WP Engine is a popular WordPress hosting company that offers a managed hosting service. Historically, I have been one of the few WordPress bloggers who have not been actively promoting them.
A number of people queried this stance when I was over in Vienna for WordCamp Europe 2016 and kept going on about how much others were making by promoting them.
I was still hesitant in promoting them, but a discussion with Akshat Choudhary from BlogVault persuaded me to review my position and look at their service again.
That is why yesterday I published an article explaining how profitable their affiliate program can be and why I have decided to test their referral program banners on my blog to see how it performs.
Before I go on and explain my discussion with Akshat and why I decided to look at WP Engine again, allow me to revisit why I never promoted them in the past.
Why I Didn’t Want to Promote WP Engine in the Past
I have made no secret as to why I never promoted WP Engine in the past. In fact, I went further and discouraged others from using their service regularly on Rise Forums (examples: 1, 2, 3, and 4).
There were a number of reasons for this.
What really put me off them was the multiple reports of them tampering with customer’s databases without the customer’s approval. For example, they were deleting post revisions to reduce the size of a database. I am not disputing that reducing post revisions is good for optimisation, but it needs to be approved by the customer. Can you imagine going in to complete your article only to find the draft you had spent weeks writing had been deleted?
“By chance I noticed all of my Post revisions were gone! Apparently after my prodding they admitted that they ran a program which deleted all of my Post revisions. I was livid! How dare they modify my database without even asking my permission! Also, what if I depended on those Post revisions? Why didn’t they inform me so that I could make sure backups of the database were completed before and after the deletion of Post revisions?” – Posted as a comment in response to this article in 2012.
That is unacceptable. A website hosting company should not interfere in the customer’s database without first speaking to them about it.
Three years ago I wrote a near 10,000 word article entitled “My Journey to Find the Right Hosting Solution” in which I documented my experience searching for a new website hosting company.
I briefly looked at WP Engine though it wasn’t a service I seriously considered as I had read about their policies about not supporting certain WordPress plugins. They pride themselves of support though I read many customers complaining that tickets were being answered in days rather than minutes and hours. The biggest black mark against them was reports from customers who reported WP Engine going into people’s WordPress websites and doing things like switching off plugins and deleting all post revisions, without even asking the blog owner for permission. I am not sure whether these reports are true, however when you see lots of people complaining about this kind of thing, it does set off alarm bells for me. I realise that they are trying to optimise every website on their servers though they should not overstep the line.
In the same article I also noted that I sent them an enquiry email about their service and they had not replied for over 24 hours so I never had a good impression of them from the start.
Six months later I managed to use WP Engine myself and was disappointed with the service.
My friend Sam, who was hosting WP Squared on WP Engine, asked me to help him with a problem so I had to upload the website database. I was unable to do that because WP Engine offered such a limited control panel. That is to be expected as managed WordPress hosting services frequently limit options as the service is geared towards inexperienced users.
A more pressing issue was the fact that the database could not be uploaded due to timeouts. We contacted support and did not get a response for over five hours. The whole experience was very frustrating as it was the kind of task that would have taken me a minute to do with my own hosting company and WP Engine was an expensive service that promised to save you time.
I already had a poor impression of WP Engine after reading the stories of them modifying websites without the owner’s consent, so the poor experience I had with WP Engine directly just reinforced my initial thoughts.
I later read more scary stories about them from people such as Matthew Woodward who found out that they had deleted 60% of his RSS subscribers and used a script to stuff keywords back to WP Engine directly into his footer. They then terminated his account after complaining about poor service.
I did not recommend WP Engine to anyone because of their poor policies and habit of tampering with customers websites as if they owned it. Their actions were despicable.
The final nail in the coffin was the price of WP Engine. They charge more than four times what traditional website hosting companies charge. This cost can be justified if you know you are getting hands on support for an experienced WordPress team, however the service I received suggested they did nothing to justify their high prices.
Is It Time to Review My Opinion of WP Engine?
Now that you are up to speed as to why I never promoted WP Engine in the past, allow me to explain my current position and why yesterday I told readers about their profitable affiliate program
Whilst in Vienna for WordCamp Europe 2016, I was lucky enough to chat to Akshat Choudhary from BlogVault.
Akshat kept asking me why I was not actively promoting WP Engine already. Again, this was something that several other people at the conference quizzed me about given WP Engine are so heavily promoted on other blogs.
Akshat said that he respected the fact I didn’t want to promote services I did not like, regardless of the money they paid, but urged me to take a second look at them and give them another chance. He explained how he had tried their service and was impressed and had lots of glowing reports from other website owners.
Without blowing my own horn, I feel that one of my strengths as a blogger has always been to tell the truth to my readers. That means there are many products and services that other bloggers promote that I do not because I think they suck.
From a blogging point of view, I am proud that I am not a sell out. From an affiliate marketing point of view, it has probably cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars as I refuse to sell on garbage pyramid schemes such as MOBE to other people.
I never want to promote products and services that I do not like and trust myself, however the discussion with Akshat was an eye opener for me.
I had been harbouring this view of WP Engine for years without giving them a second chance. It is over three years since I first read bad reports from customers and over two and a half years since I tried their service and thought it sucked. There are, however, thousands of good and bad reviews of every website hosting company; so we do need to remember that no service is perfect.
With regards to my view of WP Engine being too limited as far as features, resources, and options etc, Akshat quite rightly pointed out that I had a quite narrow view about the company as I was an experienced user and many of their clients do not need access to the technical options I do (he put it much more politely than that, but that is what he was saying).
Companies change staff and their service becomes better or worse over time due to changes in staff, management, and ownership. I had decided that they were not good enough and stuck to my guns. It was a perhaps a stubborn way to look at it all, but I did not see anything to change my opinion of them.
Are WP Engine a great service?
That is not something I cannot answer yet.
On Monday I contacted WP Engine via their help desk and asked if someone from their company can answer questions I have. I want to ask them how their service has changed and access a hosting account myself so that I can see what their setup is now like.
Should I Review WP Engine?
Two days after contacting WP Engine, they have not responded. My hope is that WP Engine will get back to me, answer some questions about their past actions, and allow me to look at what their service offers today.
I want to try and approach them with a fresh pair of eyes and make an informed decision as to whether their service is something I would recommend or not.
If the service is good, I will say it is good.
If the service is poor, I will say it is poor.
Although it is attractive to promote companies that offer great commissions, I simply cannot recommend services I do not like. This blog remains a personal affair and if I cannot be honest with my subscribers, I may as well give up being a blogger.
One thing is clear. Managed WordPress hosting services remain a more expensive option when compared to plans being offered by traditional hosting companies. They do offer features such as staging and built-in content delivery networks that other companies do not, so there is value to be had. You will find more competition in the managed hosting industry now too with companies like Flywheel and Pressable offering good deals.
The value of managed WordPress hosting services is something I have tackled before.
The real question is whether WP Engine has cleaned up their act and improved the quality of their service.
That is something I can hopefully tell you within the next few weeks.
Thanks for reading.