SiteGround Review – Blazing WordPress Hosting at Under 300ms

A little over a year ago I did a review of InMotion Hosting. However, over this past year a lot has happened as it pertains to web performance and speeding up WordPress in general. Now there are new protocols such as HTTP/2, free SSL from Let’s Encrypt, PHP 7, and a bunch of other things. Unfortunately InMotion Hosting has not been upgrading with these changes and I will no longer be recommending them to anyone. I am happy to say that I have done a full analysis of SiteGround hosting and was actually blown away. Check out my in-depth SiteGround review below and even some optimization tips for getting the best speed out of their platform.

I was able to achieve speeds of under 300ms! Speed tests below.

SiteGround Review

For a cheap and affordable host, SiteGround is definitely at the top of the pack when it comes to keeping up with technology as it changes. They were one of the first web hosts to jump on the HTTP/2 bandwagon, thank you! For those of you who don’t know, HTTP/2 is a new protocol that requires SSL/TLS (HTTPS) and speeds things up with parallelism, multiplexing, smaller headers, and other things. This actually makes running HTTPS fast now.

And for those of you who care about SEO, I encourage who to migrate to HTTPS to take advantage of even the small ranking factor boost. Every single blog and website I run is over HTTPS. Thankfully this is now free with SiteGround’s Let’s Encrypt integration. InMotion Hosting still charges you $99 a year to setup SSL, which is ridiculous.

SiteGround Pricing & Features

They have plans starting at $9.95 $3.95 (with my 60% discount) a month and all of them include the following:

  • Free SSDs
  • HTTP/2 & PHP 7
  • MariaDB
  • Free Domain
  • Free Backups (with super easy restoration form)
  • Unlimited Disk Space
  • Preinstalled WordPress upon Checkout
  • Free Website Transfers (no-downtime)
  • WP-CLI
  • Select your Data Center Location
  • 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
  • 24×7 Support

Support

SiteGround doesn’t just offer great speeds, they also have amazing support which is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Always comforting to know someone is there to help if you run into a problem. I have chatted with them a couple times now and they have always been very helpful.

Getting Started with SiteGround

Here is a quick walk through on getting started with SiteGround hosting. It is very easy.

Step 1

Simply signup for a plan, and upon checkout you will be greeted with an easy to use website setup wizard. In this example I am using a test domain and so I am going to do a fresh install of WordPress so I select “Get WordPress preinstalled on this account.” I also chose Chicago as my datacenter.

install wordpress siteground

Step 2

Then choose your login credentials for WordPress and click submit. If you don’t pick a theme from the options you get the default WordPress 2016 theme which is what I wanted.

siteground account setup

You will see account information on the next page, such as your WordPress login. You also get an email with this.

Step 3

Next you need to point your domain to SiteGround. You will get an email in your inbox with your nameservers.

dns siteground

You do this at your domain registrar. In my example I am using Godaddy because this is where my test domain was registered. So I click into my domain and next to click on “Set Nameservers.”

set nameservers godaddy

Step 4

Then under “Custom” input the nameservers that SiteGround gives you in the email.

godaddy nameserver settings

You might need to wait a few minutes after you hit save for everything to propagate. When I ran through it, it was almost instant. You can then test your domain to ensure WordPress is up and running. As you can see below a fresh install of WordPress was installed on my test domain, themewood.com.

fresh wordpress install siteground

Step 5

The next thing I recommend doing is enabling SSL. This is optional, but I highly recommend running over HTTPS. And it is completely free with SiteGround! To do this simply click into your SiteGround dashboard and click on the “Go to cPanel” button.

siteground cpanel access

Step 6

Then scroll down and click on “Let’s Encrypt.”

siteground lets encrypt free ssl

Step 7

Click on the “Install” button. This will then take a few minutes and you will see a successful message afterwards.

install let's encrypt siteground

Step 8

Now you need to add a redirect to SSL so everyone is redirected from HTTP to HTTPS. There are plugins that do this, like the free Really Simple SSL plugin (if you use the plugin you can skip to step 12).  I recommend doing it on the server though. To add the redirect we need to edit a file on your web server. So we need to create an FTP account. In Cpanel simply click into the FTP accounts icon.

siteground ftp

Create a new FTP account. In my example I simply made one called “ftpaccount” and make sure to choose the root directory of /public_html/. Then click on “Create FTP Account.” Make sure to store the password somewhere you remember it.

ftp account siteground

Step 9

Now it is time to login via FTP. I recommend using a free FTP client like FileZilla. Use the information you created in the previous step.

