Bluehost pros and cons
Updated: Mar 8, 2021
Bluehost is one of the most established and well-known hosting brands on the internet. It’s a brand owned by the Endurance corporation.
Bluehost has positioned themselves as not only the go-to hosting provider for beginner and starting websites, but also the no-hassle hosting provider for small businesses. I’ve used Bluehost for several projects of my own, and my oldest client has been using Bluehost for more than 10 years.
If you’re looking for web hosting this year, BlueHost will surely come up as a web host recommended by many professionals, bloggers, and web hosting reviewers.
Indeed, BlueHost is a popular web host that, in part, owes its popularity to its pocket-friendly shared hosting plans and WordPress optimized hosting packages.
Recommended by WordPress itself as the go-to hosting for WordPress sites, BlueHost has made a name for itself in the industry. However, WordPress hosting is not their only claim to fame as BlueHost offers hosting packages across the entire hosting spectrum to appeal to a larger customer base.
Here’s what I found to be the pros, cons, and alternatives in a full Bluehost review based on my experience with personal projects and clients’ projects.
Pros of Using Bluehost
No hosting company is perfect. And like I said in the intro, I’ve always maintained that there is no such thing as a “best hosting company” – it all depends on your goals and preferences.
Aside – I created a shared hosting quiz and a WordPress hosting quiz that helps readers match goals and needs with hosting companies that usually come up in my conversations with readers.
That said, here are the pros / advantages that I found with Bluehost.
Brand Name Support & Resources
Bluehost is certainly a large hosting company. It’s owned by Endurance International – the largest hosting corporation in the world. And it certainly has more brand recognition than any other host except for maybe GoDaddy or major website builder companies that do TV advertising.
A big brand certainly has disadvantages, which I’ll cover in the cons section, but there are also big benefits to using the name brand in the market.
After all if there weren’t lots of advantages the name brand would not be the name brand.
First, big brands such as Bluehost have the resources that other smaller hosting companies may not have.
They can hire the best network engineers, the best customer support team leaders, and the best executive teams in the industry. They have the capital and financial resources to make large investments in their network and servers – really anything that will help make their service better.
Second, big brands like Bluehost who are in industries where market share is often the number one focus (rather than revenue maximization) usually focus on Net Promoter Score rather than immediate revenue.
What this means for customers is that they are focused on making you happy more than anything else. Why? Because when you’re happy, you are much more likely to refer them to a friend.
*That’s why the typical customer survey from big/growing companies always starts with “how likely are you to refer us to a friend?”
Now again, the caveat is that making you happy doesn’t necessarily mean providing the best service for your needs. But it is better than maximizing every single penny that they can get out of you. And I’ll cover this caveat more in the cons section.
Third, big brands such as Bluehost are not going to up and disappear overnight. With something like your website data where security is more important than really anything, it’s important to know that your hosting company isn’t going to just go out of business. And a brand like Bluehost has the stability to make sure that’s not going to happen.
Overall, just like in the grocery store, if the brand name isn’t that much more expensive than the generic or low-cost brand, most people will choose to go with the name brand. Same with hosting.
Like I’ve said in other hosting reviews, pricing is important, but you have to look at pricing in context.
While Bluehost pricing will come up in the disadvantages section, their pricing is affordable and reasonable – especially for a small to mid-size website looking for good hosting.
They have a 3 tier pricing structure. Their lowest plan is particularly affordable especially for starter websites, but with caps that I’ll cover in the cons section.
Their mid-tier plan is also affordable, with many unmetered or unlimited features, but slightly more expensive at renewal than some direct competitors.
I’ll look at their feature caps and pricing structure in the cons section, but for now if you are looking for an affordable host that you can just get started with – then Bluehost fits with a special discount.
*Additional pro on pricing – Bluehost’s international options. They provide payment options in several currencies, including Euros, Pounds, and Australian Dollars. Compared to other hosts, this provides a small bonus for ex-US customers who can avoid foreign transaction fees & currency swings against the US dollar.
