GoDaddy Managed WordPress Hosting Review: Budget Hosting, Poor Features

GoDaddy is somewhat of a true big daddy in the web hosting arena. The company was founded in 1997 and has since been publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange, has had Super Bowl ads, and has been the subject of many controversies.

Due to its size, infamy and, in some cases, spotty service, GoDaddy has been the host everyone loves to hate but uses anyway. However, since Blake Irving took over as CEO in January 2013, the company seems to have turn a turn for the better. After a complete design overhaul and improved outreach towards developers, are see seeing the renaissance of GoDaddy?

We get asked all the time for web hosting recommendations and do our best to point members in the right direction, but who you go with ultimately comes down to your site’s needs – and also how much you’re willing to spend.

To help make the decision a bit easier, we’ve put some of the biggest WordPress managed hosts to the test, with a focus on customer experience. There are already plenty of reviews out there that look at speed and stability, but the ease of use and support capabilities of a company are just as – if not more – important because you’ll run into trouble sooner or later and a great host will always go above and beyond to help you out when disaster hits.

With all that in mind, this is the fifth of eight reviews, this time putting GoDaddy to the test.

Check out the other posts in this managed WordPress hosting reviews series:

GoDaddy: Company History

GoDaddy

Since we last reviewed GoDaddy in 2013, the company still holds the title as the world’s largest ICANN-accredited registrar, with more than  61 million domain names under management. It now serves more than 13 million customers and employs more than 4000 people.

Recently, GoDaddy has expanded its presence in Asia to 11 markets and is making moves into China despite the Chinese government not signing up any new domain name registrars in the past three years.

While the company has taken hits to its reputation in the past, it has done a lot in recent years to reinvent its branding. Most notably for the WordPress community, GoDaddy has hired Mendel Kurland as an evangelist who, according to his blog, spends most of his time “hanging out with developers, designers, entrepreneurs, and creative people all around the world to make sure their opinions and suggestions are heard.”

First Impressions

It is obvious from every single page on the GoDaddy website that the host is focused on website and business owners. GoDaddy targets “Joe’s handmade soap store on the corner” and “Jane’s bakery next door” types.

The homepage features a video on what you can do with a domain – that’s just how much they target people who know nothing about the internet. (To be fair, the video does include a mock company named Digital Coconut, which is probably the best company name I’ve ever seen.)

GoDaddy Customers
GoDaddy Customers

GoDaddy remains close to its root, focussing a lot more on registering domains than hosting, which is understandable given its long history of being a registrar. There is a small mention of hosting initially, but the first time you see a big bold hosting option is way down the bottom of the homepage.

You can see signs of GoDaddy opening up to developers with its GoDaddy Pro offers. This service is aimed at those of us who manage clients and need a convenient way to organize and tend to their needs.

All in all, I’m happy with GoDaddy’s website and how it is organized. There are only a couple of issues I had with the website: the homepage isn’t very “hosting-heavy” and there is some confusion about hosting within the GoDaddy Pro section and outside the section. These are the same plans, but apparently you get a slightly different console when you go through the GoDaddy Pro route.

Plans and Pricing

Right from the get-go, it’s obvious that we’re not talking about WordPress hosting for large websites. Plans range from $4 – $14 and while the 800,000 visitor count looks good on the $14 plan the reality is probably bleaker than that.

Most hosting companies look at access logs to figure out how many people visit your site and this number can be a lot larger than your Google Analytics stats. In addition, 800,000 visitors would mean 17 concurrent pageviews on average. This would be a lot lower during off-hours but could grow significantly at peak times, even more so during a rush. While this is not unheard of, it is doubtful that sub-$15 servers can take too much punishment.

Don’t forget that you are on a shared hosting environment. According to the GoDaddy support team, each user gets 1 CPU and 512MB of RAM. At the moment this is not limited so usage is a bit more open than that. This is both good news and bad news at the same time. It means that if you use 1Gb of RAM you’ll be fine, but it also means that if the server has 16GB and 32 users start using 1Gb at once instead of the allotted 512, everyone’s site will crash.

