Fastest Web Hosting for WordPress (Revisited) – My Site Speed Obsession

the fastest web hosting for wordpressAlmost exactly one year ago, I moved this blog – Dumb Passive Income – to the best and fastest web hosting company available for WordPress – WPEngine. My experience over the past year with them has been extraordinary. To say that I have been satisfied would be a vast understatement. I’ve been more than satisfied. If you haven’t read it before, I encourage you to read my original article on my experience with moving this blog over to WPEngine.

Site speed (page load times) was my number one reason for moving in the first place. And my results have been remarkable. But here’s the thing… I left some of my best money-making niche websites on my old Hostgator shared hosting account. Load times on those sites continued to be horrendous. Makes me wonder if those sites would have been making even more money if I hadn’t left them on that slow shared server for so long. I did finally move them, but what took me so long…?

Fastest Web Hosting Comes with a Price

When I first opened up an account at WPEngine (affiliate link) one year ago, I started with their Personal plan for $29/month. As you can see in the image below, this plan allows for only one WordPress install. Meaning I could only have one site on that account. I know it’s a little expensive. But I did my research and this type of managed WordPress hosting has similar costs with other providers.

WPEngine Pricing and Options Table
Note: Premium plan also available – not shown in this image

 

If I wanted to add any more of my sites to this account, the next upgrade available was the Professional Plan for $99/month! That’s a LOT of money to spend on hosting when I’m buying hosting over at Bluehost for many of my newer sites for as little as $3.95/month.

My Site Speed Obsession

Over the past several months, I’ve come across quite a few ‘site speed articles’ on blogs written by other internet marketers and niche website creators. The general consensus is that…

Choosing the fastest web hosting provider makes the biggest difference in site speed and page load times.Click To Tweet

And I agree! But one thing that I saw others taking advantage of that I wasn’t was the use of content delivery networks (CDN’s).

Don’t know what a CDN is? I had to research it myself. Here is a nice infographic on WPBeginner that explains what a CDN is and makes it easy to understand.

Because of my site speed obsession – I knew I needed to start using CDN’s. So, I started to weigh my options…

On the WPEngine Personal plan that I had, I would have had to pay an extra $19.95/month to activate a CDN for my one domain. That would have brought my monthly cost up to nearly $50/month just for this blog!

I looked into buying managed WordPress hosting from other providers – but buying and activating a CDN is totally separate and not included in the cost with any that I looked at. There are lots of different CDN companies available and the pricing varies greatly. This was starting to sound complicated.

KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid

The old ‘KISS’ acronym never fails. When I choose to embrace it, things usually work out for the better. When I ignore the ‘KISS’ acronym, things get messy and complicated.

In this case, ‘keeping it simple’ meant staying with the hosting company that I am already using. After upgrading to the Professional Plan on WPEngine and moving my sites over – activating the CDN for each domain was as easy as marking a checkbox for each domain. It really doesn’t get any easier than that!

Results After Activating CDN

I took before and after screenshots of website speed tests for Dumb Passive Income. This is the only site I previously had on WPEngine and did not have a CDN activated for it. So this is my only site where I can compare the effectiveness of a CDN.

Note: all website speed tests were performed using http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/ – results vary each and every time you perform a test, so I ran the test several times for each site and took a screenshot of what I felt was average or best.

Dumb Passive Income was loading at just over 1 second, on average, before I activated the CDN.

Website speed test - DPI - before CDN

After activating the CDN, the average load time for Dumb Passive Income is just under 1 second!

Website speed test - DPI - after CDN

Moving Niche Sites to WPEngine

Now that I was up and running on the Professional plan at WPEngine, I could have up to 10 WordPress installs running on my account. It would be foolish to not move my best performing sites over. A few of my sites have had consistent traffic and earnings for well over a year, despite being on the slow Hostgator shared hosting account. These were the sites that I wanted to move over.

Moving a Site from HostGator to WPEngine

Moving a site from one hosting account to another is not for the faint of heart (or for beginners). Even a year ago, when I moved this blog from Hostgator to WPEngine – I had a very difficult time and almost gave up. At the time, WPEngine had what they called their migration checklist. It was basically a blog post with step-by-step instructions on exactly how to move a site and get up and running on WPEngine. Despite the detailed instructions, I still had a difficult time.

Now – it is easier than ever. What used to be a static step-by-step list of instructions on WPEngine has now become an interactive step-by-step checklist of tasks to perform in order to move a site from any hosting account over to WPEngine. And each checklist is specific to each site you move. It was really quite simple to move my sites over this time. It still took a little bit of technical know-how – but the instructions were very clear and much easier to understand than they were a year ago.

Also – WPEngine support is amazing! I took advantage of actually calling them on the phone when I got stuck with something and they were extremely helpful and fixed my issue right away. In fact, I’ve had to contact support several times throughout the process of moving several sites over – and my experience has been the same every single time – phenomenal! 

The stellar service and support that WPEngine provides totally justifies the price that they charge for web hosting.Click To Tweet

Speed Test Results for Niche Sites Now on WPEngine

I took before and after screenshots for 2 of my best niche sites. Again, they were previously hosted on Hostgator shared hosting with no CDN. They are now on WPEngine with CDN’s activated. These screenshots pretty much speak for themselves.

