“Bluehost vs. iPage?” – it’s a question that’s a bit like asking “Coke or Sprite?” It’s somewhat slicing details, but it’s a choice nonetheless for something that you’ll likely be using for years.
Bluehost and iPage are both –
- Owned by Endurance International Group (EIG) – a large technology corporation
- Established, well-known brands in the hosting industry
- Provide a similar menu of products that revolve around shared Linux hosting
- Provide pricing & hosting products that focus on DIYers to small to midsize companies
And yet – they are still different companies with different brands. When you are choosing a website host – you still have to end up choosing.
Although this site runs on InMotion Hosting (which I’ll mention later) – I also have several small projects on iPage. Their pricing specifically makes sense for many sites. I wrote a full review of iPage here.
In this comparison between Bluehost vs. iPage, I’ll try to break down the differences that I’ve found in seven different areas ranging from pricing structure to customer service and market focus so that you can decide which is the best fit for your project.
Let’s dive into Bluehost vs. iPage…
Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned. All opinion and data are based on my experiences as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.
Both Bluehost and iPage offer a wide menu of products such as VPS hosting, WordPress hosting and more. However, one thing you’ll quickly see is that iPage really focuses on low-cost traditional web hosting. Bluehost has a (very) wide range of specialized hosting products such as managed WordPress hosting and more.
But for pricing – we’ll focus on the most common product that small businesses usually need – shared Linux hosting.
Shared Linux hosting is also known as the “kind of flexible hosting that lets you run WordPress, Joomla and most non-Windows web apps.”
- You can check out iPage’s current shared hosting plans / discount here.
- You can check out Bluehost’s current shared hosting plans / discount here.
Even beyond their product differences, Bluehost and iPage price differently.
iPage uses a single, “unmetered” plan. They don’t artificially cap any of their features. The plan renews at $7.99/mo if you sign up for several years.
Bluehost tiers their plans into Tiers. The first tier is for small websites on a budget. Bluehost calls it their Basic plan and renews at $7.99/mo.
Bluehost uses domain name, website space and email account caps on their Basic plan. This means that you can connect a single website, but you are also limited on your files stored and email accounts that you can set up.
Head to head – iPage has the better deal on the first tier. You can host more sites and files on iPage. Now – that doesn’t really matter if you only want a single website. But still.
The middle tiers are a bit tricky to compare. iPage is going to be cheaper on an absolute comparison, so it’s important to decide how you plan on using your hosting account.
Bluehost calls their 2nd tier the Plus plan. It renews at $10.99/mo. It has no caps but does not include many of the “bonuses” that their Prime plan includes. It’s directly comparable to iPage’s single plan.
Bluehost calls the 3rd tier the Choice Plus plan, which renews at $14.99/mo. It’s a straight “value-add” plan, where it’s only worth the extra money if you are going to use the bonuses included.
Bluehost’s main bonuses are a “SpamExpert,” “Domain Privacy” and “SiteBackupPRO.” The only one here that is a true bonus is SiteBackupPRO – which will backup and restore your site for free. Domain privacy is only worth about $2.88/yr. They do yet another value add for the Pro plan.
If you want the most space & websites for the least amount of money – then iPage is the better brand. If you have a bit more budget, then it’s worth looking at other factors.
Like I’ve outlined in other web hosting reviews, it’s useful to break web hosting features down into two different sets – a “core feature set” and a “bonus feature set”.
And even in situations like this, where one provider has a single plan, it’s useful to understand exactly what you are buying.
The core feature set consists of what I call the “3 D’s” – domains, disk space and databases/email.
Domains are how many distinct web properties you can connect to your hosting account. Disk space is how many files you can store on your account, and databases/email is how much software you can install to help manage those files (ie, one install of WordPress requires one database on your server).
Bluehost caps one of these three core features for the Basic plan, whereas iPage does not meter any. That’s not a good or bad thing, but it’s still useful to make sure you are not under or overbuying.
For example, I use iPage for several small projects. They are small, under a strict budget, and don’t need much of any attention. I use iPage because I can load up that account with lots of websites for no increase in budget. My client, on the other hand, has only a single site. The unlimited databases and unlimited storage simply don’t apply.
They both use industry standard software such as cPanel and mySQL that “run” your core features. These allow for flexible and familiar management. There’s nothing proprietary about their setups (unlike some hosts like GoDaddy or 1&1) – so you can pick up and leave whenever you want.
That said, you can start to see a difference between Bluehost and iPage on “bonus hosting features.”
iPage tries to frame a lot of standard features as “bonuses.” They mention their builder, free apps – and even Google Webmaster Tools. None of these “bonus” features are really above and beyond a standard hosting package. iPage provides the basics and that’s it.
