Which shared-server speed is worse? GoDaddy or Bluehost?

WordPress Mobile Speed

Updated: April 2020


There are no affiliate links on PagePipe.

“Worst Web Hosting Companies” yields 16 million Google search results. Ironically, review sites not only tell you who they think are the worst – but then advertise acclaimed best hosting with affiliate links.

Those affiliate links pay kickbacks up to $100 – if a sale is made. Sweet! Let’s all put affiliate links on our sites – and get rich.

Maybe not.

Affiliate links often use link cloaking. Read more about that ploy (and speed) here. We think link cloaking is deceptive. It masks or hides where users are taken when selecting links.

There are no affiliate links on PagePipe. Hallelujah!

Be aware, any blog post recommending hosting – and free critiques – almost always makes affiliate money. So they’re biased or manipulative.

So what?

Despite the low credibility of review sites, we’re confident the negative reports of bad, lame hosts is mostly true. There’s commonality in the results. The worst-ranked hosts vary in list placement – but it’s usually the same hosts. Two are widely dispised and claimed to be THE worst: GoDaddy and Bluehost.

It doesn’t matter about technical reality. Being perceived as the worst  by many is sufficient judgement. [Note – We don’t think they’re that bad.]

Because we do NOT follow the herd, we deliberately selected GoDaddy for PagePipe’s hosting. Our goal is proving  origin-optimization efficiency. You can achieve fast speeds even on the worst cheap, shared hosting. Use discipline and care in your site design. We teach you how on PagePipe.

Economy hosts take in the unwashed masses. They appeal to some of the worst-case, non-technical users – the ones with no money and no training. And so these cheap hosts get bad reviews. That hasn’t slowed down their growth one iota.

We abhor their marketing ploys and lies to maximize profits. But this article isn’t about up-selling, bait-and-switch, or duping uneducated victims. We write about speed – not recommendations for hosting companies.

GoDaddy Inc. is a web-hosting company headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA. GoDaddy has around 8.5 million customers. Their annual net income is around 2 BILLION dollars. They clear 6-percent profit on those sales ($140 million approximately). They’re the biggest web host.

Bluehost is a web-hosting company owned by Endurance International Group. It’s one of the 20 largest web hosts. Bluehost hosts 1,248,507 websites on economy, shared servers. The company operates its servers in Provo, Utah, USA.

Why are we mentioning Bluehost since PagePipe is hosted on GoDaddy?

PayPal changed how it interacts with Easy Digital Downloads ecommerce plugin. This forced us to use HTTPS/SSL certification on our site store. Not for Google ranking – rather for the requirements of successful PayPal transactions. PayPal changed it’s rules in July 2018. I took us a while to figure out why automated ebook deliveries were failing. We got our money but customers didn’t get their ebooks for awhile. SSL compliance fixed the failures.

SSL adds 500 milliseconds of server handshaking to every page and post of your website. That’s 25 percent of our performance budget.

We use a 2-second performance budget. Adding SSL ruined our page load times. We use a speed trick of “offloading” the store using a separate GoDaddy domain on the same server. That domain name was secure-pagepipe-store.com. (Yeah. That domain tidbit is important later in our horror story.)

Originally, we tried GoDaddy’s expensive SSL certificate.

Next, we got a GoDaddy SSL refund and switched to Let’s Encrypt’s free SSL certificate.

This hassle wasn’t fun. But we were determined to figure things out. And we did it – eventually. Because of our curiosity, we ended up reloading and rebuilding our site several times. Why would we inflict so much pain on ourselves when SSL is free at other hosts?

We’re determined to stick with GoDaddy. The pain.

It’s notorious. GoDaddy cheap, shared hosting proves our point. You can get fast speeds even under the worst conditions. But not if you injudiciously throw SSL on your site. You must use speed strategy – or spend money.

Bad news. SSL overhead can’t be cached. We choose not spending money – and using creativity for speed instead. In this case, it meant dividing the site.

You may wonder if site-splitting is self-defeating behavior. In this case, it’s not. The assumption is you lose caching speed benefits when you switch users to the sister store site. One secure and one unsecure (insecure?) site. But BONUS, we can’t use caching with Easy Digital Download ecommerce pages anyway. Caching and minification mess up the EDD plugin functions.

PagePipe has very few store pages compared to many blog posts. Most people enter our site from organic search via the blog posts. They then wander the site reading other content – and ultimately visiting the store. The store is rarely the landing pages.

This division into two sites meant we successfully maintained minification and caching plug complications on the biggest site. And it’s at our front door (our blog) where speed expectation is highest. By the time someone enters the store, they’re curiosity is often high enough to endure a longer wait. In this new case, no waiting was required.

We stupidly wondered, “What would happen if we let our SSL certificate expire?”

We decided, “Let the 90-day period run out.”

Bad choice.

