5 Best "Self-Hosted WordPress" Hosts & How to Get Started

If you’ve ever visited your local SPCA, you can envision the scene: Crates upon crates of stray cats of every shape and color, all yearning for a loving home, but going largely unnoticed if there are kittens to be adopted (which always seems to be the case). Sure, kittens are super cute – but what happens to the older cats, the ones that are passed over by kitten-seeking adopters?

I was recently pondering this question when it hit me: I could create a cats-only adoption website to advertise adult cats looking for a home, where pet seekers could explore an alternative adoption process and find feline friends that are a perfect fit. I would call it something like PurrfectPets.com, and it would brilliantly solve the old-cats-never-get-adopted problem.

As I thought through my plan to find every adult feline a human to call its own, I knew WordPress would be my ticket in. WordPress is the software that powers WordPress.com, a popular browser-based website builder. However, you can harness the power of the platform by downloading and installing its software from WordPress.org to build a website hosted by a third-party provider. You can read more on WordPress.com versus WordPress.org here, but in a nutshell, you should strongly consider self-hosting if you want to own and control your site’s brand without ads, you need better technical support, and/or you’d like to leverage premium plugins and tools.

Below you’ll find tips and tricks for creating a one-of-a-kind self-hosted WordPress site.

Step 1: Choose a WordPress Host

What many people don’t know is that web hosting is fundamental to the success of any website. When selecting the WordPress host that is right for your needs, you should evaluate providers for speed, reliability, security, and price. Self-hosting your WordPress site will give you far greater creative control over everything from code and plugins to themes and user experience.

If you’re a beginner, you might want to look for hosts that offer a robust technical support program and can help you befriend the WordPress backend. You may pay a bit extra if you go for fully managed WordPress services, but the saved time could be worthwhile.

Here are our top recommendations for self-hosted WordPress plans:

★★★★★ 5.0/5.0
  • WordPress pre-installed with NGINX server caching
  • FREE SSL certificate and unlimited bandwidth
  • Optional automatic plugin, theme, and core updates
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $2.95
Money Back Guarantee 90 days
Disk Space Unlimited
Domain Name FREE (1 year)
WordPress Hosting Plans www.inmotionhosting.com/wordpress

Our Expert's InMotion Review

InMotion, long known for their shared hosting options, entered the WordPress space with a solid option built upon their reputation for great support and reliability. Costing a small premium over other budget-minded options, they do... read more +

InMotion, long known for their shared hosting options, entered the WordPress space with a solid option built upon their reputation for great support and reliability. Costing a small premium over other budget-minded options, they do include some nice features to help justify that cost difference.

Build on an all-SSD infrastructure, their speeds are very good. We would have loved to see options like integrated staging and caching included in order to help take full advantage of the nice, modern hardware. The choice of datacenters (East or West) is nice however, as it allows you to target your local audience with better load times.

InMotion offers three different levels to their WordPress hosting offerings, which allows you to tailor the hosting to your needs or budget. For those needing eCommerce support, their middle or top offerings have you covered. Their top offering also allows unlimited installs for WordPress, which is great to see.

Each hosting package they offer comes with a free domain, unlimited disk space, unlimited emails, and free data backups for data security. If you need it, each plan also has support for PHP, Ruby, Perl, and Python, and includes SSH access.

InMotion Hosting has made a name for itself on support and reliability. While not the cheapest of the budget WordPress hosts out there, the packages offered are solid in performance and feature sets.

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★★★★★ 4.9/5.0
  • Formally endorsed by WordPress
  • VPS technology and included CDN
  • ManageWP pre-installed
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $2.95
Money Back Guarantee 30 days
Disk Space Unlimited
Domain Name FREE (1 year)
WordPress Hosting Plans www.bluehost.com/wordpress

Our Expert's Bluehost Review

Aimed at personal bloggers and first-time users, Bluehost’s WordPress hosting packages are a great alternative to simple shared hosting. These service come at a premium, compared to Bluehost’s standard shared plans, but the WordPress optimization... read more +

Aimed at personal bloggers and first-time users, Bluehost’s WordPress hosting packages are a great alternative to simple shared hosting. These service come at a premium, compared to Bluehost’s standard shared plans, but the WordPress optimization and platform-specific resources are arguably worth the cost.

