As a small business owner who is in the process of setting up an ecommerce storefront, you may have selected a software platform that is not a hosted service but requires you to provide your own web hosting for your store (such as WooCommerce). This being the case, you're probably looking for a suitable and affordable hosting service. In this BlueHost review we'll talk about the pros and cons of one of the most popular hosts. This way, you'll get an idea if Bluehost is the right option for your online store or if you should consider something else.
BlueHost is one reputable and reliable company offering quite powerful, yet inexpensive, web hosting packages.
BlueHost offers website hosting plans under several categories like Shared Hosting, VPS Hosting, Dedicated Hosting etc. However, for the purpose of this review, we're only going to look at a few of their plans that relate primarily to ecommerce stores trying to scale up. For example, we'll take a look at shared hosting for smaller stores, the WooCommerce plan for companies implementing the popular WordPress plugin, along with the various WordPress hosting plans offered through Bluehost.
Now that you have a general idea of what hosting is for your business, keep reading to learn more about how Bluehost can save you money and time when building your ecommerce site. The goal is to create a fast, secure and reliable online store, and Bluehost has plans for all of the above.
Bluehost Review: The Pricing
Since Bluehost provides a wide range of offerings, they separate them into certain plan groupings. The most common plans they sell are called shared hosting accounts, which means that you'll be sharing server space with other websites. This is a great launching point for companies just getting started, and it's by far the least expensive option. You can see the pricing for shared hosting below:
- Basic – For $7.99 you receive one website, 50 GB of space, one domain, five parked domains, and 25 subdomains. You also get a free SSL for protecting transactional information in your online store.
- Plus – For $10.99 you receive unlimited websites, unlimited SSD storage, a free SSL certificate, unlimited domains, unlimited parked domains, unlimited subdomains, and spam prevention tools.
- Choice Plus – For $14.99 you receive unlimited websites, unlimited space, unlimited domains, unlimited parked domains, unlimited subdomains, an SSL certificate, spam tools, domain privacy, and a site backup.
- Pro – For $23.99 you get unlimited websites, unlimited space, unlimited domains, unlimited parked domains, unlimited subdomains, SSL, spam tools, domain privacy, a site backup, and a dedicated IP.
Keep in mind that Bluehost almost always has promotions going on for its hosting, regardless of the package and type of hosting. So, make sure you don't get tricked into a certain plan just because the pricing looks appealing.
In general, the promotion is usually for the first year only, and it typically offers around a 50% discount for that year. If you don't like the idea of this increasing pricing scheme, I would recommend finding a different host. It's nice to see these discounts, but I've always seen it as rather deceptive–especially for the average user trying to get started with a website.
In addition to the shared hosting, you may want to look into the more advanced, and managed, WordPress Pro hosting, which allows more visits per month, marketing tools, and the ultimate security. Here's the roundup:
- Build Plan – For $29.99 per month, you receive Jetpack Site Analytics, a full marketing center, 100 free premium themes, daily backups, malware detection, and domain privacy.
- Grow Plan – For $39.99, you get everything in the previous plan, plus Jetpack Premium, WordPress live ticket support, 10GB video compression, Jetpack Ads integration, SEO tools, and business review tools.
- Scale Plan – For $59.99 per month, you gain access to everything in the previous plan, plus Jetpack Pro, unlimited backups and restores, PayPal integration, unlimited video compressions, elastic search, and live chat support.
All of the WP Pro plans include great benefits, like a staging environment, no traffic limits, and unlimited websites, domains, subdomains, and web storage.
The final pricing option to look at from Bluehost includes support for WooCommerce and WordPress. Basically, these plans are designed so that WooCommerce is already installed and optimized, and they also have advanced ecommerce security. It makes sense for people building online stores to consider these plans. They're definitely more expensive than the shared plans, but you also get more things dedicated specifically to ecommerce functionality.
For instance, you receive a free SSL, which would typically not be included with a shared hosting plan.
