WP Engine Review
It might strike you as a little strange to see a WP Engine Review on a site predominantly focused on photography and camera gear.
However, I feel that telling you which WordPress host is best for your photography blog is very important.
Most photographers use WordPress to power their photography website. Ease of use, flexibility, variety and cost are a few of the reasons for choosing WordPress over, say, Squarespace.
If you’re new to WordPress and websites in general, I wrote a guide on how to make a blog which you should find easy to follow.
This review of WP Engine is a little long as I wanted it to be comprehensive. If you want the short version, here it is:
Switch your current site to WP Engine by clicking here and try it out for 60 days for free. Your site will run much quicker and you’ll look at WordPress is a whole new way.
Why Should I Choose WP Engine over Other Hosts?
When you first start building a WordPress site for your photography business or hobby, it’s tempting to choose the cheapest hosting.
Whilst it’s true that Bluehost is a great, affordable option, I’m here to recommend to you WP Engine, which is in my opinion the best WordPress host available today.
I’ve tried numerous different hosting providers for Shotkit and my own wedding photography website. Luckily, most of them offer money-back guarantees, which means I was able to try many in a short period of time to find the very best.
Why is a Fast Website Important?
It’s very important that your photography site runs as fast and efficiently as possible. SEO is affected heavily by site speed, so in order for your site to rank well in Google, you’ll need to do all you can to make it load fast. Here’s a quote from SEO Moz:
Your server response time is affected by the amount of traffic you receive, the resources each page uses, the software your server uses, and the hosting solution you use.
By investing in the best WordPress host you can afford, you’ll really be helping both your SEO results and your client’s experience.
Imagine when a bride visits your wedding photography site for example. It’s likely she’s tired of looking at 10 others before yours, so unless your site loads within a couple of seconds, she’ll have lost interest.
In this age of instant gratification and short attention spans, having a fast loading site is very important.
Why is WP Engine Important for Photographers?
Large image files typically make websites slow, and as photographers, we like having lots of images on our websites.
That’s why it’s even more important for us to have the absolute fastest WordPress operation available, and I believe WP Engine is the best WordPress host out there.
In this review of WP Engine, I put WP Engine up against two other comparatively priced hosting providers offering similar services.
I used a host called WPSynthesis to run Shotkit for the first 2 years. I loved their customer service, and the site never went down once, even when posts went viral and the servers had to deal with massive spikes in traffic.
I liked WPSynthesis and recommended them for a long time – I’m actually featured on their homepage! However, at this stage I was only comparing their services to the cheaper hosting providers I’d used before.
I never thought the site loaded particularly fast, and the WordPress backend was sluggish at times. That’s why I looked at changing to SiteGround following a recommendation.
SiteGround was slightly more expensive, but they offered ‘custom-made solutions’ which I was keen on implementing to speed up Shotkit.
Long story short – they sucked. I won’t go into it here, but if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I wasn’t very happy with them!
I’d heard of WP Engine several years ago when I first started looking for hosting companies for my WordPress sites. They were already established in the industry as the go-to hosting company for WordPress.
Right from the start, if you used WordPress, WP Engine was simply the best host you could find.
I wish back then I knew what I do now. As with most things in life, there’s usually a reason why one thing costs significantly more than another.
In the case of WP Engine, that significant advantage is SPEED.
All the premium level hosting providers I’ve used in the past offered excellent customer service (24/7 live chat is absolutely essential if you live anywhere outside the US); they all were easy to set up, and the prices were comparable. The one thing that set each one apart was site loading speed.
Before trying WP Engine, I always thought WordPress was slow to run since it’s a rather bloated software. It contains a lot of code you may never use, which can affect the speed.
However, when I switched my hosting to WP Engine, I realised this wasn’t the case. Not only do my sites load much faster, but also my WordPress backend is incredibly snappy and a pleasure to use.
I used to hate composing new blog posts for my photography website or Shotkit, since WordPress took so long to do all the tasks necessary for blogging – uploading images, saving, previewing the post… it was a painful experience.
I just assumed that WordPress was always like that, and having lots of plugins wasn’t helping either. How wrong I was…
What Makes WP Engine Good?
