Bluehost Web Hosting Review
Bluehost would sit near the top of our best web hosting list if it wasn’t for the nasty corporate head. It’s owned by Endurance International Group, which is a web hosting conglomerate with worrying privacy practices. That said, it didn’t make our best web hosting for small business list without reason.
If you can contend with the privacy practices of Bluehost’s mother company, you’ll find a full-featured web host that offers fast speed for a reasonable price. In this Bluehost review, we’ll detail our experience with the popular web host after launching a website with its most inexpensive shared plan.
Bluehost is better than most of its siblings at EIG. The support could use work, as could the deceptive pricing, but those are small concerns. In the end, the pros outweigh the cons, which is difficult to say for most EIG brands.
- Excellent managed WordPress hosting
- Intuitive control panel
- Weebly integration
- Free SSL/TLS certificate
- Free daily backups
- Lengthy knowledgebase
- No malware removal
- Lackluster live chat
- Limited duration selection for shared plans
- Can be expensive
- Shared Hosting
- Managed WordPress
- SSL Encryption
- Visit BluehostBluehost Review
- Shared Hosting
- Managed WordPress
- SSL Encryption
- Visit DreamhostDreamhost Review
- Shared Hosting
- Managed WordPress
- SSL Encryption
- Visit GreenGeeksGreenGeeks Review
- 1&1 IONOS Web Hosting
- Shared Hosting
- Managed WordPress
- SSL Encryption
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Bluehost has an excellent list of features that’ll help your website get started quickly and securely. It even shows in the most unlikely places, with a control panel that makes WordPress management easier than ever.
Starting with the shared plans, there are a lot of goodies. The top-tier Pro plan includes $200 in ad credits, two SpamExperts licenses, domain privacy, CodeGuard Basic and a dedicated IP address.
Those features come at a price, though, which we’ll cover in the “pricing” section below. Thankfully, regardless of the shared plan you choose, you’ll get a free SSL/TLS certificate and daily backups for your website. We consider those the essential features for any web host, so it’s nice to see Bluehost include them.
WordPress and Bluehost
That said, its excellent integration with WordPress stands out most. We’ll talk in detail about the control panel in the “ease of use” section, but the short of it is Bluehost combines WordPress and account management in a way no other web host does. The interface emphasizes exploration, allowing you to manage your WordPress website without logging in to the back-end.
The WordPress features don’t stop there, either. If you’re running a WordPress website, Bluehost will automatically install WordPress and set it to staging mode. In that configuration, your website will display a “coming soon” page, which allows you to build it before pushing it live.
Thankfully, Bluehost has non-WordPress users covered, too. In cPanel, you can turn on the Weebly website builder, which, as you can read in our Weebly review, is one of the best website builders around.
All Bluehost users have access to the free Weebly builder with their domain, which usually runs around $5 per month. That said, it’s the free version of Weebly, which imposes limits with media and pages. If you want a more comprehensive package, you can upgrade your Weebly site without starting over.
Bluehost Features Overview
Bluehost is the king (or queen) when it comes to stock pricing. Its rates are about as standard as they come, setting a baseline on which web hosts can be compared. That said, it’s also the king of deceptive pricing, asking you to commit to the checkout page before you’re clear about what price you’ll be paying.
Even so, it doesn’t have the egregious deception of Arvixe (read our Arvixe review). On product pages, Bluehost shows the initial monthly rate, as well as the price you’ll be paying upon renewal. Though we can appreciate clarifying what the real monthly price is, the final price always ends up higher than expected.
There are a few reasons for that, but the main one is that Bluehost advertises the price for three years. Plus, shared hosting is only offered in one, two and three-year durations, and always adds up to more than $100. We’ve seen other multi-year discounts — read our Hostinger review for an example — but the price is never as high as it is with Bluehost.
That’s because there are multiple add-ons preselected at checkout. Essentially, Bluehost turns every shared plan into its top-tier shared plan, adding domain privacy, SiteLock and CodeGuard to your plan automatically.
It’d be one thing if the price was cheap like it is with Hosting24 (read our Hosting24 review), but that isn’t the case. Being the baseline, Bluehost isn’t impressive enough to stand out with its renewal rates, which makes the multi-year shenanigans more annoying.
Bluehost’s money-back window isn’t impressive, either. Thirty days is standard for most web hosts, so we’re not going to dock Bluehost points for it, but considering you’re forced into a multi-year plan, a longer refund window would make sense. InMotion Hosting, for example, offers three months (read our InMotion Hosting review).
Many of Bluehost’s missteps are made up for with its ease of use. It’s a fluid experience from check out to management, showcasing just how far cPanel can go. Though we have gripes in almost every other category, this one is a pure win.
You’ll start by choosing a plan, selecting a domain and entering your account information. Bluehost asks for a lot when you check out — read the “privacy” section to see why — but you can use the Google single sign-on option if you want a shortcut. Thankfully, you won’t have to suffer through multiple steps like you do with Namecheap (read our Namecheap review).
As mentioned, though, there are many add-ons preselected at checkout, so it’s important to be vigilant if you don’t want them.