Built on top of their VPS platform, Bluehost's WordPress managed hosting, though not as customizable as others, focuses on simplicity and speed. Their interface is easy to navigate and the instant provisioning allows for speedy setup. Integrated features, such as the MOJO Marketplace and ManageWP, are nice touches as well.

Though simple by design, Bluehost isn’t shorting you on some of the more important technical features. Integrated W3 caching, SiteLock security, and a CDN are standard across all WordPress packages. It’s also important to note that data backups are automated and resources are guaranteed.

Formed in 2003, Bluehost has long been one of the foremost shared hosts on the planet, and they now power more than two million websites. What’s more, Bluehost is on a short list of providers with the official WordPress seal of approval, doled out by the WordPress Core team. With an experienced team, competitive pricing, and always-there support, Bluehost is King when it comes to WordPress hosting services.

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★★★★★ 4.9/5.0
  • FREE Cloudflare CDN and 1-click installs for WordPress
  • Turbo Server, SSD speed boost, and A2-optimized caching
  • A2-optimized WP plugins for performance and security
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $3.92
Money Back Guarantee 30 days
Disk Space Unlimited RAID-10
Domain Name $14.99
WordPress Hosting Plans www.a2hosting.com/wordpress

Our Expert's A2 Hosting Review

If shared web hosting is what you need, A2 Hosting is the perfect host to help launch your site with your choice of CMS, including WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and others. As part of A2's promise... read more +

If shared web hosting is what you need, A2 Hosting is the perfect host to help launch your site with your choice of CMS, including WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and others. As part of A2's promise to emphasize performance, they've concocted several A2-optimized features specifically for WordPress.

Getting Started: cPanel, 1-Click Installs, and Softaculous

A2's shared web hosting plans come with cPanel 11 control panel, where users can access Softaculous auto-installer. Easily install popular web applications, including your choice of CMS, with one click.

"If you land on our WordPress landing page, and order WordPress hosting, we auto-install WordPress and our optimization plugin," Bryan said. "You don’t have to do anything."

A2-Optimized Software and Caching Tools

"We wanted to make these performance enhancements really accessible to people," Andy said, so A2 has come up with several plugins and tools designed to operate in their online environment. These features are available for all users, including VPS and managed services customers.

A prime example of A2's custom performance enhancers would be their exclusive Site Accelerator, which helps A2 users experience page loading up to 20 times faster than that of the average web host.

Auto-Configurations for WordPress, Joomla, & Drupal

A2 has optimized tools to auto-configure popular software, including WordPress, with auto-optimizations like compression and caching. "We're trying to ease all the friction points for the users and make sure we’re solving their problems," Andy told us.

Auto-Configurations for PrestaShop and eCommerce Options

Once you've installed PrestaShop, an A2-optimized cPanel plugin will automatically detect it and allow you to set up all "normal" optimizations. "We'll go in and configure everything the way that we know it will work best on our servers," Andy said.

Other eCommerce features include access to SSL certificates, PayPal merchant accounts, and a Merchant ID with E-onlinedata (with instant activation). When it comes to marketing your site or online store, A2 users can get $50 towards paid ads. Plus, with Attracta, a free SEO tool available in cPanel, sites are listed in Google within 24 hours.

A2-Optimized Enhanced Security

In addition to enhanced speed and performance, A2 Hosting includes "Perpetual Security," which features several custom technologies.

HackScan & KernelCare

All A2 accounts are offered a free hacking detection scan, featuring their own hacker detection mechanism: HackScan. A2 Hosting users also benefit from KernelCare: A2's product for conducting daily, rebootless auto-updates to kernels.

Proactive Protection & 24/7 Network Monitoring

A2 has built another custom plugin for WordPress users to prevent hacking. The software auto-hardens WordPress sites for proactive protection against hackers. Additionally, A2 offers virus scanning, a dual firewall, and brute-force attack protection — not to mention SPAM filtering for emails, which are also IMAP, POP3, and SMTP supported.