Example:

FTP Username: ftpaccount@themewood.com
FTP Server: ftp.themewood.com
FTP: port: 21

Once you get in, you will see a file called .htaccess. Download this to your desktop so you can edit it.

filezilla htaccess file

Step 10

Add the following code into your .htaccess file and save it.

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} 80
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://yourdomain.com/$1 [R=301,L]

It will look like this below after you are done. Then re-upload it to your server.

siteground http to https redirect

Step 11

Now that the redirect is in place you need to login to your WordPress dashboard and change the WordPress Address and Site Address to HTTPS.

https wordpress

Step 12

The last thing to do is enable PHP 7. You will want this because it is faster. By default SiteGround has PHP 5.4 enabled. In Cpanel again, click into the “PHP Version Manager.”

php version manager

Click into your public_html directory and change it to PHP 7 .

wordpress php 7

And that is it! You now have WordPress up and running.

SiteGround Optimization – Optional But Recommended

Now to go through and optimize SiteGround to benefit from the most optimal speed. Again I am using a default WordPress install and chose the default WordPress twenty fifteen theme. I chose twenty fifteen simply because I don’t like the look of twenty sixteen.

Step 1

The first thing I do is disable the caching that SiteGround provides. Yes this sounds strange, but there is a much faster method. To do this, in Cpanel, click into what they call “SuperCacher.”

siteground supercacher

Then turn off both the Level 1: Static Cache and the Level 2: Dynamic Cache.disable siteground cache

Step 2

The reason we disabled that above is because we are going to use the free WordPress Cache Enabler plugin. This is a lightweight caching plugin that creates an HTML version of your page and caches straight to the disk. This method is still one of the fastest caching methods out there. You can read my article on Cache Enabler. There are plenty of debates which is faster, but my speed tests don’t lie.

Step 3

Because SiteGround is using a reverse proxy for Nginx we need to add a small snippet again to the .htaccess file to gain the full speed benefit of the Cache Enabler plugin and bypass PHP. Note: this is a very important step and can cut off about 300-400ms of your load time! Add the following to the very bottom of your .htaccess file.

# BEGIN Cache Enabler
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /

# set blog sub path
SetEnvIf Request_URI "^(.*)$" SUB_PATH=/wp-content/cache/cache-enabler/

# set Cache Enabler path
SetEnvIf Request_URI "^(.*)$" CE_PATH=$1
SetEnvIf Request_URI "^(/)index.php$" CE_PATH=$1

<IfModule mod_mime.c>
# webp HTML file
RewriteCond %{ENV:CE_PATH} /$
RewriteCond %{ENV:CE_PATH} !^/wp-admin/.*
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_METHOD} !=POST
RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} =""
RewriteCond %{HTTP_COOKIE} !(wp-postpass|wordpress_logged_in|comment_author)_
RewriteCond %{HTTP:Accept-Encoding} gzip
RewriteCond %{HTTP:Accept} image/webp
RewriteCond %{DOCUMENT_ROOT}%{ENV:SUB_PATH}%{HTTP_HOST}%{ENV:CE_PATH}index-webp.html.gz -f
RewriteRule ^(.*) %{ENV:SUB_PATH}%{HTTP_HOST}%{ENV:CE_PATH}index-webp.html.gz [L]

# gzip HTML file
RewriteCond %{ENV:CE_PATH} /$
RewriteCond %{ENV:CE_PATH} !^/wp-admin/.*
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_METHOD} !=POST
RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} =""
RewriteCond %{HTTP_COOKIE} !(wp-postpass|wordpress_logged_in|comment_author)_
RewriteCond %{HTTP:Accept-Encoding} gzip
RewriteCond %{DOCUMENT_ROOT}%{ENV:SUB_PATH}%{HTTP_HOST}%{ENV:CE_PATH}index.html.gz -f
RewriteRule ^(.*) %{ENV:SUB_PATH}%{HTTP_HOST}%{ENV:CE_PATH}index.html.gz [L]

