In fact, we highly recommend this in our travel blog tips for all new bloggers as they are quite cheap and are highly effective for getting your website off on the right foot.
But what do you do when you grow?
Do you upgrade to a premium space on those basic services? Do you manage your own server? Or do you opt for a hybrid managed WordPress hosting service to get all the perks of private or semi-private servers with none of the work?
We've tried a mix of all of those over the years, and by far the best decision we've made is switching our growing blogs over to the managed WordPress hosting service Performance Foundry.
It is certainly a premium, with a month of service costing as much as a year for basic hosting elsewhere. But for having two blogs with 50,000-100,000 monthly page views, and frequent viral surges, we're more than happy to pay the fee for more reasons than you may think.
Today we're going to share why that is.
Disclaimer: We currently receive a discounted rate for Performance Foundry from a premium service we were once members of (but now no longer exists). We also took part in a case study for Performance Foundry resulting from an existing relationship with the owners for an additional, one-time discount. I was not requested nor compensated to write this review.
An Immediate Speed Increase on Day One
When it comes to upgrading to a new server, I am always leery on a lot of little details. How fast will it take to transfer our sites over? Will the new service actually perform better than my original server? What will happen during a page view surge? Is there a value for my money?
When I upgraded from basic to premium server space on Bluehost, for example, I had a bit of downtime in between and the premium server I migrated to was actually poorer performing (from my perspective) than the basic one. When I had a viral surge one day the server timed out and my site still went down- causing a fair bit of lost ad revenue.
Naturally, I had the same concerns when moving to Performance Foundry.
Those fears were alleviated relatively quickly as the migration was seamless- our site was down for a grand total of about 30 seconds. Going further, the new server was lightning fast such that our homepage and articles were loading on the order of seconds rather than the tens of seconds it was before (on the exact same theme and plug-in load). And that was before they optimized.
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The migration package to Performance Foundry also includes a site overhaul with plug-in changes, server optimizations, a performance report, and more. I had always thought I was optimized with my plug-ins, but after this overhaul I can safely say this was not the case and our homepage load time dropped to about 3 seconds with image heavy articles loading in just about double that. Amazing!
So, what does this allow? Well, for us we noticed two main benefits: an SEO improvement as well as the ability to push our site harder!
The SEO one is pretty self-explanatory, as Google takes site speed as a decent ranking factor. Although I can't say that the server change was the only SEO improvement we made in the days, weeks, and months that followed, our search traffic did rise quite a bit and I certainly attribute the speed boost as a primary factor.
The more interesting aspect of our migration was not the SEO improvement, but rather all the new things you could do in trying to promote your blog. As for us, we supercharged it.
Making Your Premium Server Work for You
You see, on basic hosting your server space is somewhat limited and you cannot run complicated plug-ins without experiencing significant site slowdowns. A server heavy resource is a server heavy resource regardless of where your site is running from. The only way to get around this is to beef up your server to manage the load better, and those used by Performance Foundry offer just that.
After migrating we were able to install several workhorse plug-ins like Ad Inserter, Amazon Link Engine, Facebook Comments, Linkify Text, Monarch, OptinMonster, Revive Old Posts, SumoMe (we later replaced with Social Warfare as it was a server hog), YARPP, and more. On their own several of these are enough to produce a significant slowdown on a basic server, but on Performance Foundry they barely cause a blip.
Yes, they do still slow the site down by a few seconds, and in fact our 3rd party evaluations for site performance right now are not the greatest purely because of some of the plug-ins we run. This can't be avoided if you go plug-in heavy like we do. But it isn't enough for us to be concerned as the benefits far outweigh the cons and our site still loads incredibly fast all the same.
I don't think I ever would've installed all of the above comfortably on a basic server without crashing it upon activation, and now I don't even give them a second thought most of the time. When I do have a concern all I have to do is put in a support ticket and Performance Foundry takes care of it right away.
The Ultimate Test – Putting in a Support Ticket
Now, getting a powerful server and quick migration is one thing, but to truly look at the perk of Performance Foundry we have to talk about the managed hosting aspect. Premium servers are a dime a dozen and you can find them on your own quite easily, but your money is going for the “managed” portion of managed WordPress hosting.
Shortly after migrating I decided to put a support ticket in for an issue I noticed (non-www links were not auto-redirecting to their www counterpart- an easy fix for someone who knows what they're doing, which I very obviously do not). I submitted a ticket through the normal email channels and waited, not sure of what to expect.
Six minutes later I received an email back from the development team member who was working on my site saying it was fixed. Six minutes. I could barely get Bluehost on the phone within 30 minutes with issues like this, and here my problem was fixed in under ten through one simple email.
In fact, when a second issue popped up just a bit later I sent another email to the support team and received a response back that they were already aware of the issue and working on it. Ten minutes later it was fixed with no effort needed by me at all. As this one occurred late at night I could've lost many hours of sleep pulling my hair out while poorly solving the issue (it was a plug-in compatibility issue), but here I could simply go to bed.
A colleague of mine who has a premium server he manages himself was not as lucky and was up most of the night with a very similar issue a few weeks later, and mine was even fixed before I could fall asleep just a few minutes later.
Now that is getting your money's worth.
We've used the support ticket feature many times now and each time our problems were taken care of quickly, accurately, and, best of all, at no extra charge. There is a threshold for Performance Foundry to switch to a fully support based service with a dedicated developer, but so far we have yet to hit it within our managed WordPress package.
I Migrated My Second Site Over Within Weeks
During this same time our local Pittsburgh blog, was growing at a rapid pace and had roughly the same traffic as Living the Dream. I wasn't bringing enough income in yet to justify the second jump to Performance Foundry right away, but put it on my radar all the same. (We migrated Living the Dream as we are heavily optimized for search and wanting increased performance for better rankings.)
Unfortunately, I did decide to upgrade my services with Bluehost to help the site go a little faster, and that is when everything fell apart. Between what seemed like slower load times, and many bad gateway errors on the back end, I got frustrated and switched my account over to Performance Foundry within two weeks.
I wasn't really ready for it money wise (although if I was a member of Mediavine at that point it would've been a non-issue), but when the service is as good as Performance Foundry's is it was a purchase I was more than willing to make. As our website traffic more than doubled in the next six months, with a viral post of 150,000 page views in a week that would've likely crashed my Bluehost server, it was money well spent that has pays itself off many times over since then.
I only regret not doing it sooner.
Overall, I'm Happy I Can Finally Relax
When it comes down to it, managed WordPress hosting is not for everyone. It is a premium service that comes with a premium price tag, there is no getting around that.
But if you are like me and absolutely hate working on any little hosting issue, plug-in compatibility error, or odd WordPress update that comes up, it is a welcomed relief to be able to know someone else who is an expert is handling it all on your behalf.
Since switching to Performance Foundry I've noticed a few small things that needed addressed here or there every month or so- many things are out of our control as bloggers, after all. In each case all it took from me was shooting off a quick email and waiting, knowing it'd be fixed promptly and accurately. Going beyond this, the owners even call me every six months to ask how things are going.
You won't get that with a basic host.
Cut to a year ago when I was doing it all myself, if the same issues would have popped up I would have lost several hours of sleep trying to fix it myself and been angry for days as a result.
That will never happen again, and I couldn't be happier. For that, it is worth the premium fee.
Are you looking to upgrade your server space? Click here to purchase your hosting at Performance Foundry. Be sure to tell them Jeremy at Living the Dream sent you.