Final Words on A2 Hosting for WordPress

A2 Hosting offers 24/7 customer support and tons of A2-optimized features made with WordPress users in mind. Whether you're an online retailer looking to launch a fresh site with PrestaShop, or a moderately web-savvy WordPress user looking for speed and security excellence, we'd highly recommend A2 Hosting.

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See other top-rated WordPress hosts »

WordPress-specific hosting is among the fastest-growing segments of the hosting industry — but not all providers offer the same attention and optimizations. In addition to the hosts listed above, providers such as Doteasy enable customers to choose just how much computing power they think they need to perfectly balance price and performance.

Doteasy has provided high-quality and affordable web hosting for nearly two decades.

Doteasy streamlines the WordPress experience for beginners by pre-installing the content management system during the signup process. Customers can choose to configure Doteasy hosting services with or without solid-state drives, and the plans come with a free domain registration — some packages will even cover the first renewal period, as well.

Step 2: Choose a Domain Name

Once you’ve selected your hosting service, it’s time for the fun part – creating your domain name! Before you pick the first idea that pops into your head, consider the following tips:

  • Do your research. There are billions of sites already in existence. So unfortunately, your ideal domain may not be available right now. Pay close attention to anything that might be copyrighted or legal property of a company. Your [purr]fect domain name is not worth a potential lawsuit!
  • Keep it short and easy to spell. For example, “PurrfectPets.com” could confuse potential site visitors with its play-on-words spelling – maybe “MeowMates.com” would be a better option here. Do your best to exclude numerals, hyphens, dashes, or any other symbol that might be confusing. Simplicity is your best friend.
  • Make sure your domain name is consistent with the brand you’re trying to build. In most cases, your domain name will be the first visitor touch point, so you want to ensure it’s as closely related to your brand, site name, or business as possible. If MeowMates.com was not in fact intended to be an animal- or cat- related site, I would be better off picking a name that more accurately reflected the site content.
  • Don’t forget about SEO! Keywords in your domain name can help your search results ranking, but don’t overdo it with keyword stuffing – “MeowMatesCatFoodSuppliesAdoption.com” would not be a more successful name, even though it is (over)loaded with relevant keywords.
  • Still stuck? Try a domain generator. There are a bunch of great ones out there that can help get your creative juices flowing.

Most of the hosts we recommend include a free domain registration for at least a year when you sign up for an annual plan. Take advantage of these offers while they’re available!

Step 3: Download and Install WordPress

So, you’ve purchased your catchy domain name – now you’re ready to make things official! One of the best things about WordPress is its intuitiveness. You don’t have to be a code wizard to get a site up and running, and the download/installation process only takes about five to eight minutes. Once WordPress is up, you can begin publishing content immediately!

First, log into your selected hosting service platform and go to cPanel. While the layout of cPanel will vary from host to host, the steps to install WordPress will be largely the same.

Next, scroll down to the section labeled “Databases.” Select MySQL® Database Wizard. You’re going to set up a database where WordPress will store all of your site data.

Most WordPress-friendly hosts will include cPanel, a management panel from which you can install WordPress.

Next, create a database by entering the database name. Hit “Next Step.”

You’ll want to create a database for your new WordPress site.

Enter the username and password for the database user you wish to create. Click “Create User.”

Make sure you choose a strong password for your new database login credentials.

Next, you will see the privileges options for the user. Select the options according to what the user will need. If you’re creating an administrative account, you will want to select all privileges. Now we need to give WordPress the details of our database, so it has a destination for our site data.

You can download WordPress here. When you open the download, you’ll be prompted to enter the database name, username, and password you just created. Enter the Database Host, which is information you should have from your web host. Finally, you can keep the Table Prefix as the default wp_ for now. Click “Submit.”

Enter your database connection details as instructed.

Only one step left! You need to execute the installation script. Enter either of the following URLs in your web browser:

  • http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin/install.php
  • http://yourdomain.com/blog/wp-admin/install.php

Make sure you replace “yourdomain.com” with your actual domain. You’ll be directed to the WordPress install page: “Welcome to the famous five-minute WordPress installation process!”