Onboarding & Education
Even though setting up a website is nowhere near as complicated as it was in the early 2000s, it still can be a daunting process for anyone who has never set one up from scratch.
The process of moving a new customer through that process is called “onboarding.”
There’s a lot of aspects to onboarding. It includes everything from how confusing your checkout process is to how clean your user interface is to the emails that a new customer receives.
Often, the onboarding experience is where a hosting company can lose a new customer. If expectations are not met, or features cannot be found, or new jargon is not explained well, then no matter how good your product is, your customers will probably hate you.
Usually all the anecdotal bad experiences that you see on forums, review sites or social media come from experiences that should or would have never happened had the hosting company set expectations or communicated better.
Bluehost has done a good job making sure all the technical tools are available for customers who want them – while also maintaining a clean user interface. Their onboarding process is straightforward for new customers who may not want to see the technical tools right off the bat.
Additionally, Bluehost uses industry-standard tools such as cPanel. This makes problems simpler to solve because there is a lot more documentation around the Internet to guide you. Here’s a screenshot of their new, fresh backend (click image for full version).
Bluehost has a excellent knowledge base and education center to help customers get start on the right foot.
And as an aside, the other advantage to being a big brand is that there are plenty of people who have had problems with your product in the past – but have gone on to solve those problems on forums. That means that when you do a Google search for your problem, there is a high likelihood that a helpful answer has already been posted.
That said, there will be a time when something goes wrong. And when something goes wrong it’s important to know that you have access to good customer support.
Like I’ve mentioned in all of my other hosting reviews, customer support is nearly impossible to judge unless you actually know the customer support team and the customer support team culture.
Every negative and positive customer support anecdote that you may see or hear online is just that – an anecdote. You never know if you’re dealing with the one true expert on the entire team, or if you’re dealing with a rookie who was simply having a really bad day.
Instead of saying that a company’s customer support is good or bad I like to judge it based on access and investment levels.
I have found both to be good indicators of whether or not a company views customer service as a cost, a sales opportunity or an investment.
Bluehost does well on both marks.
Bluehost has phone in addition to chat and social media support.
However, like I said in my Bluehost review, they do seem to use the phone more as a triage solution than a “let’s let everyone talk to an expert immediately” kind of solution.
That’s not a good or bad thing, but I think it’s good to know that you’re still going to go through phone tree and you’re still going be put on hold.
But a phone number is an advantage compared to other hosts, rather than working through chat or email tickets.
Additionally, like I mentioned in the education section, Bluehost has done a lot of obvious investment in their knowledge base and support options within product screens.
They can head off a ton of problems before you even feel like you need to talk to customer support.
Account Add-ons & Extras
Bluehost does provide a lot of add-ons and Extras to all their products – from basic things like SSLs and Google Ad credits to advanced features like Cloudflare integration.
Now, I wouldn’t suggest choosing Bluehost just for these add-ons or extras themselves, but they do bring them up to par and even push them up beyond many low-cost competitors.
Full Product Suite & Expertise
Bluehost provides a full product suite from domain names to shared hosting to managed WordPress hosting to VPS hosting all the way up to dedicated hosting.
Additionally, they provide slightly customized hosting for website owners who run WordPress and WooCommerce together or even customers who running WordPress site and need help with specialized things (like increasing speed or security on their WordPress website).
Like account addons and extras, these are not necessarily reasons to choose Bluehost, but they do separate them from their very low-cost competitors and allow you to stay and grow with a single hosting company (as in the case of my client).
Cons of Using Bluehost
Here are the cons or disadvantages that I found working with Bluehost.
Brand Name & Big Company Problems
The section headline sort of says it all.
Big companies come with their own set of real and perceived problems. Since they operate on a big scale, they are also going to have big problems, and Bluehost is no exception. There are six issues that I’ve seen repeatedly come up regarding Bluehost mainly due to their size, scale and relationships.
