A little while back you may have noticed we re-designed the PhotoProSEO.com website a little. Whilst I wanted a cleaner more professional look for the site, it was also equally important to improve the overall website’s performance. As part of that process I found myself switching my 5 year long allegiance from eApps to WPEngine as my host of choice for all my WordPress websites – in this article your can read about my experiences and why I decided to switch – here’s my WPEngine review.
Didn’t Anyone Ever Tell You Flash Websites Suck?
When I first started my photography business in 2009, I did what most photographers do, I created what I thought was a pretty website with lots of pretty photographs, and sat back waiting for the emails to fly in and the phone to ring of the hook. Very quickly I realised that in order for clients to find the site, I needed a good ranking position on Google, and sadly that was not going to happen with the Flash-based website I had at the time (you can view it here on the Wayback machine) – please don’t mock me LOL.
After a little bit of research I decided to switch my website platform to WordPress – it was the web platform of choice for the SEO gurus that I had been following for years, so it made good sense, and many themes were starting to emerge designed specifically for Photographers. (In fact you can read an article I did for ProPhotoShow.net on the choices available to photographers at that time here – I was using Bludomain.com, but as part of my research I discovered the ProPhotoBlogs WordPress Theme which I still use for my photography websites today.)
At that time I was also using eApps.com as my hosting provider of choice. Their support seemed to beat the pants off anyone I had tried in the UK, and the features they provided on their Virtual Servers was exactly the power I needed and at a sensible price (I was paying around $15 a month at the time, and I had full root access to my “virtual” server”).
I Feel the Need, the Need for Speed
As time progressed I found myself managing 5 sites on that host and I switched to their scaleable “Cloud Hosting” platform – this gave a good performance boost and meant that I had resources and power on tap if needed. However I was still a little disappointed in the overall performance.
Last year I implemented MaxCDN on my WordPress sites and gave a reasonable boost to performance. MaxCDN is a Content Delivery Network that works alongside the W3 Total Cache plugin to distribute your content to servers closest to your client – it sounds overkill, but trust me it works very very well and with Google now taking site speed into its search algorithms I want my site speed to be the best I can get at a reasonable cost, and adding MaxCDN alongside eApps definitely helped.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago – with traffic continuing to grow my sites were slowing again and I was looking at another resource upgrade with eApps to maintain the speed, however I was not convinced spending additional dollars with them was going to make that much of an impact. So at that point I started investigating other platforms, and time and time again I kept reading about WPEngine.com and their legendary speed and amazing support.
If you haven’t heard of WPEngine before, then here’s a quick summary – WPEngine was designed from the ground up as a fast scaleable platform for WordPress sites. WordPress out of the box does not scale well, and if you get a sudden slew of visitors your site can start crawling very very quickly and soon start to crash. WPEngine solves all of that for you at a fixed price. Their service is based on the précis that if you need the power, you’ve got it. WPEngine sites are already configured with MaxCDN and caching, you have relatively unlimited storage and bandwidth, and with it being a fully managed service, you have expert WordPress support on hand, and even your backups are taken care off.
Sounds good – my first reaction was a little bit of sticker shock – this wasn’t cheap – $29 a month for a 1 site install or $99 for up to 10 sites. With me having 5 sites for our businesses, the $99 option was my only choice – At this point I was paying eapps.com about $36 for the same service. Being a tight miserable Scot, I was not convinced WPEngine could really be worth the extra few dollars. Then I read about their “killer feature” – a one click staging area – then I was hooked.
WPEngine.com’s Staging Area Feature Rocks
Built right into the WPEngine platform is a test or “staging platform” where you can copy your live site – make changes, tweak designs elements, all on a “test” server, safe in the knowledge your live customer-facing website is unaffected. Want to try out that new theme or plugin but scared you will break your site? – no worries – WPEngine has it sorted. Then once you’ve finished testing and configuring your new site, it’s a one click process to flip it over to your live site. Which is exactly what we did when we changed the design of PhotoProSEO.com – one minute it was the old design based on the rather cumbersome Headway theme – then with the press of a button, a few seconds later it was a much sleeker Genesis Framework based site with half the plugins and a much nicer design.
UK based Servers – Woohoo!
Another key decision point for me was the ability to choose a UK location for my server – as the bulk of my photography customers are in the UK, this also helps site performance removing that Transatlantic hop, and the inevitable drop in site performance when the USA woke up early afternoon UK time.
You can try them for 60 days risk free
The next feature that nailed it for me was the 60 day guarantee – I could afford to try it out on a test site and know that if I decided the platform wasn’t for me I would get my money back. That first day I transferred a copy of PhotoProSEO.com over to it, ran some speed tests and knew instantly this platform was worth every penny. The difference in site performance was amazing.
WPEngine’s Support is the best I’ve ever experienced
On day 2 of my wpengine experience I confused myself with how their FTP login’s work and managed to upload files to the wrong site install and spent a couple of head-scratching hours trying to figure out why I wasn’t seeing my site appear properly. A quick email to support was answered almost instantly and this was outside what I would consider normal business hours. Since then I’ve emailed them with a number of queries and each time the response has been great and these guys really know WordPress inside out.
WordPress is now a joy to use and Administer
Using WordPress on my sites is now a joy – I’ve no strange delays, no lags, navigating my admin panel is quick and easy and not the slow slog it seemed to be before. Checking my Speedtest reports also proves the improvement in the overall site performance across all our sites – which is another tick in my SEO checklist
A Summary Review of WPEngine.com – it’s the Dog’s Wotsits!
If you haven’t already checked out WPEngine.com, go take a look. What may seem a little pricy compared to other hosts soon fades into insignificance when you see the feature set and you experience using your site on a solid platform like this. It is indeed the proverbial dogs wotsits!
A Quick Note of Transparency
Heads up – please be aware that due to my fabulous experience with WPEngine I have signed up as an affiliate with them, so if your purchased a hosting plan with them as a result of a link form this article I will get a small commission as a result – but even if they didn’t have an affiliate scheme I would still recommend them – I wouldn’t promote any service or product on PhotoProSEO.com if I wasn’t happy using it myself. If you wish you can also visit WPEngine.com using this non-affiliate link.
P.S. As luck would have it, WPEngine currently have a 60 day offer – try their hosting for 60 days and if you don’t like it they will refund you in full!