After you confirm payment, you’ll be sent to an order confirmation screen to set your password. We like the enclosed system, but we’d like it a lot more if it worked. We tried setting our password many times, but got met with an error every time. More frustrating, the password we generated with LastPass (read our LastPass review) wasn’t honored when we retried.
It seems the page breaks when you copy and paste a password from a password manager, which is ridiculous. The best password managers should be a staple of web browsers, so the fact that Bluehost’s sign-up page can’t handle a simple browser extension is unacceptable.
That said, once you break through, negatives will quickly be forgotten. Bluehost has a well-crafted control panel that emphasizes usability. Unlike its sibling iPage, which, as you can see in our iPage review, dumbs down the experience, Bluehost shows that you can have a modern control panel that’s powerful and easy to use.
The control panel is cPanel, which you can learn about in our best web hosting for cPanel guide, but it’s a modified version. It’s similar to HostGator’s in many ways — read our HostGator review to see how similar — but Bluehost has a greater focus on WordPress.
Bluehost made our best web hosting for WordPress guide, and its control panel is why. Without leaving the dashboard, you can manage themes, plugins and more. Plus, it automatically sets your WordPress website in staging mode so you can tweak it before going live.
Non-WordPress users won’t find the control panel nearly as useful, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Regardless of the platform you’re building on, Bluehost combines account and website management under one roof, meaning you don’t need multiple tabs open to make changes to your web hosting.
Though it’s a modified cPanel, you can still access the classic cPanel look by clicking the “advanced” tab in the control panel. There, the usual suspects are present, including the file manager, MySQL database wizard and more. You won’t find the Softaculous app installer, though, because WordPress websites have already had the dirty work handled for them.
Despite our issues during setup, the control panel wins the day when it comes to usability. Bluehost is unusual in that it has a mash-up of its control panel and cPanel and makes both work. Though we can complain until we’re blue in the face about other aspects of the service, the usability is excellent.
Bluehost offers three types of hosting: shared, VPS and dedicated. Unlike its sibling HostGator, which offers multiple types of hosting, Bluehost has a condensed lineup. Even so, the range can accommodate most users, with the only glaring omission being cloud hosting.
Shared hosting is offered across three categories: normal shared, WordPress and WP Pro. As far as normal shared plans go, Bluehost sets a baseline. There are four tiers, and as you go higher in the lineup, you’ll enjoy a longer list of features, along with more storage and website support.
BlueHost WordPress Options
The WordPress plans stand out more, or, more specifically, the WP Pro plans. Normal WordPress plans are just shared plans built for WordPress, and they include automatic installation, WordPress updates and a staging environment. They’re more akin to shared hosting with JustHost (read our JustHost review).
If you’re looking for something like Kinsta, minus the cloud hosting, WP Pro scratches that itch (read our Kinsta review). While still using a shared structure, WP Pro plans include features such as paid versions of Jetpack, search engine optimization tools and WordPress-specific support. If all that was gibberish to you, read our beginner’s guide to using WordPress.
Above that, there are diminishing returns. The VPS plans aren’t bad, but we like the flexibility of A2 Hosting when it comes to virtual servers (read our A2 Hosting review). Likewise, Bluehost’s dedicated servers are affordable, but LunarPages offers more power on the top end of things (read our LunarPages review).
Bluehost’s WP Pro plans are the sweet spot, but they’d be even better if they used a cloud structure. Cloud hosting is an increasingly popular style of hosting because of its security and speed, with some web hosts, such as MDDHosting, dedicating their entire range of plans to it (read our MDDHosting review).
That makes sense for WordPress, considering most websites want high traffic and low load times. Web hosts such as Pagely have capitalized on cloud hosting for WordPress, harnessing the power of Amazon Web Services’ cloud for ultra-fast load times (read our Pagely review). Hopefully, Bluehost will jump on the cloud hosting train sooner rather than later.
We use Pingdom Speed Test and Load Impact for evaluating website speed. Our process is simple. We sign up for the most inexpensive shared plan, install WordPress and run the website through our benchmarks. We don’t add caching or compression to the website before testing. Whatever the web host hands us is what we run with.
Because of that, our results aren’t necessarily representative of the numbers you’ll get. Our website has no images or content, both of which increase load time. Our testing is done in a vacuum to remove variables, so make sure you’re following the steps in our how to improve website loading times guide for optimal speed.
Bluehost performed well for Pingdom Speed Test. Our website received a 94 out of 100, which is only slightly below the 96 out of 100 we got with A2 Hosting and Hosting24. Though not the fastest, Bluehost is faster than most, which is most likely because of the caching it has going on.
Further caching could improve speeds more. Pingdom Speed Test suggested more caching, but it was only a minor recommendation. If you’re on WordPress and install a plugin such as W3 Total Cache, you can expect excellent load times.
Unfortunately, the good news stops there. Our Load Impact test resulted in a high number of HTTP errors, suggesting the server was at its breaking point. Load Impact is a stress testing tool for our purposes. We send 50 virtual users to the server over five minutes, which we’ve found to be the breaking point for most starter shared plans.