Niche Website 1 on Hostgator shared hosting


Niche Website 1 moved to WPEngine hosting


Niche Website 2 on Hostgator shared hosting


Niche Website 2 moved to WPEngine hosting

Check out these speed test results from simply moving sites from crappy shared hosting over to WPEngine - Amazing!Click To Tweet

Why is This Blog Faster than My Niche Sites?

You may have noticed in my screenshots above that this blog actually loads a little bit faster than the niche sites that I featured. There are several factors that determine page load times and I have a few things set up a little differently on this blog than I do on my niche sites. Page load times under 1 second, like I average with this blog, are extraordinary. But anything under 2 seconds for my niche sites is considered acceptable and good enough.

If you run your own site through the free speed test tool on pingdom – http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/ – below the speed results you’ll see a list of every single item that is loading on your page on how long each takes. This is really helpful in seeing which factors are slowing your site down the most.

Factors that Affect Site Speed

Listed below are a few factors that I’ve noticed have had a big effect on site speed and page load times. I’m sure there are many more factors. Even some that I’m not aware of. But these are the ones that have made a difference for me

  • Social sharing buttonsSumoMe is a nice platform of mostly free tools and includes some really nice sharing buttons. I had it loaded on Dumb Passive Income for a few weeks and was using those sharing buttons, but noticed that it was slowing my site down quite a bit. Since I am obsessed with site speed (especially for this blog), I did some research and asked around. I found Social Warfare, which offers sharing buttons that I like even better. These are not free, but they are completely customizeable and as far as I can tell – they don’t slow my site down at all! I purchased a license to run Social Warfare on this blog only and left SumoMe on several of my niche sites.
  • Google Adsense – both of my niche sites featured in the screenshots above have Adsense running on them. This blog does not. This seems to be the biggest factor that makes a difference for my sites. Adsense doesn’t exactly load super fast. If you have Adsense running on a site and you aren’t earning any money from it – I would strongly recommend removing it just to improve page load times. But if Adsense is performing and you are making money – it would be foolish to remove.
  • Image File Sizes – bigger file sizes take longer to load – no doubt. Smaller file sizes are faster. Until very recently, there was a free WordPress plugin that reduced image file sizes and it worked great for a really long time. It was called WPSmush.it. But their free version just went away and now you have to pay if you want to stay with them and use their premium service. This led me to search for alternatives and I share a couple of them in the free guide that I am about to give you.

Simple Site Speed Tips for WordPress

I created a FREE 2-page PDF document, which is basically an extension of this blog post, that shows you a few simple steps and plugins that you can use to speed up your WordPress websites. Click the button below and enter your email address and I’ll send it right over.

Free Guide – Simple Site Speed Tips for WordPress

I did not mention caching plugins in the free guide. I probably should have. But most people know that installing and activating a caching plugin is pretty standard and helps speed up your site. There are several good ones to choose from that are free. Here are a few…

  • WP Super Cache
  • W3 Total Cache
  • WP Rocket
  • WP File Cache

Note: Caching plugins are disallowed by WPEngine and are unnecessary anyway. Here’s what they have to say about it

Most caching plugins do not cooperate with our custom caching environment. As a result, we can’t have them running in parallel with our solution. In fact, whenever our maintenance scripts see these on the filesystem, they are automatically removed from your install. It’s okay though, honest! We’ve already got you covered. Besides, you shouldn’t have to worry about the speed of your site… that’s our job. And our speed is hopefully one of the main reasons why you’ve chosen us as your provider!

Conclusion

Although there are many things you can do to speed up your site, the #1 things I’ve found that works is to upgrade to better and faster hosting. Specifically, some sort of managed WordPress hosting seems to be the best option for WordPress users. And WPEngine is the service provider that I use and trust. I can’t say enough good things about WPEngine. My experience has been superb and I don’t hesitate to recommend them at all to anybody who is serious about their WordPress site(s).
WP Engine Managed WordPress Hosting

Note: all links and banners in this post that lead to WPEngine or Bluehost are affiliate links. I will receive a commission if you choose to purchase hosting after clicking through via one of these links. I thank you in advance if you choose to do so. I really appreciate your support!

Image Credit

“Roadrunner” by Chris via Flickr

12 thoughts on “Fastest Web Hosting for WordPress (Revisited) – My Site Speed Obsession”

    • Hey Steve, caching plugins are disallowed by WPEngine and unnecessary. They have their own built-in caching system which is a big reason sites hosted with them are so fast.

      I will take a look at WP-Rocket for my sites that aren’t on WPEngine though. I think I’m using WP-Super Cache currently on them. Thanks for the tip!

  1. Phew Matthew! I finally completed your entire blog reading post! From end to start.

    I see how you’ve experimented and done many things along the way. I do feel I have learnt quite a bit on your blog.

