Web hosting isn’t the rigid industry it once was: we’re seeing a new, dynamic wave of competition. GoDaddy continued to dominate in 2020, but it seems there are newer hosts overtaking them in audience search interest and pace of growth. Our eyes are set on Hostinger and Kinsta. Here’s what our research says.
2020 was a year that shoved the world online. Millions of people became freelancers. Businesses rushed to digitize.
So, since our team’s been reviewing web hosts for 7+ years, we were very curious to see how the COVID-19 era has affected the hosting market.
If everyone was launching new websites in 2020, which web hosts were they turning to? Were hosting giants like GoDaddy still monopolizing the space? Or were newer hosts catching on?
After all, the hosting market has been going through competitive disruption for some time. What used to be a very rigid industry is now seeing smaller hosts break in.
To pick out which web hosts were on the rise in 2020, we’ve dived into the numbers. Today, we’ll share the results of our market trend research: there are some key players to look out for.
Table of Contents
PART 1: How quickly has each web host’s audience grown?
PART 2: Which web hosts were audiences searching for?
- Google Trends – Web search [via SimilarWeb]
- Google Trends – YouTube search [via SimilarWeb]
- Brand search [via SimilarWeb]
- Brand review search [Via Ahrefs]
Read on to see which web hosts gained popularity in 2020 and came out kicking strongest.
As part of our research for this article, our team crunched thousands of numbers extracted from multiple sources. To check out all the raw data we curated, head here.
Who are the contenders?
As web host enthusiasts, we’ve reviewed dozens of web hosts by setting up test sites and ranking each host’s server speed using our Bitcatcha server speed checker.
For this study, we identified 20 major hosting players to compare. We built the list based on brand popularity within the US market, backed with Google Trends and keyword brand search.
Most are household names and performed well on our own tests.
- A2 Hosting
- InMotion Hosting
- WP Engine
* A quick note on GoDaddy
You can’t examine the web hosting market without discussing GoDaddy. They’re one of the oldest hosting brands. And they’re huge.
In fact, when doing our research, GoDaddy was often 5x bigger than the 2nd runner-up web host. This made it difficult to compare growth patterns, since it skewed the data and made our charts look ridiculous (wait and see).
GoDaddy clearly dominates the market. BUT, since our main aim was to investigate web hosts ‘on the rise’, and since we didn’t observe significant growth for GoDaddy in 2020, we removed them from some metrics.
What research tools did we use?
- Maintains the world’s largest third-party database of search queries with estimated monthly search volume and advanced keyword research metrics.
- Gets data from their own search crawlers and from their independent database.
- A digital intelligence platform used by half of Fortune 500s companies.
- Gets data from a mix of sources, including First-Party Direct Measurement from sites that opt in, their product networks, partnerships, and public data.
Whilst these are 2 of the most reputable and well-respected industry tools, it’s important to note that they don’t monitor traffic. They can only estimate it as best they can.
PART 1: How quickly has each web host’s audience grown?
To understand how much each web host’s audience has grown, we wanted to examine 2 key areas:
- How much their website traffic grew over 2020.
- Growth of their social media fanbases over 2020.
Note, these numbers don’t indicate how many paying customers web hosts got in 2020. However, traffic metrics can help give us an indication of audience interest and brand authority.
Website Traffic Growth [via SimilarWeb]
We first examined website visits. Here’s an overview of traffic to each web host’s main website throughout 2020.
At the top of the graph, we can see GoDaddy soaring above with the highest website traffic. No surprises there!
That said, if we look at the year as a whole, GoDaddy’s traffic actually appears to be in slight decline.
To take a better look at the other hosts’ growth patterns, let’s remove GoDaddy from the data and zoom in. That’s better.
Turns out, several web hosts are carving out an excellent growth path.
As expected, there are seasonal fluctuations. To see which provider is growing the fastest, here’s their month-on-month traffic growth.
To better understand this jagged mess, we then calculated the average monthly traffic growth for 2020.
And voila – here’s a list of web hosts in descending order (with web host with the fastest average monthly growth % at the top).
|#||Web Host||Avg. Monthly Growth (%)|
The numbers reveal that Kinsta’s web traffic grew the fastest out of all web hosts with an average monthly growth of 6.88%. Pretty darn impressive!
Coming behind Kinsta is ChemiCloud, ScalaHosting and Hostinger.
HOWEVER – we quickly noticed that this data didn’t paint the entire picture.
If we want to understand what these numbers mean, we actually need to dig a little deeper. Here are 3 main points we want to discuss about web hosts #1 – #4 from that table.
1. Different baselines
Firstly, the growth of these 4 web hosts (Kinsta, ChemiCloud, ScalaHosting & Hostinger) all started from different baselines. They belong in different traffic tiers.