We expect a few HTTP errors because it’s the breaking point. But Bluehost had a higher number than average. That suggests there are too many users and not enough resources, which causes the number of fulfilled requests to flatline as more roll in. Switching the server software from Apache to LiteSpeed would likely resolve the issue.
There isn’t an uptime guarantee. On the server status FAQ, Bluehost says that “due to the complexity and nature of a shared web hosting environment, downtime occurs” and you won’t get “compensation for any down time.” Though we know shared web hosting is complex, there’s no reason Bluehost can’t offer an uptime guarantee when much smaller hosts can.
Security is surprisingly good with Bluehost, unlike with some of its siblings. Like we’ve seen with other sections of this review, good is mixed with bad, so while we appreciate Bluehost’s range of security features, it’s difficult to separate that from its more mediocre aspects.
In particular, the lack of SiteLock stings. SiteLock is basically an antivirus for your website that scans and removes malware if your website become infected with it. It’s also an EIG brand, which makes it a natural inclusion with your hosting package. Still, even the basic plan is locked behind a paywall.
Plus, we have no idea how Bluehost is protecting its servers. We asked support if the servers had ModSecurity, BitNinja or any other security features installed. The most we got from the presales rep was a redirection to purchase Cloudflare or SiteLock, despite our many attempts at clarification.
Though some may look at it as prying, that’s basic information any web host should be willing to provide. We’ll get more into our live chat experience in the “support” section below, but the outlook isn’t great considering reps can’t answer basic questions about the service.
Bluehost SSL and Backup
Despite the negatives, there are positives here, too. Bluehost includes an SSL/TLS certificate with every hosting package, which lets browsers know your website is safe. That’s an essential part of website security, especially with the lurking threat of cybercrime on unencrypted connections.
Should your website become infected, you can revert to one of your backups. Bluehost takes daily, weekly and monthly backups of your account, and you can restore them with a single click. If you want to take the 3-2-1 backup rule approach, you can purchase CodeGuard backup, too.
Talking about privacy with any EIG brand is bad news, but Bluehost is better than most of its siblings. While DreamHost is still the star child when it comes to protecting your data — read our DreamHost review to find out why — Bluehost has taken more strides than, say, Site5 (read our Site5 review).
Domain privacy replaces the information you’d usually register with your domain with dummy information, which masks your identity. A few web hosts include it for free, including DreamHost and Midphase (read our Midphase review). Bluehost does, too, but only on certain tiers.
For example, the top two shared tiers include it for free, as do all of the WP Pro plans. Though it’s nice to see it provided for free at some points in the lineup, privacy should be a right, not a service. If Bluehost is going to introduce domain privacy for free, it should be included on all plans.
Bluehost Domain Privacy
You’ll be sent to the Bluehost “privacy center,” which tells you the what, who and how about your data. Though we appreciate trying to make privacy policies accessible, it’s the same ugly policy with a spruced up face. Your data is still collected, it’s still sold and the vendors are still just as concerning.
Among the list, you’ll find Google Ads, WPBeginner, Facebook, Verizon, Bing, Getty Images and more. Plus, your information is shared internally between EIG brands, so MOJO Marketplace can be aware that you just purchased a new WordPress package with Bluehost.
As we’ve said, EIG treats your personal information as a commodity, and, unfortunately, that’s no different with Bluehost. What’s disappointing here, though, is that privacy mars an otherwise decent experience.
As hinted at in the “security” section, our experience with support wasn’t great. We spoke with live chat many times throughout the review, and had the same lackluster experience every time. Bluehost is a far cry from SiteGround when it comes to supporting its customers (read our SiteGround review).
The live chat reps were able to answer basic questions, but the responses were always short. Whenever we tried to dig in, the reps would deflect to other topics, forcing us to pry until we were met with a “we can’t answer that question.”
We look for swiftness and depth from live chat. It’s one thing to offer live chat, but it’s a different thing to offer live chat that’s genuinely helpful. Unfortunately, Bluehost is in the former camp, allowing you to reach out but only for surface-level questions.
Though it’d be easy to overlook live chat in favor of email support, Bluehost doesn’t offer it. Instead, you’re stuck with live chat or phone support, which leaves little room for getting gritty with details about the often confusing world of web hosting.
That leaves you with self-help resources, which are much better than Bluehost’s direct contact options. In the help center, you’ll find basic questions that have a variety of support resources, including knowledgebase articles, videos, walkthroughs and webinars.
No matter which option you choose, you’ll find a great amount of depth, unlike what you get when contacting support directly. Articles are laid out with step-by-step instructions and screenshots, while videos are recorded with clear audio and a solid amount of detail. We’d like to see that depth carry over to other support options.
Bluehost impresses with a long list of features and fast speed. The price isn’t too bad, either, but we’d prefer if Bluehost was more upfront about what you’ll be paying when it comes time to check out. There are issues with support, too, but those are easy to overlook given how much else Bluehost offers.
It comes down to the concern over privacy. Bluehost may not have poor privacy practices, but its corporate head does. If you’re privacy-conscious like us, you’ll be better off choosing another option from our web hosting reviews.