GoDaddy Pricing
GoDaddy Pricing

Another reason that the cheap plans are bleaker than they seem is that GoDaddy has the worst pricing model of all hosting companies I’ve reviewed for this series. Remember how I was annoyed at SiteGround’s pricing? They neglected to mention that you only get the low price until your first renewal – you only see this information at the very end of the payment process, right before you hit the payment button.

GoDaddy is much worse. At first I was really happy because the site appears to offer a special price of $4.49 and $8.99 when you renew. “Straight talking GoDaddy, good job,” or so I thought! When you actually pay for your account you realize that you only get the special price if you pay for a whopping 36 months in advance.

GoDaddy has evil pricing.
GoDaddy has evil pricing.

So my developer account, which I initially thought would be $14 a month is only $14 if I pay for a full 36 months up front – a hair over $500 in total. And when I renew after 36 months the monthly price would rise to $25. So in a nutshell, GoDaddy’s pricing ranges from $7 – $25. I don’t mind the increased prices, but what I don’t like is the way it is communicated.

What I do like, however, is the staging area and SSH feature,  which is available in all but the cheapest plan. While this won’t make it more viable for large sites it does make it a pretty good contender for putting your clients’ websites on GoDaddy.

Oddly enough, you get malware scanning/removal and SEO optimization help for two sites in the ultimate plan, but you don’t get these in the higher tier developer plan. That’ll teach us to be developers!

Getting Started

True to its target market, getting started with GoDaddy was the easiest of the bunch of web hosts I’ve reviewed. You fill out a big friendly form with only four fields and you’re in right away. No email verification, no two-factor authentication setup, you simply go straight to your dashboard.

You can select a hosting plan from there and once you get over the pricing structure you’re all set. You can even add amazing extras like Microsoft Office 365 Email – free for the first year. Haha!

Office 265 promotion
You thought I was joking right?

Pricing issues aside, the signup process was straightforward and easy. Good job there, GoDaddy.

Ease of Use

The Dashboard

GoDaddy has a great dashboard. It’s not as feature-packed as managed WordPress hosts like WP Engine, but what is included is smartly done.

GoDaddy Sites
GoDaddy Sites

It’s all big and blocky and obvious. Perfect for newcomers and just fine for seasoned veterans as well. Managing your specific websites is all done within a modal window that contains all your options, from backup to staging to site deletion.

GoDaddy site management
GoDaddy site management

I really like how the main account section, which shows all of your sub-accounts, contains a really useful search tool. This page isn’t the most beautiful one but kudos on adding a feature that actually makes people’s lives easier instead of just being eyecandy.

Overall, the dashboard experience is great. From a visual point of view, I would be just fine with having to look at this dashboard all day.

Creating New Installations

The way in which you create new sites is also focussed on GoDaddy’s target audience. You can create a new install or you can copy an existing installation that is not already hosted with GoDaddy. That’s pretty impressive – I haven’t seen this feature anywhere else, so I decided to see if it works.

The form for doing this requires you to give GoDaddy your WordPress username and password and your FTP data. I feel really uncomfortable about entering data like this into forms. We’ve seen plenty of cases where large companies have kept passwords and other sensitive data in plain text and I really don’t want people knowing my FTP details. A good way around this is to create an FTP user just for this purpose and then delete it when the migration is done. I was a bit skeptical about how this would work but it turns out that it worked perfectly. It took about 20 minutes – it was a very small site – and at the end of the process I had a perfect replica of the site on GoDaddy.

This is an amazing feature because it allows users to migrate their own sites without any technical knowledge. On the other side of the coin, it also frees up GoDaddy staff to do more productive things as far as helping customers.

Creating a new vanilla install is boring in comparison but at least it’s easy to do. A nice chunky form with helpful information nudges you along:

GoDaddy-new site
GoDaddy-new site

Features

GoDaddy is not a managed WordPress host so it doesn’t have a huge feature list, but what I will mention is the staging area feature. It’s great for developers who need a better workflow or for creating a new version of a live site.

