SiteGround Hosting Review: Good & Bad of Using SiteGround
SiteGround Hosting 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’s 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.
In addition to quick server performance, SiteGround has four major data centers around the globe – Chicago, London, Amsterdam 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’s performance, speed and reliability are major pros for their product.
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.
For starter/beginner websites, they do free transfer, 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 several 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 very useful to have integrated.
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.
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 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.
Second, they’ve invested in a mostly custom knowledge base with comments customer support monitoring.
hird, 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 big skeleton in their closet that I cover in the Cons section. Even though they do a lot as mentioned below, do also read about the glaring exception.
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.
They put an uptime monitor in their main navigation.
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. In addition, they do it from Bulgaria even 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.
*again – be sure to read the last con for the big exception to this transparency.
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.
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. Here are the cons that I found while using SiteGround.
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 look at 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 usually runs heavily discounted rates for the first year (this link should show plans with up to 60% off, ie $3.95/mo for StartUp). Those intro prices are competitive. However, their standard pricing is expensive compared to the industry, especially for their StartUp plan.
They’ll of course argue that you’re paying for quality (see pros section) – and you would be. However, they are still more expensive than other high performing independent hosting companies like InMotion (see their plans here) and Web Hosting Hub (see their plans here).
And if pricing is a major factor for you, you can get much cheaper discounting, more features (and monthly renewal pricing) with HostGator (see their plans here).
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 cheaper with more flexibility than those plans.
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 may actually make their service more reliable. 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.
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.
Overall, SiteGround’s appeal to developers is great, but sometimes it feels like it’s at the expense of the more general market.
Custom WordPress Install & Link Schemes
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.
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.
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, theonehundredcollective.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.
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.
- If you don’t delete the page, you are in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and open to a manual penalty.
- The fact that SiteGround uses customer websites for their spammy search engine optimization without disclosure decreases the trust you can have with them compared to other hosting companies.
Editor’s Note – 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.
Out of the most well-known hosts that I’ve used as a customer or consultant, here’s how SiteGround compares directly to each.
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.
*Note – they both participate in sketchy SEO practices.
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 better guarantees, better onboarding, and they don’t do sketchy SEO tactics. SiteGround is fine, but I go with InMotion for my bigger projects.
SiteGround vs. Bluehost
Bluehost is one of Endurance International’s most well-known brands. Even with their recent pricing changes, 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 fine.
SiteGround vs. HostGator
HostGator is one of Endurance International’s other well-known brands. They are best known for offering good web hosting with unlimited 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 performance and HostGator for better (or short term) pricing.
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 remove their link scheme, they would be that much better.
If you are looking for a hosting company with an international bias, a focus on 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 go start an account with SiteGround 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. Check out their plans here.
If you are a beginner / starter website looking for good performance with much more affordable long-term pricing and beginner oriented tools then I’d go with Web Hosting Hub. Check out their plans here.
SiteGround HostingSiteGround is a independent hosting company with developer focused features.SiteGround Review:Good product especially for globally focused websites. A bit pricey and more focused on developers than general audience. Also, their customer website link scheme is sketchy.3 / 5 stars