As its name implies, WP Engine is all about WordPress. Other hosting providers may be skilled with WordPress, but WP Engine lives and breathes WordPress.
In its own words, WP Engine is “WordPress Hosting Perfected”, and I have to say I agree!
Since switching both Shotkit and my wedding photography business to WP Engine hosting, I’ve been able to not only test their server speeds, but also their support.
Live Chat was excellent, as to be expected from one of the best WordPress host companies. There were no canned responses, and I had the feeling that the staff really knew what they were talking about. They’ve had so much experience with WordPress that no issue is new to them.
Phone support was also very good, with the agent suggesting other WordPress plugins I could use as more efficient alternatives to the ones I was currently using. This is over and above a normal hosting company’s service.
The only downside to the customer service is that LiveChat isn’t available 24/7, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be needing to contact them much anyway :-)
Another thing I love about WP Engine is that they offer a free automated migration.
Most hosting companies charge a fee for migrations, or don’t offer this service at all. I tried to do it myself once and it was a pain in the ass!
With WP Engine you can easily swap from your current hosting provider and have your site back online, running twice as fast in just a few clicks.
So What’s the Bad news?
By now you can probably tell that I love WP Engine and truly believe its the best WordPress host provider.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say that switching to WPEngine has been the best decision I’ve made for my website and business this year.
However, this being an honest review, I should touch on that one elephant in the room – the price.
This being said though, your website is one of the most important aspects of running an online business as a photographer. If your website loads slowly, your potential client is only a click away from another photographer.
You should be investing money into the best WordPress host out there. For me, there’s no question that this is WP Engine.
Also, you get 60 days risk free. This means you can take advantage of the free website migration (getting your website over to WP Engine), then test the waters for 2 whole months to decide if the speed increase is worth it.
If your website attracts over 25k visits a month, first of all well done! You should opt for the Professional plan, which allows you to install up to 10 websites on the one plan.
This can actually save you money in the long term since you’ll only be paying for one hosting plan instead if several. Thi is exactly what I’m doing with Shotkit and my wedding photography business.
Recommendation if you have a WordPress website
No matter who your site is currently hosted with, I recommend you sign up to WP Engine by clicking here and start the free website migration.
During the first 60 days, have a play around with your site (both front your back-end point of view and a client’s front-end point of view), and see if you can notice any speed differences.
If you have a relatively small site, the speed differences may be hard to notice at first, so you can use this Pingdom Tool to check.
In that first 2 months with WP Engine, you’ll be able to see if the speed differences to you as the site editor, and to your clients as visitors is worth the upgrade.
If not, just switch back to your old hosting provider (or Bluehost which is likely even cheaper than your original host!), and you’ll have lost nothing.
For the sake of having the fastest site possible, you really should at least test out the best WordPress host with WP Engine.
What WordPress theme should I use?
Just as a little bonus section to this review, I thought I’d recommend another service I’ve come across recently to make your photography site look pretty!
Once you’ve upgraded to the best WordPress host provider, you’ll want a theme that shows off your work as attractively as possible.
The beauty of WordPress is that you can switch themes (the look and functionality of your website) in one click. This is especially useful if you want to give your site a new look as quickly and cheaply as possible. I wrote about setting up themes in my guide to set up a WordPress site here.
Not only do their themes look amazing for photographers’ sites, but their support is excellent too, with the staff doing a lot of hand holding to get your site looking exactly as you want it.
They also offer a free Lightroom plugin that allows you to manage the photos on your WordPress blog right from your Lightroom catalogue!
I’m not currently using Flothemes since I recently updated my website, but this Lightroom feature alone will likely have me switch later this year.
If your site is in need of a refresh, click here to check out FloThemes for yourself. Then leave us a link in the comments below so we can all check out your swanky new site :-)
Disclaimer: I currently use and pay for WP Engine and Bluehost, and have used all the other products in this post. Some of the products include affiliate links, which means that I make a small commission if you choose to purchase. This helps pay for the running of Shotkit and my time invested into creating posts such as this. Thank you for your support!
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