First, they are still feeling the brand effects of their more-than-24-hour downtime for millions of accounts in August of 2013. They are still catching bad press for their network glitch back in the Winter of 2016.
Second, since they have millions of accounts, they also have lots of potential for security & downtime incidents. Like I said in the Pros section, they have the expertise to solve these problems. But they are problems inherent to being a big company. If 0.01% of your customers have issues…they’ll make it known online.
Third, every big company has the temptation to cut expenses at scale, because that can produce large profits right at the bottom line. In Bluehost’s case, there will always be an incentive to cross-sell one more product or run just a few extra websites on each server to cut down on your overall capital cost.
That’s not something that I, or Bluehost competitors or anyone commenting online can confirm.
But it is a fact that operating on that kind of scale means that Bluehost network engineers have to optimize for the majority – and not the minority – who might need extra resources or specialized needs.
Fourth, Bluehost is inherently going to have lots of people trash-talking them everywhere online, even if most of their customers are more or less happy with them. That is a fact of Internet behavior – people are more likely to talk about their bad experience than their “yeah, pretty good” experience.
Fifth, Bluehost and Endurance do have to fend off conflicts of interest such as having a stake in Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com + the main contributor to the WordPress open source project. WordPress.org has done a good job of clarifying and fixing potential issues, but it’s still something people will always bring up.
And lastly, as a customer, there’s always the trade-off of buying from an independently-owned, smaller company where you are inherently more important to them, rather than a big company where you are just another account. It’s the Starbucks vs. local coffee shop tradeoff.
Again none of these things are good or bad… but they are simply built-in disadvantages to being a big company just like there are built-in advantages to being a big company.
Speed & Performance
The core job of a web host is to store your website files and deliver them to anyone who requests them. But there is a key adverb that you should really care about – you want your website server to deliver those files quickly. And that’s where website speed and performance really come in.
There are a ton of variables that go into website speed. Some of them you can control; some of them you cannot control.
But one of the variables that you can control is using a web host that handles performance on the level that your site needs (given how resource-intensive your site is and how many visitors you have).
Bluehost is fairly transparent about the hardware that they use on their shared servers. On their sales page, they give out the exact specifications.
And yet I haven’t been able to find exactly what level resources they run on each server, (e.g. how many websites they have on each server). Additionally, the only people who really have access to their bandwidth levels and network performance are their own internal network engineering team.
They run up to date versions of PHP and MySQL. However, on Basic plans, they do also limit the default amount of allocated memory.
It’s an easy fix, but it’s still something to fix if you start to run plugins with heavy demand.
That said, compared to other hosting companies who do focus on speed and performance, Bluehost usually comes in around average.
The simplest way for non-network engineers to measure speed and performance has to look at time to first byte or TTFB.
It’s the time that it takes a server to respond and deliver the first bite of information after it receives the first request for information. Basically, it’s a turnaround time for website files.
TTFB is a very rough measurement.
It’s best looked at as a trend rather than as a single snapshot. But over the years, my Bluehost snapshots have usually tended around average or below average…though my most recent 2020 test ran really fast.
My tests are somewhat confirmed by Endurance International investor reports. Endurance International (which is Bluehost’s parent company) is a publicly-traded company with all the reports and disclosures that come with it.
One of those reports is the investor report which details how Bluehost does in comparison to other brands. Here is a screenshot from the last report detailing how their network engineers have measured overall speed among their brands.
All in all, Bluehost speed and performance is fine for a starter to mid-size website – but it’s certainly a disadvantage for sites that expect higher-performance (ie, media heavy sites).
Pricing Structure & Caps
Comparing pricing across hosting providers can be confusing. In many cases, it’s like comparing apples and oranges. I like to break pricing structure down into core hosting price and then core hosting price plus bonuses.
The core features of any hosting provider are what I call the 3 D’s –
Domains – how many websites/domains can you connect to the account.
