Why to Avoid Bluehost as a Web Hosting Provider

I was a Bluehost customer. This very website was hosted on a Bluehost server for the first six months of its existence. As of now, that is no longer the case. Now I am writing a negative Bluehost review. As to the form of this negative Bluehost review, I would like to tell you what happened to this site (and to me) that permanently drove my business away from Bluehost ..

From now on, because of their inconsistent server performance, possibly shady service practices, and extremely bad customer support, I will avoid Bluehost, and I will encourage any web developers reading this to avoid Bluehost as well.

The Best of Bluehost

When I started this website, I relied heavily on google-based research to pick my hosting. This led me to articles by various self-declared SEO and blogging gurus who fervently recommended Bluehost as a choice. At the time, I did not know that most of those articles were set up specifically to generate affiliate money for the ‘gurus’ in question.

I was also unaware at the time that there were forums online (such as /r/webhosting and Web Hosting Talk) where people who actually have to work with different hosting options get together and discuss the topic, almost universally advocating for people to avoid EIG companies, and so to avoid Bluehost.

Admittedly, at first, I was not unhappy with Bluehost. With promos and a long sign-up period, the per-month cost of their low-tier hosting was dirt cheap. And it seemed to be functional for the most part, even if there were occasionally (and without warning) random spans of multiple days with downtime of somewhere between 5 and 60 minutes per day.

But day to day, Bluehost was generally alright. Sure, their account pages were essentially big lists of ads for all manner of add-ons, extensions, upgrades, and more; and, sure, despite the enormity of the company their customer service phoneline often had waiting periods of at least 20 minutes; but people could access my content, and, while it was never lightning fast, it seemed fast enough for a more-or-less optimized self-hosted WordPress blog.

The Worst of Bluehost

One fine Sunday I woke up and opened my site. It opened just fine, but when I tried to navigate to one of my articles (content that was less likely to already be mostly cached), I noticed that the site was loading incredibly slowly.

Now, my computer isn’t amazingly fast regardless, so I did what anyone might do: I opened up Google PageSpeed Insights, WebPageTest.org, Pingdom, and GTmetrix, and I tested a few of my articles in all of them. From these tests I learned two things: (1) my articles were taking upwards of 25 seconds to load, and (2) the biggest expenditure of time (by over 90%) was getting a response from the first request to the server.

Now, if you’ve not really worked with websites much, 25 seconds might not sound terribly long. But that is a horrendously long loading time—so bad that it is almost guaranteed to immediately start negatively affecting everything from visits to visitor retention to search engine rankings. Most functional web pages load in a couple of seconds at the longest. And on the prior day, all of my articles had been cruising along with typical loading speeds varying from 1-4 seconds.

At this point, I was still fully prepared to think that I had done something wrong. But I didn’t know what I could have possibly done. I hadn’t made any changes to the site in the preceding 24 hours to justify this sudden change. I had not put up any new content, nor updated anything, nor changed any code, nor installed any plugins, nor . . . done anything. And none of my tools and statistics were indicating anything resembling an attack. So I checked the server status in my Bluehost account: it said everything was okay.

I thought that perhaps this was a fluke, and would resolve itself soon. But just to be on the safe side, I reached out to Bluehost’s phone support. The associate on the other end said something about how databases can get shuffled after they’ve been on the server for a while, but that he had sorted it out and it should be better soon. The answer struck me as possibly being a bit of a jargon-filled half-truth intended to get rid of me, but if the site would be working then I would be content, so I thanked him and hung up.

The Very Worst of Bluehost

This is the part where things started happening that inspired me to not only avoid Bluehost, but to write this negative Bluehost review advising anyone who reads it to avoid Bluehost as well. The next day the problem was still persisting (in fact, I was recording loading times of everything from 11 to 45 seconds!), so I called Bluehost again. The technical support associate on the phone this time had no definite solution for me, and instead advocated that I spend some time optimizing the site better.

Somewhat unhappy with that answer, I thanked him and hung up. I did not contradict him by telling him that the site had been running perfectly fine in its present state the prior week, as I was well aware that he was right to some extent: the site could stand to be somewhat better optimized. So I set to work cutting down on queries; compressing images; specifying image dimensions; supplying images that did not need to be rescaled; minifying javascript, HTML, and CSS files; uninstalling unnecessary plugins; cutting out unnecessary images in the sidebar and footer; and cutting out all but one social sharing widget.

So what was the result of my multiple tedious and lengthy days of optimization? No effect whatsoever on load times. The times, in fact, remained erratic, occasionally seeming reasonably low and then spiking back to enormous numbers. In fact, the average seemed to have risen slightly, to nearly 30 seconds. At this point I was getting worried about my site. Its visitor counts were plummeting; it was in a state that was unusably, unshareably, and unmarketably slow; and I knew that it would only be a short matter of time before it would start to affect my hard-earned search engine rankings.