Where GoDaddy excels, though, is the client management features found in the GoDaddy Pro package. As I mentioned earlier I particularly like that the search box in the accounts section allows you to search for accounts by domain name, a hugely useful feature for those managing multiple accounts.

Managing your GoDaddy account.
Managing your GoDaddy account.

Perhaps the biggest feature they have – which no one else seems to have – is the migration from any server. This worked great for me and I can imagine it is a Godsend for beginners.

Support

I really had high hopes for GoDaddy, but I’m afraid it performed unpredictably in support. First off, chat support is not really available for pre-sales, at least I couldn’t find it.

As I was browsing packages a chat thingy popped up so I accepted and prepared some questions. According to the chat application, I was connected with a support staff member, but it took them 5-6 minutes to write to me initially. I like a queue better (like SiteGround’s) because I know exactly when I’m up and when support staff members are focusing just on me.

Initially, I asked what the difference was between the WordPress hosting plans under GoDaddy Pro and regular GoDaddy. The answer was: “They are the same plans, you are just on two different sections of our website.” I followed that up with “would GoDaddy Pro offer any benefits above the actual hosting plan?” The curt response was “GoDaddy Pro is for web professionals. It allows you client access tools.”

Perhaps it was just me, but I didn’t like this so I pressed on with a question about exporting customer expenses from the dashboard. There was a 10 minute silence after this question. I then asked if the operator was still there which was followed by “I am trying to find this info.” I then waited another 4-5 minutes or so after which I received the message:

“Chat session has been terminated by the site operator.”

Huh… Not great.

Since there is no official way of accessing pre-sales chat I couldn’t just try again. I cruised around the pricing page in and out of incognito mode without success. After 25 minutes I came back and got the chat window again but this time it wouldn’t even hand me over to an operator, it just hovered there without any messages.

Once I had an account I went into the dashboard to try from there but chat was offline. I completely gave up at this point. After trying again next time chat was online, it required me to find my customer number and a PIN code I gave at registration. What’s the point of this if I can only access chat support when logged in?

After a long and arduous road to chat support from my dashboard I had a much better experience. The support person was a lot nicer and shared a lot more information with me. He even shared server details, which I didn’t think he would do so openly.

Speed

As this review is focusing on customer experience rather than speed, I won’t get into a super-deep speed review here because there are just so many factors that it would be unfair to judge any company based on casual tests.

I installed three websites:

  • Vanilla Twenty Fifteen theme filled with demo content – 1.49Mb, 53 requests
  • WooCommerce shop running on Twenty Fifteen, Shop Page – 0.479Mb, 55 requests
  • Out of the box Avada installation using the Cafe demo – 24.3Mb, 134 requests

When uncached, vanilla Twenty Fifteen loaded in an astonishingly bad 4.2 seconds. The WooCommerce shop loaded in around 4.2 seconds as well, and the Avada demo loads in 10.9 seconds.

There is no server caching on GoDaddy so I couldn’t really look into that in any detail, but using only the browser’s cache (which will only kick in if users visit the site more than once within a sensible timeframe) the page loading values are the following: Vanilla Twenty Fifteen loaded in around 2.6 seconds, the WooCommerce shop took 2.6 seconds, and the Avada Cafe demo clocked in at 5.3 seconds.

The Good

  • Cheap plans
  • Very cool universal migration feature
  • Easy to use interface
  • Great place for beginners who are getting started with web hosting
  • SSH, SFTP and staging sites are available

The Bad

  • Not very powerful servers
  • Shared hosting environment
  • Not many WordPress-specific features
  • Not a great option for large sites or those expecting to grow
  • Extremely slow page speeds
  • Unpredictable support

Our Verdict

  • Price:
  • Ease of use:
  • Features:
  • Support:
  • Speed:
  • Overall:

Disclaimer: In putting together this review, we bought our GoDaddy review account just like any other customer – via the sign-up link on the homepage. We didn’t let GoDaddy know we were reviewing their services to avoid any special treatment.

Stay tuned for the final article in this nine-part series in the coming weeks, which will compare all eight web hosts side-by-side to decide to determine which one is best.

Have you used GoDaddy? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.