Diskspace – how many files can you put on your server.
Databases / Email Addresses – how many individual pieces of software/users can you place on the account (ie, one install of WordPress = 1 databases).
I call them the core hosting features since the essential job of any host is to host your website files and serve them up when a browser requests them.
Once you’ve got core hosting features, then you can start overlaying “bonus” features – the ones that companies pitch but may or may not matter to you.
The short version is that Bluehost caps all 3 “D’s” at their Basic plan. Their Plus plan is unmetered, so you can compare it fairly directly with other hosting plans. The Choice plan is an extra $4/mo for all bonus features.
If you are planning to run multiple websites on one account, and you are counting dollars then the caps on Bluehost plans will probably affect you.
Their cheapest plan is great if you’re just going to do one simple website, need a cheap plan and don’t mind paying upfront for a year.
If you’re looking to pay monthly, their sister brand HostGator usually has a better deal (especially if you know for sure that you only want to have one website).
And other brands such as InMotion will have different but maybe better plan caps but also have a slightly higher price.
Without a discount at signup – Bluehost is slightly more expensive than other hosts per feature or overall. That’s not a good or bad thing – but something to consider if you are budget shopping.
Marketing-heavy Plan Features
Bluehost plans are structured so that they seem understandable, but I honestly don’t like the phrasing that they used around their plan structure.
If I give them the benefit of the doubt, I’m sure they’re trying to make it less daunting for beginners and people doing a starter website to evaluate plans.
That said – for someone who does care about the features and the specifics, their plan structure and pitches are very vague and marketing-speak heavy.
For example, I have no idea what a SpamExpert or CodeGuard Basic is. And without digging, I have no idea the actual difference between standard performance and high performance (is it an increase in default allocated memory?).
They have options for Managed WordPress hosting and options for WooCommerce + WordPress hosting. And yet their shared hosting is also the easiest way to run WordPress…even though WordPress hosting is the same as shared hosting, plus they have WooCommerce hosting (which should need more resources) is cheaper than Managed WordPress hosting.
If that’s a confusing paragraph, that’s because the plans are confusing to me.
I feel like I have a hard enough time comparing apples and oranges between hosting companies. Bluehost has confusing competing products with no way to compare apples to apples within their own plans.
If you know what you need (i.e., probably just basic web hosting), then Bluehost probably has it, but it’s a little frustrating and creates a little bit of buyer’s remorse. There are so many overlapping competing products that all have the same marketing speak.
Buying hosting can be daunting & confusing – anything that makes it more so is a disadvantage in my book.
Upsells & Professional Services
As an Endurance company, Bluehost does upsell other Endurance International products, such as MOJO themes, Constant Contact, and partnerships with OptinMonster.
For some customers, these cross-sells are very useful and handy, but for others like me, they are a little annoying…even though you just have to deactivate them real quick to get a clean install.
As of now, Bluehost does not automatically install as many plugins on your WordPress quick install as HostGator does, and I hope they reduce the few that they run now. But even now, the upsells and cross-sells are a disadvantage for me.
Backups, Guarantees & Brand Focus
Bluehost does a few other things okay but not as good as direct competitors.
For example, they do backups, which is great. But they don’t do daily backups like some competitors. They have a 30-day money-back guarantee, which is great. But it’s not as good as Dreamhost’s or InMotion’s 90-day money-back guarantee.
Additionally, Bluehost has a good clean “everyone” brand, but they don’t really have a single market segment that they focus their products around.
They’re great for a starter website or for someone who wants to be on a straightforward simple brand name hosting. But since they’re for everyone, sometimes they also aren’t for anyone.
They are cheap but aren’t the cheapest. They have good performance but don’t have the highest performance. They have good advanced tools but are not the developers’ favorite. They have WordPress-specific products, but not like managed WordPress hosting.
They are just a solid, name-brand host. In a crowded market, that is an (ironic) disadvantage to me.