Have a look:
- Starter – For $13.99 per month you gain support for one online store, 100 GB of SSD storage, a storefront theme installation, free SSL, domain privacy, marketing credits, and a free setup call.
- Plus – For $17.99 per month you get unlimited online stores, unmetered SSD storage, a storefront theme installation, free SSL, domain privacy, marketing credits, a backup tool, and a free setup call.
- Pro – For $31.99 per month you get unlimited online stores, unmetered SSD storage, a storefront theme installation, free SSL, domain privacy, marketing credits, a backup tool, Bluehost SEO tools, and a free setup call.
All of the ecommerce plans include PPC search credits to boost your advertising efforts, a dedicated IP, unmetered bandwidth, one free domain, a WooCommerce auto-installation, and a free SSL certificate to protect your website data.
What Bluehost Features Can You Expect to Help You With Ecommerce?
As you may have noticed in the pricing section, not all of the plans are suitable for online stores. I'm sure a smaller shared hosting plan would be fine for a very very small ecommerce shop, but you typically want to grow past that as quickly as possible. I recommend that you take a look at the ecommerce plans from Bluehost. If it seems like you can complete most of the tasks (WooCommerce and theme installation) then you might be better offer skipping the higher price. However, you should keep in mind that you'd be losing a free SSL.
Anyway, here are the best features that mainly help out with ecommerce.
Bluehost Review: Migrations, Direct Installations, and One Click Installs
One of the best parts of Bluehost is that you generally don't need to know much about development, or hosting for that matter, to get all set up with an ecommerce hosting plan. The company provides support for migrating an old site to Bluehost, and you can choose a plan where tools like WooCommerce and ManageWP are already installed.
Not to mention, if you plan on running your site on WordPress, the backend of Bluehost has a handy one-click installation button, expediting the process to just a few minutes. After the installation, it gives you the login credentials for WordPress and you can be on your way to selling online.
As for ecommerce stores, all of the WooCommerce plans come with the popular plugin already installed on your host. Although it's not that hard to install a plugin, Bluehost takes care of it for you. This is particularly helpful if you have minimal experience with WordPress to begin with.
There are plenty of other one-click installations or managed install offerings from Bluehost. All you have to do is go to your dashboard to find out what the host can do for you.
Bluehost Review: Nice Themes
WordPress themes are often required since most people don't plan on designing a website from scratch. In fact, doing that makes no sense, even for a developer.
Bluehost has some plans that offer free theme installations. For instance, the ecommerce pricing plans provide installations for the popular Storefront theme. That doesn't save you any money (since the theme is free,) but it cuts out yet another step in the online store building process.
If you want access to premium themes for free, the WP Pro hosting package is the way to go. The offerings tend to change, but Bluehost currently gives you 100 premium WordPress themes with the WP Pro plan. This is a wonderful deal, considering you would typically have to pay around $50 to $100 for each theme, and it comes along with a fully managed WordPress site.
Bluehost Review: Ecommerce-Ready Security
If you opt for one of the WordPress or WooCommerce plans, you'll automatically gain access to some type of security plan. In the past it has been SiteLock, which is an advanced security platform for locking down site information and protecting details that flow through your site. Some plans (all of the ecommerce plans) also have SSL certificates, which allow for secure connections when customers are punching in their payment and personal details. This way, you can ensure that your customer and business data is protected at all times.
Bluehost Review: Dedicate IP Addresses
A dedicated IP address is a good idea for most online stores. The reason for this is because beginner online stores are most likely being run on shared servers.
Shared servers house numerous other websites, so you might find that some of the sites on that server hog all of the resources. Of course, Bluehost works to resolve this, but a dedicated IP protects you from these noisy neighbors, since you no longer have to share the same IP address.
This should essentially lead to better performance throughout your website, along with increased SEO and a better user experience.
Bluehost Review: Marketing and PPC Credits
Bluehost is known for giving away marketing and pay per click credits on almost all hosting plans. This is especially true for ecommerce plans, since many of them have anywhere from $50 to $200 in marketing credits.
