Site speed matters. Whether it's for SEO or conversions, having a fast site is ultimately rewarded. This is expected to be an even bigger factor in organic rankings as Google rolls out their core web vitals update in 2021.
It recently hit me that my WordPress websites were too fucking slow, when I was analyzing search results for a particular high volume query. My website continually ranks on page 2... despite having superior content and backlinks. The only advantage all the 'page one rankers' have is a much faster site!
Action needed to be taken!
So I set out to find the fastest WordPress hosting!
Below you will see video of my heavy & bloated WordPress site loading, side-by-side, on each of our tested hosting services.
Hosting is the foundation of site speed.
If you put lipstick on a pig, you still have a pig. The same fundamentals apply to website speed.
No matter what you do to the site for speed optimization, from caching plugins, to lazy loading images, to CDN, none of that really matters if your hosting sucks.
What indicates slow web hosting for your WordPress site?
Knowing you have poor hosting is a bit of blindspot for two reasons...
#1 you have nothing else to benchmark your speed to.
#2 changing hosts is a pain in the ass.
Because of the two reasons mentioned above, I probably off put finding a new host for far too long.
The only clear metric I have seen that directly indicates slow web hosting is the Time To First Byte (TTFB) metric. This is the time it takes your server to respond with the first byte of information. TTFB, is largely the result of the host, and not your website. Yes, you can improve the TTFB but regardless of your site build a fast host, should be able to respond fast.
Google has published that TTFB should be less than 200 milliseconds.
You can check yours quickly using Bytecheck.
As you can see my TTFB is 1565 ms. This is nearly 8x Google's recommended TTFB.
When testing your site, you should run the test at least 10x, to establish an average TTFB which should be 200 ms or lower.
The hosts I recommend below all achieved an average TTFB below 200 ms for THE SAME WEBSITE.
Before testing be sure to disable any CDN or caching enabled on your site.
Identifying the WordPress hosting options to test.
There's no shortage of web hosts, each claiming to be a 'fast WordPress host'. Testing them all was impractical with a site as large as mine.
Instead I decided to look to others that have done similar tests to find test subjects. While similar tests provide good insight, my issue is that they often test lightweight WordPress sites, with demo content. That's not reflective of my site that is large, bloated, and script heavy.
I found this table from OnlineMediaMasters, which tested an Astra starter site on 16 different hosts. Using Pingdom the speed was tested every 30 minutes over a 7 day period.
There were a couple things that stood out to me...
#1 the top 5 were all within 300 milliseconds.
#2 A2 Hosting a 4th, was a 'cheap' relatively no-name, shared hosting provider but going smoking fast.
#3 All the big name hosts were near the bottom, including my current host, Hostgator.
I decided I would test my WordPress site on the fastest host, Cloudways Vultr HF, and the cheap shared provider, A2 Hosting.
I really wanted to see how cheap ole A2 Shared Hosting would stack up with Vultr HF cloud hosting (Vultr is still pretty cheap at $13/m).
A quick word about the Managed WordPress hosting options.
You may have noticed I chose NOT to test a managed WP option like WP Engine or Kinsta. Personally I think those options are not worth the premium cost.
While they do provide some 'value' it is often nothing more then things you can easily do yourself on any host, with just a little help from Youtube or your hosts support.
The video results.
This is what you came for!
I set up my local business website, on the A2 Startup Plan ($2.99/m), A2 Turbo Plan ($9.99/m) and Cloudways Vultr HF ($13/m).
They all smoke Hostgator!
Behind the test to find the fastest WordPress Hosting.
Let me give you some insight into how I tested them to ensure we were testing pure server speed.
No caching plugins or content delivery network (CDN) was used.
A2 does in sense 'funnel' you into their A2 WordPress Optimized which really just installs W3 Total Cache plugin. I disabled that for this test.
With Cloudways Vultr HF there is a server setting for 'redis'; an in-memory data structure store, used as a database, cache and message broker.
I left that enabled as that is a function of the server NOT the wordpress core install.
What you need to take away.
Website speed is critical factor for user experience, and subsequently search engine optimization.
As you can see from the mobile loading comparison video above, having fast hosting for your WordPress site makes a huge difference!
Start your speed improvement by migrating to a fast host.
Even the fastest WordPress hosting, doesn't cost that much. For any site that produces a profit and you are actively growing might as well be on it Cloudways Vultr HF.
Personally I keep my active and growing traffic sites on Cloudways.
Then I keep my smaller local business websites and other development site on an A2 shared.
You can always sign up for both of them, take them for a test drive, and cancel whichever one you don't like
If you found the research, testing, and insight helpful, click my affiliate links above!