Bluehost offers bonus features such as additional marketing credits and free consultants who will help set things up for you. Additionally, they do free backups and integrate several 3rd party tools into your account. They allow optional upgrades for SSLs, domain privacy and dedicated IP addresses.
If you are are a small business that wants only standard, simple features, then iPage will be a better fit on features for you. If you want access to advanced features and more hands-on setup, then Bluehost will be a better fit on features for you.
The core job of a web host goes beyond simply storing and delivering files to your website visitors. You’ll also want your web host to deliver the files quickly.
There are a lot of factors that go into website speed, and many times you cannot blame a slow website on a slow host (e.g., even the most powerful engine cannot go Zero to 60mph in 5 seconds if it’s pulling a massive boat).
That said – server speed is still critical. There’s not really a good way for non-network engineers to measure server speed between hosts (since again, lots of factors).
Here are the results from my most recent test –
As you can see, iPage edges out Bluehost on this one test. They both show mediocre results but are very close in speed. The 3rd party TTFB test is very rudimentary but can be instructive. Either way – a better source would be internal speed data.
Normally, that’s not publicly available. But, EIG is a publicly traded company with all the public reports that go with that. Here’s their internal data from their most recent Investor’s Day report –
As you can see, their internal speed data show Bluehost as slightly better than iPage. But they are also very close.
Bluehost also is public with their default specs – which, based on my quick looks at my client sites, does check out.
Based on those two findings – I’d say that they are a toss up on speed with a probably edge to Bluehost. They are both fast enough for a small site. They are close enough that you could use either and focus on the speed variables under your control.
Usability & Onboarding
Any good product can turn bad quickly if you can’t figure out how to actually use it. And this point is especially true with web hosts.
Both iPage and Bluehost have fairly straightforward onboarding and good usability. They both use cPanel. They both maintain similar account portals and they both send out similar onboarding emails.
And they both make it straightforward to install common web apps like WordPress. Here’s what their respective “backend” setups look like –
As you can see, they are very similar. That said, Bluehost goes for a cleaner look with fewer blatant upsells.
Their account management panel is less mid-2000s and more minimalist. Bluehost’s WordPress installation wizard includes fewer upsells for theme and services upsells. iPage’s upsells get a bit ridiculous. There are multiple upsell pages on checkout.
Overall, Bluehost has an edge on usability and onboarding. They have a better design, better onboarding, and a less confusing process from purchase to live website.
Usability and onboarding can solve a lot of problems. but not every single issue. And that’s where customer service comes in.
The tricky thing about customer service is that it’s all anecdotal. No single comparison (including this one) can state definitively if one company has “good” service or “bad” service.
You never know if your customer service agent just started yesterday (or was their one seasoned pro) or was having a terrible/awesome day – or if it’s a deeper indication of company culture.
Instead, I try to look at indications on whether a company treats their customer service as a cost, a sales opportunity or as an investment.
According to the EIG’s Investor’s Day report, they are obsessed with their Net Promoter Score (NPS). In short – that is a metric that measures how likely your customers are to recommend you.
They draw a clear correlation between customer service → NPS → $$$
In other words, both iPage and Bluehost view customer service as an investment that leads to both more sales and more upsell opportunities.
That’s a good thing for you as the customer with a catch (ie, the upsell part). If you don’t mind putting up with the upsells, you’ll likely experience fine customer service from both Bluehost and iPage.
If you are running WordPress, you are more likely to get solid support from Bluehost. It’s their specialty software – and they are corporate partners with the WordPress Foundation.
Why? Because they likely see them as complementary brands that fit different types of customers – sort of like Coke & Sprite.
So who does EIG think is the best fit for who? Here’s their chart for investors on their “brand positioning” –
This chart lines up perfectly with how I’ve found their customer service & usability.
Bluehost markets to people who are business owners first and website owners second.
iPage markets to people who are website owners and have a tight budget above all else.
It makes sense – and is also important for what products & improvements each brand will likely make in the future.
Here’s grab bag of other factors to consider.
- iPage has the same money-back guarantee as Bluehost (30 days).
- For better or for worse, they are both owned by a giant corporation. As I’ll mention in the conclusion, if you want a non-EIG host, you can look at InMotion (review), Web Hosting Hub (review) or SiteGround (review). Neither can shake a now infamous outage in 2014.
- Bluehost is an official host for the WordPress Foundation. That may or may not be because EIG is a part-owner of primary contributor to WordPress (Automattic). Both can run WordPress just fine though.
Bluehost vs. iPage Conclusion
So Bluehost vs. iPage? They’re both fine hosts with some differences.