Inside: How to get the most out of your web hosting budget. A breakdown of the blog hosting features you actually need, plus the ones you can live without. Affiliate links are included to products/services that I love; read our disclosure policy here.
I remember when I signed up for my first hosting plan — it was all Greek to me!
The Bluehost Basic hosting plan came highly recommended, and I loved the affordable price. It was a no-brainer!
However, when I saw that there was a list of hosting upgrades available too, that’s where things got confusing for me. Which upgrades should I choose? Did I really need any of them??
Note: I’ve included ad links to products/services that I love and I used as a new blogger; read our disclosure policy here.
Blog Hosting Features Decoded
Domain privacy protection, site backup, spam monitoring, search engine boosting…my eyes started to cross. They ALL sounded important, but checking all those boxes adds up price-wise. So I did a little research before making my final decision. Fortunately, I did a decent job and got the features I needed without busting my budget.
To save you the time, trouble, and confusion, I’m breaking down the list of common hosting add-ons and upgrades you might run across when starting a blog.
Even better, many of the features that were add-ons for me when I signed up for the Bluehost Basic plan ($2.95/month) are now included FREE in the Bluehost Prime plan ($5.45/month). So for just a couple dollars more, you can get the features that you need. It’s actually cheaper to do it this way instead of getting the basic plan and signing up for add-on services separately.
Now that I have a few years of blogging experience under my belt, I can tell you for sure which upgrades were critical for my blog and business, as well as which ones you can probably skip.
The Blog Hosting Features You Actually Need
While each of these features may add a buck or two to your overall monthly hosting bill, they are well worth that slight increase.
Basically, these are the features you can’t afford NOT to have on your blog:
Domain Privacy Protection
DO NOT SKIP THIS!!
Domain registration information is public and available to anyone on the web via the WHOIS database. That means when you sign up for web hosting your name, home address, phone number, etc. will be listed as the owner of that website.
Electing a domain privacy service instead shows a proxy registration address in this search, keeping your personal information private.
This is a $0.99/month upgrade with the Bluehost Basic plan (and well worth every penny!) Better yet, domain privacy is included free in Bluehost’s Prime Plan.
Click here to learn more about why I chose Bluehost as a new blogger or HERE to start your own blog with Bluehost for this limited-time steal of a price!
Another website add-on that is worth it’s weight in gold!
When you own a website, stuff happens. Despite your best efforts, inevitably you’ll still face attacks, attempted hacks, and crashes that may cause you to lose data.
That’s why it is SO important to make sure that you have a system in place for daily backups of your website and all of it’s data.
I’ve crashed my site (by my own tinkering) and I’ve also been hit with bot attacks and other issues which cause things to go awry. Fortunately, with site backup, Bluehost was able to restore my website to the previous save (which is less than 24 hours old) and minimize the damage.
This is a $1.99/month upgrade with the Bluehost Basic plan, and it is FREE with the Bluehost Prime plan. This may be listed as “Site Guard” or “Code Guard.”
Imagine discovering that your website is under attack — and your host is MIA!
I’ve known bloggers that couldn’t get ahold of their host for almost a full day, and they were paying WAY more than I was for hosting. To me, that is completely unacceptable.
Before choosing a hosting service, find out about their tech support offerings. Is unlimited tech support included in your plan? What hours/days is tech support available?
One thing that sold me on Bluehost is that they offer 24/7/365 tech support standard with ALL hosting plans, including Basic.
I’ll admit that I made good use of that tech support! I can’t even tell you what a relief it is to talk to a real, live human at 1am when your website is under attack. (And get the attack stopped within minutes!)
Google announced that ALL websites without an SSL certificate will give visitors a warning – saying something along the lines of “this website is not secure. Do you wish to proceed?”
Imagine how that will look to new users…yikes!
What is an SSL certificate?
An SSL certificate authenticates a website’s identity and encrypts information sent between server and browser. (This is my super basic explanation, because even I don’t know all the tech-y details!)
Previously, only websites that took payments and handled credit card information needed this security. However, Google now decided that ALL sites should do it.
Some hosts charge a small fee to setup an SSL certificate. Bluehost will provide this service for FREE — awesome, right?!
