Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. If you click through and purchase an item, I may earn a commission. See my terms of service for details.
A few months ago, I switched hosting companies. I had been with DreamHost but decided it was time for a change after my site went offline for several hours (which I had discovered and reported). I disliked their upselling tactics and inconsistent customer support. Also, it appeared they cared more about their website’s design than the performance of their servers. It’s worth noting that DreamHost—alongside Bluehost, HostGator, iPage, and OVH—were recently vulnerable to “simple account takeover hacks.” Given my experiences with DreamHost, I’m not surprised to learn of their vulnerabilities.
In my search for a new host, I chose SiteGround (SG). They’ve been around since 2004 and support nearly two million domains. SG routinely ranks well in comparison articles and reviews. What’s interesting is that Kinsta, a top-rated managed WordPress hosting company, features three comparison articles on its site. They compare themselves to SG, WP Engine, and Flywheel. Given that there are thousands of hosting companies to include SG says a lot.
SiteGround has three WordPress hosting plans including “StartUp,” “GrowBig,” and “GoGeek.” Although they cost slightly more than other popular hosts, the extra couple of dollars monthly has been worth it. Their customer support team is excellent, so it’s no wonder they achieved a 98 percent client satisfaction score in their latest year-end survey.
SG customers get one free site transfer and can use SG’s website migration plugin. Transferring my sites was quick and efficient. SG issues free SSL certificates in partnership with Let’s Encrypt. Lastly, customers get deals and perks, for example, 15 percent off WeWork, a free trial for OptinMonster, a $60 credit for Codeable, and 20 percent off WP Rocket.
SG Optimizer Plugin Review
SiteGround customers gain access to the SG Optimizer plugin (noncustomers can’t use it). The plugin is designed to improve the performance of WordPress websites by directly connecting to SG’s servers. As SG states,
Our SG Optimizer has always been an invaluable tool in boosting site performance, and now we’ve pushed its capabilities even further. Internal speed tests of the new version show an additional 20-30% performance improvement even for well-optimized sites. And when you use the plugin on a site that runs on an old PHP version and/or has poorly-optimized content, the benefit can easily go up to 500%!
The plugin includes cache, backend (environment), frontend, and image benefits. Additionally, it has a new, sleeker user interface (UI). Optimization and performance features include:
The SuperCacher system provides several layers of caching for your site including static cache, dynamic cache, and Memcached.
- Environment Optimization
Force HTTPS, switch between different PHP versions, and enable/disable GZIP compression and browser caching.
- Frontend Optimization
Minify HTML, CSS and JS, remove query strings from static resources, and disable emojis.
- Image Optimization
Optimize new and existing images. Additionally, lazy load images so that they appear when users are about to view them instead of processing them immediately (reducing file requests will increase page load times).
Impact on Site Speed
Page speed is critical to a user’s experience and used by Google as a search engine ranking factor. I’m obsessed with page speed, and my website is the fastest it’s ever been. My desktop scores fluctuate between 90 to 100 and my mobile scores 75 to 85. I could remove marketing interrupters like opt-in forms to achieve higher mobile scores, but I’m willing to accept tradeoffs to grow my business. Separately, I tested page speeds with DreamHost pretransfer and SG post-transfer. Using identical sites, SG easily outperformed DreamHost and exceeded my expectations.
The quality, types, and the number of plugins a site uses impact speed and performance. Naturally, using one excellent all-in-one plugin is more efficient than using two or more excellent plugins. All things equal, using fewer plugins yields fewer requests, which can speed up a website. Before switching to SG’s plugin, I used a handful of performance plugins including:
- WP Fastest Cache
- Fast Velocity Minify
- Remove Query Strings from Static Resources
- Smush Image Compression and Optimization
- Really Simple SSL
- a3 Lazy Load (I wasn’t using a lazy load plugin, but I should have been)
At first glance, you’ll notice the SG Optimizer plugin has a low rating (it’s been improving since I’ve been tracking it). Several reviewers say the plugin doesn’t work, but the plugin won’t work for noncustomers. Secondly, the plugin used to have a single purpose, which was to connect WordPress with the reverse proxy caching system set up on SG’s servers. I suspect plugin versions one through three weren’t mind-blowing, but versions four and five have come with vast improvements. When you factor out “not working” and reviews for older versions, the plugin scores well.
SiteGround takes technology, speed, uptime, security, and customer support more seriously than their competitors. They’re the only hosting company with a robust, all-in-one optimization and performance WordPress plugin. The other two WordPress.org recommended hosts, i.e., DreamHost and Bluehost, don’t offer any plugins. A2 Hosting, an excellent hosting company, has a plugin that seeks to optimize other performance plugins. However, their plugin doesn’t do much by itself and is poorly rated.
As the author of a bestselling book about WordPress plugins, the SG Optimizer plugin ranks high on my list. It’s allowed me to streamline server requests, reduce my plugin count, and increase my site’s speed. It and the WP-Optimize plugin make for a fantastic performance combination. It’s a shame the SG Optimizer plugin isn’t available to noncustomers because, in many ways, it’s equivalent to a high-performance sports car.