    Things I’ve learnt
    1) Focus on 1-2 authority website with affiliates and your own products rather than many niche websites. I feel yes, Keywords and seedwords are extremely important and PLANNING AND building a SYSTEM and theme and feel on those seedwords and keywords websites are extremely important.
    2) Why make 4-10 websites barely earning $100 – $300 a month on each rather than focusing on 1 authority website that can potentially bring in high 4 – 5 – 6 figures in a month if you really focus on it.
    3) Most of the money you have been making has been from either affiliate links from Dumb Passive Income, or your keyword services or amazon sales.
    4) You’ve made little money on ad-sense overall and I feel ad-sense is definitely is not a viable way to build a sustainable online business where-by a person can leave their full time job. I don’t trust in adsense.
    5) I feel Dumb Passive Income is now starting to be an authority on its own. This site is making you more than any other sites are.
    6) I feel you’re doing so many things that it keeps you distracted from focusing on your real authority sites. I feel had you been doing this full time, I think you would have done much much better!
    7) I definitely do not think building a micro amasites is a viable sustainable business model. I think building an authority site and selling amazon products, your products, other affiliates on that is a much much better and sustainable option. Your authority sites will last a long time and will have that snowball effect. But having many niche sites can never bring in that snowball effect.
    8) I really believe google is focusing on real authority sites and they will kill all 4-5 page niche sites.

    I do see authority sites making 5 figures a month and putting their personality out there but they’re only focused on that 1 site. And they’re only 4 years old.

    What do you think of my analysis?

    Thanks for the blog my friend! I am following you and will use your affiliates when I can! Esp the long tail platinum and amasuites and other WP plugins.

    • You’re pretty much dead on Navin. I know that I am constantly distracted by my many projects and I’m aware that I could and should be doing better by embracing the power of focus.

      To be clear, none of my niche sites are anything like those 4 to 5 page sites that so many people built a few years ago. Most of my sites (the ones that survived anyway) are pretty authoritative, with tons of content, but focused on a specific niche.

      You’re right about Dumb Passive Income being my main money earner. And that has kind of been a goal of mine all along. Why else would I be blogging about all this stuff? It’s a rip-off of Pat Flynn’s model. Make a little bit of money (although he makes way more than me) with niche sites and other internet marketing methods. Then capitalize on the much larger target audience, of people who want to learn how to make money online, by showing them what I do here on the blog and offering affiliate products to help them succeed.

  2. hey Matthew,
    Thanks for a interesting post – as always. I have become your reader only recently, but I’ve got already hooked on your blog! You are doing a great job by making it an interesting reading!

    I have a question about your niche website hosting.
    It looks like you host many of the websites under the same account?
    What about a possibility when Google stashes one of your websites and then finds out about the others?
    I am just a beginner in this business, and I am sure I still miss a lot of knowledge. So I wonder what’s your opinion 🙂

    Thanks a lot and have a great day!

    • Hey Nadya,

      I actually host my niche websites on a few different accounts. I think 3 of them are on my WPEngine account right now (separate IP from this blog). And the rest are on 2 different Bluehost accounts.

      And here’s the thing. I’m not worried about Google penalizing any of my sites. I’ve built out high quality sites and I’ve been really careful about my link building. All of my sites survived all of the recent Google updates over the last few years – so I’m really not worried going forward.

      Besides – I have all of my good sites in the same Google Webmaster Tools account. Google can find all of my sites that way – regardless of who each is hosted with. The only reason to worry about using different hosting, is if I am linking to multiple sites from the same PBN sites. But I try not to do that, because they are all in the same GWT account.

  3. That was probably your best decision to move from HostGator! these guys are completely incompetent, dishonest and untrustworthy.

  4. What’s your monthly traffic stats like? Spending over $100 to host a few sites seems like a huge waste of money. I host on a $9/month Vultr VPS with a considerable amount of traffic.

    • Less than 100k visitors monthly right now across all my sites on WPEngine… Seems like a waste of money. Maybe. But it’s worth it to me. I have lots of plugins and images on my sites that tend to slow down websites – but my speed is still top notch with WPEngine – and their security features are really great too. I pretty much don’t have to worry or even think about anything security related. They handle all of that.

      • Ah, I see. I’m pulling about half of that on my site mostly – ~50K. Also have quite a number of plugins, but I’ve done a lot of tuning and brought my requests down, with page loads at 0.3s. To me, hosting is one of recurring costs, so it makes sense to minimize it. FYI, I’m on a Vultr VPS via Cloudways, and they take care of security, backups, etc. With proper caching and CloudFlare, I wouldn’t spend more than ~$30/month for up to 500K views, but if WPEngine has been working for you, no reason to change it!

        • “tuning and bringing requests down”… yeah, that’s something I don’t do. I don’t understand all that technical stuff. I can build WordPress sites with the best of them – but don’t ask me to understand code or any of the back end stuff. 😉 $100/month isn’t a big deal to me. I’m not getting super rich online yet… but my plan is to be making enough money eventually where $100 is just a drop in the bucket. So yes – it’s working fine for me. And I understand that WPEngine definitely isn’t for everybody.

  5. You may want to look at ecomlane, great managed dedicated servers. I’ve gotten amazing site speeds with them. Been with them for just over a year, and I’m extremely happy with them!

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