The PPC credits are for pushing more traffic to your site with search engine advertisements. You would pay for the ads using your credits and try to promote something like a new product or product line.
The marketing credits are also for getting the word out about your company, so you must check to see how many marketing credits you receive with each plan.
Bluehost Review: Domain Privacy
Once again, it depends on which plan you choose, but you always have the option to pay for domain privacy. The ecommerce plans are nice because they all come with domain privacy built-in.
What does this mean?
Whenever you buy a domain your personal information is logged online. This information includes things like your name, address, and contact information. The reason they have this is for better communications between site owners. However, many people don't like this since it invites spam.
Therefore, Bluehost offers to hide this information from other people and spambots. It replaces your details with the contact information of Bluehost. Typically this means that if a legitimate message comes in about your site, Bluehost will let you know. However, most of it is spam, so you're basically removing all of this from your inbox.
Bluehost Review: An Enhanced Dashboard for Accessing Files and Handling Domains and Other Items
The Bluehost CPanel, or dashboard, stands out as one of the simplest on the market, since it's organized into a few tabs for things like domains, subdomains, hosting, files, CDNs and security. If you've never used a CPanel before it may look intimidating, but it won't take long to get the hang of things. Recently, Bluehost has updated its dashboard interface to a beautiful, modern layout.
Bluehost Review: A CDN
A content delivery network can be integrated with Bluehost. A CDN is one of the easiest ways for you to support increasing traffic on your ecommerce site. With shared or managed hosting your site files are stored and served up on an individual server.
This means that if your server is located in Illinois, someone in India will have a longer wait to see your website, because the person is far away. A CDN distributes how your site is delivered through a network of servers located all over the world. This means that your customers are more likely to load up your site faster, and because of this, your search engine rankings should improve.
Bluehost Review: ManageWP Integration
ManageWP provides a service for those companies that run multiple WordPress websites. It's a pain to jump back and forth from dashboard to dashboard, so this consolidates all WordPress dashboards into one. Most of the plans on Bluehost don't actually provide the direct integration anymore, but still have the ability to integrate a ManageWP account with a WordPress site.
Bluehost Review: Automated Backups and Restores
The final feature that will certainly come in handy for ecommerce sites is backup space. Imagine building your entire site, accumulating sales, then noticing one day that your site crashes, or someone hacks into it. You may lose data, so you'll need a backup to restore the lost information. Most Bluehost plans have backup space for you to feel at ease.
Bluehost Review: Blazing Fast Speed
Speed often depends on some of the tactics you take yourself (cleaning up files, optimizing images, keeping plugins to a minimum and using caching plugins.) It also depends on the amount of traffic you receive. However, Bluehost has the packages required to keep your site fast at all times. The shared hosting plans have unmetered bandwidth, and you can even get high performance with the Business Pro Plan. The website space is reasonable, and you have various other upgrade options if your site traffic is causing slow download speeds.
First of all, some of the plans have content delivery networks, which expands your reach throughout the globe. They have VPS hosting which provides two to four CPU cores for the ultimate speed. Finally the dedicated hosting goes all the way up to 4 x 3.3 GHz CPU if your site is gaining traction fast.
Bluehost Review: Customer Support
The Bluehost support team is always kind and knowledgeable, and it's nice because they are generally available at all times. So, if you have a question at 3am, simply open up a ticket or a chat box to get your answer. The self-help resources are there for you to complete your own research, and the company even has some forums to chat with other users. Phone, chat and email support are all offered, and you can always send in a ticket if you don't mind waiting about 24 hours for a response.
In terms of quality support, Bluehost is the best you can find, considering its representatives know what they are talking about and they never seem to send you off to other people if they can't figure out the problem. The point is, you can rely on the first person you start talking with.
You can check out the BlueHost site by clicking here.
The screenshot below shows some of the BlueHost dashboard options and features:
Now that you've had a chance to understand exactly what Bluehost can do for your ecommerce website, consider visiting the website below to signup for a plan. Also, feel free to drop a line in the comments section below if you have any questions about this BlueHost review.