It was a nightmare. The needed GoDaddy server changes in the Cpanel SSL settings were obscure at best. The store was down during prime time: a Friday night and Saturday morning because of our repeated fumbling.

We got our “Welcome to Bluehost” email at 4:33 pm Pacific time Friday. They immediately started email spamming us to buy more web stuff.

At 4:51 pm Friday, Bluehost billing department deactivated our account. Suspended forever.

Why? They didn’t like the word “Secure” in the domain name. It was too “spammy.” They said we had to provide approved proof of government identification to restore the site.

Hmm? GoDaddy never cared about our domain name of “secure-pagepipe-store.com.” Why did Bluehost care? Different standards – we guess.

Undeterred, we setup a new Bluehost account for another $59 with the domain name “PagePipe-ebooks.com” We’re getting good at this now – no spam judgement call – and got the store working again in short order. Wonderfully, we never touched the blog with all this buffoonery.

We migrated the store one more time. It’s working now and with free SSL. Whew.

And now we don’t have to worry about 90-day expiration or renewals any more.

Bluehost over charged us about 72 dollars on secure-store-pagepipe.com during registration. We’re working to get the money back plus the $59 hosting fee. We’ll see if we just ate $136 dollars learning from an unfortunate web experiment (mistake?). The cost of our education! We deselected all those silly Bluehost registration options and still got billed for them anyway. You know, those ridiculous opt-out features including:

Codeguard Basic – $35.88 annually.
SiteLock Security – $23.88 annually.
Domain Privacy Protection -$11.88 (secure-store-pagepipe.com) annually.
Tax – $4.66
PagePipe was billed: $135.70 total. Bluehost notified us the next Wednesday by email the hosting plan was cancelled and a refund issued. But to allow 7 to 10 days for processing.

So why in the world are we leaving our store on Bluehost? To prove we can take a ruthless beating. And still produce a fast site on cruddy hosting even after being treated like garbage.

Why did we use Bluehost when we could have bought a 1-year certificate from GoDaddy for $70 dollars? Well. It’s the value of speed. We’d die for good speed. It’s all about speed achievement in unconventional ways. We want to learn why things work the way they do – and then find a better alternative.

So today, the new PagePipe-store with SSL loads times are:

International Load Times, No CDN

PagePipe Blog start-here page
http://pagepipe.com/best-page-speed-starter-resources/
424.6k page weight, 25 requests

Pingdom to San Francisco
1.43 seconds
load time

Pingdom to Frankfurt
3.27 second
load time

Pingdom to London

1.93 second load time

Pingdom to Sao Paulo, Brazil
2.06 second load time

Pingdom to Tokyo
2.07 second load time

Pingdom to Sydney
2.28 second load time

PagePipe homepage
https://pagepipe-ebooks.com/

No CDN, no minification, no caching. BlueHost
421.8k page weight, 35 requests

Pingdom to San Francisco
1.32 seconds
load time

Pingdom to Frankfurt
1.75 seconds
load time

Pingdom to London

1.79 seconds load time

Pingdom to Sao Paulo, Brazil
2.44 seconds load time

Pingdom to Tokyo
2.51 seconds load time

Pingdom to Sydney
2.95 seconds load time


WP Engine is frequently recommended on blogs as the “Best Premium Shared Hosting for Advanced Bloggers.” Of course, blog authors sharing *trade secrets* get an affiliate-link kickback or commission. They make money touting others hosting services. No source credibility.

Many error thinking WP Engine must be better or even the best. It costs a lot. It’s recommended so often. They must be good because they have a good reputation, right?

That “feel-good” hosting is $420 per year. Yet, it’s the exact same terrible-speed quality you’d get elsewhere on cheap, shared hosting. For $5 (or less) month-to-month rent – only $60 annually – you’ll get the same perfectly-lousy server delay. That’s $360 dollars decreased difference every single year. Over 5 years, it’s $1,800 profit in your pocket. With the exact same speed results.

An unexceptionable, shared host may get the same poor TTFB (time-to-first-byte) of 1.5 to 1.7 seconds. That’s 1500 to 1700 milliseconds off our target 2000-millisecond performance budget. That leaves only 300 to 500 milliseconds. Short time to load WordPress core, the theme, all plugins, and third-party scripts and APIs – and images. Is it possible? Only if you use speed strategy.

You can’t be sloppy or apathetic.

So what hosting provider do we recommend? None! Why? Because hosting services cycle from better to worse with the host’s business whims. Without a crystal ball, we can’t predict odd behavior. One day a host provides mediocre to excellent speed. Six months later – with a simple ownership change – crammed overburdened servers slowdown. Your server turns into a dragging slug. Their hosting business suffers losses caused by poor services. They finally invest in better capacity. Speed then improves. Until the word is out, they’re doing better. Then the cycle repeats.