AddType text/html .gz
AddEncoding gzip .gz
</IfModule>

# webp HTML file
RewriteCond %{ENV:CE_PATH} /$
RewriteCond %{ENV:CE_PATH} !^/wp-admin/.*
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_METHOD} !=POST
RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} =""
RewriteCond %{HTTP_COOKIE} !(wp-postpass|wordpress_logged_in|comment_author)_
RewriteCond %{HTTP:Accept} image/webp
RewriteCond %{DOCUMENT_ROOT}%{ENV:SUB_PATH}%{HTTP_HOST}%{ENV:CE_PATH}index-webp.html -f
RewriteRule ^(.*) %{ENV:SUB_PATH}%{HTTP_HOST}%{ENV:CE_PATH}index-webp.html [L]

# default HTML file
RewriteCond %{ENV:CE_PATH} /$
RewriteCond %{ENV:CE_PATH} !^/wp-admin/.*
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_METHOD} !=POST
RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} =""
RewriteCond %{HTTP_COOKIE} !(wp-postpass|wordpress_logged_in|comment_author)_
RewriteCond %{DOCUMENT_ROOT}%{ENV:SUB_PATH}%{HTTP_HOST}%{ENV:CE_PATH}index.html -f
RewriteRule ^(.*) %{ENV:SUB_PATH}%{HTTP_HOST}%{ENV:CE_PATH}index.html [L]

# wp override
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [END]
</IfModule>
# END Cache Enabler

Step 4

I then install a couple of these free optimization plugins. These basically get rid of useless things in WordPress like smiley emojis. All they do is add to your load time.

Step 5

I then do a couple additional optimizations:

SiteGround Review Speed Tests

And finally, here are the speed tests below with both the default WordPress twenty fifteen theme and the Schema theme from MyThemeShop.

Twenty Fifteen Theme

As you can see I was able to load a fresh install with a 100/100 score on Pingdom with a load time of 280ms. And this is on shared WordPress hosting? That is right!

siteground pingdom

I also ran it through GTMetrix and you can see I scored a 95% PageSpeed score and a 99% YSlow score.

gtmetrix wordpress twenty fifteen theme

 

Schema Theme from MyThemeShop

I then uploaded the Schema Theme from MyThemeShop and imported the dummy data. As you can see I was able to load a fresh install with a 100/100 score on Pingdom with a load time of 294ms.

schema theme siteground

I also ran it through GTMetrix and you can see I scored a 97% PageSpeed score and a 99% YSlow score. This was actually better than the default WordPress theme.

gtmetrix siteground speed test

Obviously some of these times will go up slightly once you add more content, but I was more concerned with the bare bones and how fast I could get their shared servers to benchmark. Under 300ms is very impressive. It just goes to show the power of Nginx, PHP7, HTTP/2, a CDN, and superior caching all working together in harmony.

Also it is important to note that I am offloading every single script to my CDN. As you can see below in my waterfall, everything except for the initial DOC load of course is loading from my CDN. So when you combine SiteGround + KeyCDN, you pretty much get a winning combination. And both support HTTP/2 and free SSL with Let’s Encrypt.

cdn waterfall

Summary

All in all, SiteGround is just blazing when it comes to cheap and affordable WordPress hosting. I was very impressed, and trust me, that is hard to do. If you are looking for new affordable WordPress hosting, or maybe thinking of switching, I definitely recommend checking them out! If you use the link below you will get at least 60% off.

Grab 60% Off SiteGround Hosting

Was this Siteground review and tutorial helpful? If so, please let me below. Would love to hear your experiences with SiteGround. Also, don’t forget to check out additional WordPress optimization steps in my speed up WordPress guide.

SiteGround Review
  • Speed
  • Customer Support
  • Features Included
  • Architecture
  • Price

Summary

I was blown away by SiteGround's WordPress hosting. For as low as $3.95 a month you get a free domain, SSDs, PHP 7, HTTP/2, Free SSL with Let's Encrypt, MariaDB, and much more! Achieve speeds that match that of a VPS.

5.0

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14 Comments

  1. Alessandro Dragonetti July 14, 2016
    • Brian Jackson July 15, 2016
  2. Armen August 3, 2016
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    • Brian Jackson September 12, 2016
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    • Brian Jackson September 12, 2016
  5. Domenick Swentosky October 6, 2016
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  7. Rob November 18, 2016
    • Brian Jackson November 18, 2016
  8. Akshay November 22, 2016
  9. KC December 27, 2016

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