I build a lot of WordPress websites. My clients LOVE WordPress. The issue for me has always been finding great hosting for lots of WordPress sites. I found out about WPEngine last year at WordCamp Phoenix and was very excited about the service. It works pretty well from a technical standpoint, but as a business owner, I’m having trouble expanding with their pricing model. It has to do with an having overabundance of resources, and not enough domains.
This is a response to a customer service ticket, where I asked about their premium service that offers unlimited domains. The price was quoted as $600/mo.
—– my response —-
Hi thanks for the response. I’m going to share with you my insight as a guy who has built a lot of WordPress websites, and done a lot of hosting:
I’m slowly adding sites right now due to the 10 seat limitation. It’s difficult to sell some customers on the value of premium hosting when they have no experience with shitty hosting yet (getting hacked, etc). In order to just cover my cost I would have to bill out to each client at $10/m. I don’t make a dime on that rate, and it’s not worth it from a business standpoint. Even if i upgrade to the next level plan it’s still about the same price ratio. Most clients won’t spend over $20/m on hosting in the face of other alternatives.
I figured perhaps I could use WordPress multisite to get some extra sites on a network and benefit that way! That would spend some of those delicious account resources on a more demanding platform and I’d get the benefits of administering a network.
Well, MultiSite development on WPEngine is a huge pain in the ass and I’ll tell you why:
1) Varnish caching prevents any development on a ‘live’ site in a reasonable manor (this includes single sites). It drives my designers insane when things don’t reload. Ideally I wouldn’t want to edit the live site, but the alternative is using the Staging site (or a local multisite? haha), which brings me to the next issue.
2) Using the staging site is the DANGER ZONE for multisite. There’s all sorts of problems, and I’ve documented that in previous responses.
In my opinion this makes the WP multisite option not great… start mixing in a team working on multisite staging, while the production version continues to change as clients use their site… huge mess. And I do use GIT. Pulling down a copy of multisite, running it locally (already, my designers can’t deal), and then pushing it back to staging? Then having to localize the databases… gtfo. Not an efficient workflow.
This makes the single seat WordPress sites the only viable option IMO.. which brings us back around to the problem of not enough domains.
I ask for a better deal on domains because I know from a hardware standpoint it’s inexpensive to give users more domains. It’s virtualization, it’s inexpensive. I’ve configured this myself on AWS, it’s a couple lines of code. It’s limited to potentially make more money, and avoid more traffic/resource consumption. I get that. As a marketing guy this would be interesting to know. Pull a report for my account, and other accounts and look at the percent of total resource consumption they use on a given month. I bet the percent is low.
Here’s the deal though, and perhaps this is the thing WPEngine is not getting. Many WordPress developers build website for clients that have low volume traffic, and consume minimal resources.
What those clients want (like me) is more domains! With more domains, I could afford to give my clients a better deal on pricing that’s competitive with the other guy’s in the hosting business, while leveraging the features that make WP Engine great.
6 – 12 months from now I could easily expand. I still have sites I could migrate to WPEngine. The last studio I worked for we did 100+ WP sites in a year. However, the bandwidth and system resources for that network were LOW. Really low. Like, these sites are lucky to see 300 visitors a day because of the nature of their business and audience. They’re not social media meme machines, they’re restaurants, they’re people’s T-Shirt websites, they’re marketing brochure ware with a nice blog that are SEO and social media friendly. WordPress is THE best for that use case. They do a lot for their owners with very little resources. Now sticking them on the ‘other guys’ hosting is a dice roll for them, even if they don’t know it. I’ve cleaned up enough hacked websites on all the big brands to know that their servers are not that secure. Here’s where WPEngine shines! Backups, all day. Secure? All day. Fast? All – day – long. So as a developer I want that for my clients. What I don’t needs is a huge resource consumption quota that goes to waste.
The thing is, from a business standpoint I can’t make the numbers work on WPEngine. I LOVE the quality, but I’d like to spend my total resources across 50 domain vs 10. That would be useful to me, and fair to WPEngine as well. Sure, you may not be able to monazite the idle cycles from my account as effectively that way, but you are still making money on resources allocated to what I’m paying for.
So that’s what I need, more domains to grow my business. I know WPEngine could handle it. Even with the daily backups, etc. Right now it’s just a though sell to get client on board who are not NewsWeek and high volume sites that do really need more resources. I feel like there’s an opportunity for WPEngine here to offer a ‘big domains’ plan because i know I’m not alone in needing this service.
At $600/m for unlimited domains.. I could get there eventually. But in the mean time that’s a lot of cost to cover while I ramp up. It’s too much. In fact, how many accounts has WPEngine sold that have unlimited domains for the sake of unlimited domains at that price point? I bet it’s not much. WPEngine should consider providing some kind of package to developers who need more domains, and less resources so they can build toward that big monthly cost.
What’s a good number between 25, and unlimited? What’s a price that WPEngine could profit on, while putting their users in a position to sell their hosting at a reasonable price?
The way I see it, doing 100 WordPress website in a year required a lot of work! But that’s a reasonable goal. Come up with a plan that offers 100 domains that plan to have < 1000 visits per month per site, and factor in the CPU usage and look at that stat. See if that’s marketable, and factor in the resell value of hosting, the general public can stomach around 10 – 15 a month (margin is still really low from a reseller standpoint with the current pricing scheme). If you can figure out that deal, I bet WPEngine could experience a lot of growth and have many more happy customers. For now, There’s no way I’m going to pay $600 a month for unlimited domains for resources I won’t consume, especially when other companies offer unlimited domains for < $10 a month. Sure, those plans are the housing projects of hosting, but at that price.. WPEngine will get beat every time.
I still plan to offer my clients premium web hosting services though WPEngine if they want it. I’m sure over time I’ll fill out 10 seat on my current account at that price. I’ll keep my business’s site there as well, because I do like the premium service. Moving forward though, with the current pricing scheme I can’t see myself scaling my WordPress business’s hosting with WPEngine’s domain limitations. I feel like there’s an overabundance of resources with not enough sites to consume them for my ‘studio’ type production model. If I could add as many domains as I wanted, while still being restricted by the account’s limits that seems like it would be a win for everyone involved.