In one test, for a New York client, BlueHost crammed more than 2,000 domains on a single server.

That BlueHost squeeze strategy isn’t typical. Still, test for the number of shared domains using your URL at YouGetSignal. Test server TTFB at ByteCheck or BitCatcha. Warning: All bitcatcha.com’s recommendations are affiliate links. They promote hosts giving back the most. It’s all about money.

Blogs recommending WP Engine don’t examine the speed performance ramification. Let us tell you why WP Engine is bad news:

WP Engine’s hosting services have bad TTFB (time to first byte or server overhead). It costs $35 per month (or more). Do they specify TTFB in their sales pitches or online materials? No. Of course not. No one would use them if they knew the truth. So most hosts avoid publishing this important speed information. Is WP Engine the only one burying TTFB specifications? No. Is it a criminal cover-up plot? We hope not. It’s most likely a convenient sin of omission.

Every host avoids the server overhead delay topic. Why? Because TTFB wanders and is often unpredictable. Or they may make excuses and declare with authority, “3-second TTFBs are normal.” iMotion Hosting makes that absurd statement. They’ve got to be kidding! But we’ve measured iMotion unstable server delays producing double that slow time.

Hosts don’t want you holding their feet to the fire. They don’t want that responsibility. Making server-overhead promises causes disappointing buyer’s remorse.

TTFB ignorance is bliss. Until you discover during real load-time testing how much it affects speed. Go ahead. Complain to the errant host. They’ll usually recommend (upsell) more expensive servers. They may suggest trying speed first-aid like CDNs and caching services.

The real cost-effective solution is building a fast site instead. Hosts won’t recommend this speed solution. They make less money if you build a fast strategic site.

One of WP Engines claims to fame is they’re *managed* WordPress hosting. What’s managed hosting and why is it bad for mobile speed?

Managed WordPress hosting is an “attendant” service. The host takes care of (manages) all technical aspects of running WordPress. This includes security, speed, WordPress updates, daily backups, website uptime, and scalability. All that costs money. Normally, people use automated plugins for these features. The less WordPress knowledge you have, the easier the motivation to buy these fantastic services.

So what? What’s the big deal? Sounds like they’re being nice and helpful. If they live up to their fantastic speed claims, there’s no quibble. But they don’t.

What they do is lock you out, the “advanced-blog” owner, of Cpanel access and lock each file so it can’t be rewritten. Who cares about that? They do. They don’t want anyone mucking about on their server.

You don’t buy more features. You buy less flexibility – and then pay more. It’s brilliant.

But flexibility is how you increase speed! The irony. WP Engine won’t let us help you speed up your WP Engine site.

One big strategy for speed is selective plugin activation. That only happens when speed plugins (or even hand coding) alter the server .htaccess file. That can’t happen with “managed” locked files. Unlocking and altering .htaccess may mean going through an FTP client. Just very messy, inconvenient and a royal pain in the butt. The chances of breaking something are not reduced but increased with “managed” hosting.

.htaccess is a configuration file for use on web servers running Apache. The .htaccess file is detected and executed first. It give the server rules of special exceptions. Even WordPress manipulates how Apache serves files via .htaccess – especially handling pretty permalinks.

.htaccess is used for speed functions. Such as:

  • Far-futures expiration.
  • Enabling Gzip.
  • Hot-link image protection.
  • Enabling keepalive.
  • Removing query strings.
  • Leveraging browser caching.
  • … and other speed tasks.

Our other complaint seem trivial, but for speed fanatics like us, it’s not: We can’t rollback the PHP version from 7.1 to 5.6. Why would anyone want to do that? 7.1 is faster loading. Well, it’s temporary for plugin testing.

Some old plugins, need old PHP. They won’t work on more modern PHP. Some even break your site.

A favorite old plugins is P3 Plugin Performance Profiler. We’ve written about it’s benefits before. There is no adequate alternative – yet. How much do we love this plugin? Well, we wanted a plugin author to change it to our specification – and make it compatible with PHP 7.x. How much would that cost? $10,000 dollars!

No surprise. We decided to stick with a simple workaround by dialing back the version to PHP 5.6. It’s simple to do – if you have Cpanel access. But with WP Engine shared hosting? No way. They don’t allow that. This barrier means we can’t quantify the worst offending plugins for site drag. There is an exception, if WP Engine screwed up and never advanced your version to PHP 7.1 – inconsistency. We’ve seen it.

So we ask, if you’re an *advanced blogger*, why the heck are you using WP Engine who assumes users are idiots? We’re insulted.

Other Related Resources

If you’re new here, start with our best primer speed articles.

If you’re ready to give your WordPress site wings, here are powerful tools to speed up your site.

Learn how the most popular plugins and ideas waste your time – and hurt web speed. Includes important tips for mobile speed without coding.

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