If you already have Bluehost, here’s how to activate your SSL certificate. You can also call Bluehost tech support and they’ll walk you through it.
If you haven’t yet launched your website, make sure to set-up your SSL certificate in the very beginning. If your site is already up and and running, you might have a tech person check things out to be sure that there aren’t any issues with re-directs (your site will show up as https:// instead of http://).
Web Hosting Upgrades You Can Probably Skip
Before I go into this list, I want to preface by saying that all of the issues discussed below ARE important to the growth and health of your site.
Why I advise skipping them as hosting plan add-ons is that you don’t have the opportunity to shop around for other options (which may be free) AND you don’t really learn what you’re doing.
Some bloggers prefer a hands-off approach when it comes to things like security and SEO (search engine optimization). However, I think that you’ll get better results if you are personally involved in the process and learn what everything is and what to do — at least a basic working knowledge.
If you decide later that you want any of these features, your host will likely let you add them on at anytime.
This may be called something along the lines of “search engine jumpstart” or “search engine discovery.”
If this feature is included in your plan, that’s fine. However, I don’t think that this is something you need to pay extra to add on to your plan, unless you want to be completely hands-off when it comes to SEO.
Here’s the thing: Google will find your website. You don’t need to pay someone to make it happen.
The unknown factor is how long it will take Google’s crawlers to reach your site. This could be days, or it could be weeks.
However, there are a few things YOU can do to speed up the process on your own:
- As soon as your site is live, get connected to Google Analytics and Google Search Console (aka Google Webmaster Tools). Both of these services are free! Google Analytics is the industry standard for tracking visits and other site traffic stats. Google Search Console is how you can submit your site and specific posts to Google’s crawlers as well as track your site’s performance in search.
- Submit your sitemap to Google Search Console. I love the (free) Yoast SEO plugin because it will build a sitemap for you and then all you have to do is plug that address into Google Search Console.
I highly encourage you to grab the free Yoast plugin, which offers suggestions to improve the readability and search presence of each blog post you write. Doing a little research on basic SEO principles will also get you started on the right foot, making your blog posts more visible to Google.
SiteLock or Spam Protection
This can go by different names, but the main promise is to “monitor” your site for attacks.
However, there are quite a few plugin options you can choose from once your site is live that will do the same thing for free. I use Wordfence (in combination with my own personal monitoring).
Plus, if you are an obsessive stat-checker like me, you can usually catch an attack in the works. For example, one evening I noticed I was getting a lot of “hits” on different pages at the same time from one country (not the United States). Then my site would go down for a couple minutes until those hits disappeared.
A call to my tech support determined that these hits were a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack in process. Essentially, bots were sending so many simultaneous hits to my site that it overloaded. Fortunately, my host (Bluehost) was able to block those particular IP addresses and stop the attack.
Good tech support (which Bluehost has), a free plugin like Wordfence, and keeping an eye on things yourself can do just as much (or more) to protect your site than some add-ons.
How to get the blog hosting features you need for the lowest price possible
As a new blogger, I was on a tight budget.
Hosting was pretty much my only blog-related expense for the first few months (it’s a necessity).
That’s why I shopped around to find the best value in hosting for my budget. I settled on Bluehost because their Basic plan was about $3 a month and was highly recommended by other bloggers and my friends in the computer programming biz. I then added the upgrades I wanted separately.
However, now Bluehost offers special discount on the Prime plan that includes the most important upgrades (including daily backup and domain privacy protection) for a lower price than if you bought them each on their own.
In fact, Bluehost is offering their lowest rate ever on the Prime plan for my readers! CLICK HERE to check it out and get started today!
I don’t know how long this offer will last, so I highly suggest locking in this price NOW in case it goes back to normal!
The Prime plan also offers unmetered website space and email storage, which will allow your website to grow. Plus, you get a free domain name ($15 value) when you sign up for a year of hosting with Bluehost (any plan).
I usually recommend the Basic plan, because that’s what I started with. But if the Prime plan had been priced this low when I created my blog, then no question I would have gone that route from the beginning (I upgraded later).