So, armed with the knowledge that optimization was not the answer to this bizarre and sudden spike in server response times, I reached out to support once again. After explaining the whole situation, the fellow on the phone said that he was not seeing an easy fix to the issue on his end and referred the case to a support ticket so that a more capable technician could take a look at it. I was gratified at the thought of a qualified person reviewing my problem and providing a solution.

The Unredeemable, Absolute Worst of Bluehost

What happened next was the first of the three strikes that led me avoid Bluehost and write this negative Bluehost review. The next day I got an email response from one of their technicians. All it contained was one sentence telling me to optimize my site, with a link to the GTmetrix results for my homepage and nothing else . . .

This ‘qualified technician’ had sent me a response that was both frustrating and unhelpful. I had used GTmetrix and multiple other services to monitor the situation and optimize the site all week. So I submitted a new support ticket, explaining my situation in great detail with reference screenshots and a full timeline. The second strike that led me to avoid Bluehost and write this negative Bluehost review was when they didn’t respond to that email for at least two days (point of order: they never responded to that support ticket—technically, I suppose, that support ticket is still open).

So at this point, my site, into which I had poured thousands of hours of effort, research, writing, and design, had been non-functioning for seven consecutive days. And now Google Search Console had started giving me warnings about indexed pages with slow responses, advising that I ‘check for problems with my server.’ So I decided to call support, calmly explain what was going on, and stay on the line until I got a straight answer as to why the server was responding at such a ridiculously slow rate.

I called, and I waited, and then I explained my situation. Despite telling the support staff member about the fact that this had happened suddenly after months of normal loading times, and despite all of the evidence from (now five, counting search console) separate sources telling me that the problem was with the server, the staff member insisted that optimization was the issue. I told him that this could not be the answer, and threw in the extra information that I had exhaustively improved the optimization for several days during the week with no measurable effect.

He briefly conferred with a supervisor (or at least told me so), then returned and reiterated that further optimization was the only solution. At this point he did what I take to be the unforgiveable maneuver, and the third and final strike that led me to avoid Bluehost and write a negative Bluehost review: he mentioned, as a potentially related fact, that I was on a low-tier plan and that Bluehost can provide better hosting options or facilitate the purchase of a service to help speed up the site (I can’t recall whether this was a firm of developers who would check the site, or a CDN, or something else).

That was the last straw. In the midst of a series of unhelpful support responses, after a week of my site being broken, and while I was being transparently lied to (or possibly just being dealt with by technical support staff that knows even less about hosting than I do), a representative of my hosting provider implied that giving them more money might solve the problem. I resolved then and there to leave Bluehost behind and avoid Bluehost forever. That very night, I purchased hosting from a non-EIG company and initiated the migration of my site onto the new host’s server. (Incidentally, later that week I also moved my domain to a different registrar and initiated a refund cancellation of my Bluehost account—in fairness I should mention that Bluehost quickly and efficiently processed my cancellation and refund.)

Now, after all of that, could it still be the case that the problem with the site was on my end? Well, perhaps by some miracle that could be true, but the evidence points the other way: the above archived Pingdom tests (of that same page from Figure 2—you can use the same link to confirm this graph), for instance, shows a change from 20ish seconds to 2ish seconds when switching from Bluehost to a non-EIG provider. And if you are afraid that I am cherry-picking one page’s results for these visuals, please feel free to note that this is the same story told by the history charts in all such archives.

This leads me to believe that all of the tools I was using were correct in reporting server issues. The only change was the hosting, and my new plan has nearly identical features and usage caps (none of which I was remotely close to approaching with either host). But my specific issue aside, the extremely poor quality of their support would have been enough to make me avoid Bluehost either way.

Conclusion

So, why should you avoid Bluehost? Because in the best of times they gave me inconsistent hosting, up sold me at every turn, and experienced unexplained downtime, while in the worst of times they ruined my connection, lied to me (or else demonstrated profound technical ignorance), and attempted to shame me into solving the problem by buying an upgrade or an add-on.

Since I know that many readers will be curious, if you really want to know where this site is now hosted, But I’m not mentioning or directly linking to it—or any other singular recommendation—in this article. I do not want you to think that I wrote all of this as part of some kind of negative review marketing ploy with a link to one of Bluehost’s competitors tacked on at the end. The only purpose of this article is to explain my experiences, and to advocate that you avoid Bluehost (and all EIG brands) if at all possible and go for BlueHost Alternative.

But don’t take my word for it! This is just one negative Bluehost review. Do your research and spend some time browsing those forums I mentioned above before making a hosting decision for yourself. You won’t regret taking your time, but you will regret rushing into business with a bad host.

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