Voila! You just installed WordPress. Now you’re ready to put the finishing touches on your site.

Step 4: Select a Theme or Design from Scratch

This is where your site will really start to come alive. When it comes to your site’s design, you have two options: Using a pre-packaged theme, or creating a custom design with HTML and CSS.

Depending on how comfortable you are with backend code, a theme may be the more enticing option, as it will require minimal technical maintenance on your end. That said, if you want full control over your site’s look and feel (and you have a solid understanding of HTML/CSS), a custom-coded design might best fit your needs.

Best Themes for WordPress

There are thousands of theme options from which to choose, and many are designed for specific purposes. Looking to run an eCommerce site? There is a theme for that. Are you more interested in a creative look, perhaps for showcasing a personal portfolio? There is a theme for that as well.

The best thing about themes is that they’re constantly getting updated. We recommend checking out the WordPress Theme Directory to browse the best selection.

Some of our favorite themes of the moment include:

1. Writers – Great for portfolio and photography sites

Aptly named theme Writers gives bloggers a leg up on SEO-friendly online content writing.

2. Shopkeeper – A go-to for eCommerce and product marketing sites

ShopKeeper by envatomarket is great for organizing and promoting your online store’s merchandise.

3. Travel Tour – Perfect for travel and booking sites

Showcase gorgeous destinations and experiences with TravelTour, an excellent theme for booking sites.

If I were selecting a theme for MeowMates.com, I would be looking for something that offered the ability to browse components, search and filter for specific keywords, easily find contact information, and submit secure information forms.

Install a Theme via the Directory, a .ZIP Upload, or FTP

You can download and install your theme with a variety of methods. For an in-depth look at Directory, .ZIP Upload, and FTP theme installations, check out our step-by-step instructions here.

Download via the Official Directory – This is the quickest and easiest way to install a theme. If you’re using a native WordPress theme, it will only take two to three clicks to get it up and running.

Manual Upload via .ZIP – If you’re using a theme from a third-party website, you may have to do a manual upload. You’ll simply upload the theme’s .ZIP file to WordPress, and with a few clicks, the installation will be complete.

Manual Upload via FTP – (S)FTP is an alternate way to manually upload a theme. Depending on your web hosting service, you may have to use this option. The upload process itself is nearly identical to the .ZIP upload process.

Step 5: Generate Content and Publish!

Congratulations! You’ve successfully set up your own WordPress site. Now what?

We’ll give you a hint: Publish, publish, PUBLISH! Start sharing the amazing content you’ve generated for your site, whether it’s blog posts, photography portfolios, business specials, or branded marketing collateral. Make sure your content is SEO-friendly, tagged appropriately, and organized logically. It wouldn’t hurt to do a little research on content strategy best practices, either.

At the end of the day, you want to ensure your site visitors can find the information they’re looking for as seamlessly as possible. When it’s well organized and easily accessible, great content results in great success.

Self-Hosting a WordPress Site Doesn’t Mean You’re Alone

While MeowMates.com isn’t live – yet – I know that when I decide to launch the project, I have everything I need to start connecting lonely cats with their future families. As it turns out, the self-hosted WordPress “learning curve” is really more of a gentle slope – once you learn the basics, the rest really isn’t that difficult! I hope that no matter where your WordPress journey takes you, you create the purrfect site for your needs. And your host will be with you every step of the way!

Alexandra Leslie

Alexandra Leslie serves as Tech Vertical Manager of Digital Brands Inc, spearheading the charge to deliver technical expertise and thought leadership to our rapidly growing audience of developers, engineers, and website owners here at HostingAdvice. You'll find her engaging with leaders in web hosting and tangentially related industries, enjoying honest discussions of their cutting-edge technologies. She loves getting her hands dirty with comprehensive reviews of popular hosting platforms and services, and she's a die-hard WordPress fan. Alexandra leads the HostingAdvice team with a passion for translating technical jargon into digestible action items anyone can use to build, monetize, and scale a web presence.