–2 hours, and that was indeed the case. Just so you can compare, other hosts get it done in four minutes.
Bottom line? This is a slow and horribly designed way to receive support. There is no documentation, most representatives are unknowledgeable, and you’ll be stuck waiting—a lot. Forgive me for not trying phone support.
Minimum One-Year Subscriptions for Average Prices
Bluehost provides a simple pricing structure, offering shared, VPS, and dedicated server solutions. In addition to the regular shared hosting plans, you can choose “tailored” WordPress shared hosting.
In the words of Bluehost’s own representative, “tailored” means that unlike the regular plan, which you can use to install any content management system (CMS), in the WordPress plan, you’re limited to WordPress. Other than that, they’re similar.
“WP Pro” and “eCommerce” plans are also available. They are basically shared WordPress hosting that comes with some minor perks and a few installed plugins. Nothing special.
Each hosting type is available in three or four plans. More advanced plans include increased storage and the ability to host an unlimited number of websites. All plans come with a free domain for the first year.
Plans can be purchased for a period of one, two, or three years. If you’re interested in monthly payments, Bluehost is not for you.
What about the prices themselves? They’re not too bad. They may not be the cheapest plans in the market, but they’re definitely on the affordable side—especially if you sign up for three years.
Should you sign up for three years? I don’t think so, and I’m not a big fan of any plan that requires me to think three years ahead. Needs can change on a monthly, or even daily, basis.
During checkout, you’ll discover Bluehost does quite a bit of “default upselling.” They’ve saved you the trouble of deciding if you’re interested in extra services and have already checked them all off for you. Not cool.
Remember that these services can always be added later, and if you’re not careful now, they can easily double and even triple your cost. Feel free to uncheck all of them.
Regarding payment options, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, and PayPal are available. Every subscription is set to automatically renew, and it’s your responsibility to configure it differently.
Canceling Your Account
After I finished testing Bluehost, it was time to say goodbye. The company provides a 30-day money-back guarantee, and I’m happy to report that the cancellation and refund process worked exactly as promised.
After contacting support via chat and providing my authentication once again, all I had to do was confirm my account’s cancellation. The representative said it would take 5–7 business days for the refund to be processed, and after 3 days I already had the money back on my credit card.
You can read a detailed step-by-step guide of my experience here.
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I've been a long-term BlueHost customer. I've recommended them for years. Their customer service used to be awesome. They were a good value. About a year ago, they started trying to up-sell all of my customers. Then the service went down. Now I've got slow sites that are barely functional and technical support that refuses to acknowledge the issues. I have a site that is running so slow, it generates 404 errors. Their answer? Pay extra to go pro. For a site that is much smaller than other sites I've run just fine on their servers in the past.