In January 2020, ChemiCloud and ScalaHosting had under 65K monthly traffic. In contrast, Kinsta and Hostinger traffic was already in the millions.
So, whilst ChemiCloud and ScalaHosting’s 4% monthly growth is ‘technically’ on par, it’s a totally different ball game.
If we compare each web host’s traffic in Dec20 with Jan20, Kinsta and Hostinger are much more impressive.
|Web Host||Jan20 Traffic||Dec20 Traffic||Difference|
In short, it’s not entirely fair to just compare growth % when web hosts are of such different sizes.
2. A big jump at the end of 2019
We also spotted that the data missed an interesting period of intensive growth. It took place just before 2020 and affected one web host in particular – Hostinger.
The data identified a big spike in traffic growth during Sep19 and Oct19 where Hostinger’s traffic leapt up to 15.83% and 21.07%.
If we count these extra months (Sep19 – Dec19), the average monthly traffic growth % shifts considerably.
And the top 2 fastest-growing web hosts then become:
|#||Web Host||Sep19 – Dec19|
As we can see, it’s a close race between Kinsta and Hostinger.
3. The data doesn’t consider other CCTLDs
So far, we can conclude that the race between ‘fastest growing web host in 2020’ is between Kinsta and Hostinger.
However, if we want to pick ONE brand to crown – we need to discuss another critical point.
Comparing Kinsta.com with Hostinger.com is NOT a case of comparing apple to apple. Why? Because of the audience that each of their .com sites is targeting.
Like most of the web hosts in our list, Kinsta operates from one main website – Kinsta.com. This is where all their global traffic gets funnelled. And whilst Kinsta has 10 local-language versions of their site, these variations are housed in different subfolders, under the .com website.
Hostinger, on the other hand, makes it a key part of their strategy to localise their sites completely.
They target specific countries with localised websites that use different CCTLD (country level top-level domains). For example, Brazillian audiences go to Hostinger.com.br. Not Hostinger.com.
What’s this got to do with anything?
Well, our web traffic research data only reflects the traffic growth of the web host’s .com websites. If we’re comparing Kinsta and Hostinger, this skews the results in Kinsta’s favour.
We’re basically comparing the traffic of Kinsta’s global audience with the traffic of Hostinger’s US audience. It ignores traffic from the +40 global Hostinger websites.
Whilst Kinsta’s annual growth really is impressive, it’s important to realise that the data we’re using doesn’t show the full picture of Hostinger’s global growth.
Social Media Follower Growth
No market overview would be complete without looking at a brand’s social media efforts.
We were interested in how each web host’s fanbases grew over 2020. So, we went ahead and listed down all the different social media profiles run by each web host. Aaand, there’s a lot!
Here’s a list, with web hosts with the MOST social media profiles at the top.
|HostGator||x4||x4||x4||x4||x1 LinkedIn x1 Pinterest||18|
|Hostinger||x3||x3||x2||x5||x2 LinkedIn x1 VK.com||16|
|InMotion Hosting||x8||x1||x1||x1||x1 LinkedIn||12|
|Bluehost||x3||x2||x1||x1||x1 LinkedIn x1 Pinterest||9|
|A2 Hosting||x1||x1||x1||x1||x1 LinkedIn||5|
|WP Engine||x1||x1||x1||x1||x1 Pinterest||5|
Let’s start by looking at the first platform that we could get reliable data for – YouTube.
Growth in YouTube Subscribers in 2020
We were able to get relatively accurate data from YouTube via Social Blade.
Below is the total number of subscribers to the multiple YouTube channels owned and maintained by each web host.
Here are the top 3 web hosts with the most significant growth in subscribers in 2020:
|#||Web Host||Subscriber Gained||Subscriber Growth (%)|
It’s obvious that the fastest growing YouTube channel was Hostinger.
By gaining a phenomenal 42K+ subscribers in 2020, Hostinger grew its YouTube base by a whopping 644% (in reality, the number is higher, but we weren’t able to pull the stats for their Hostinger India channel launched in October).
Hats off to them – it looks like their new Hostinger Academy channel has been a big success.
Next are SiteGround and GoDaddy, who also made impressive gains.
Growth in Facebook, Twitter & Instagram Followings
Next, we hoped to compare web hosts’ social media growth across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Unfortunately, our team hit a road bump here.
Turns out, this data is very hard to obtain, especially since we were dealing with 150+ profiles.
We tried a mix of Sprout Social, Social Blade, Social Searcher and even checking screenshots from the Wayback Machine, however there were several profiles that just could not be crawled.
Here’s a quick look at what we COULD retrieve:
The above is our best attempt to add up each web host’s fanbase across their multiple profiles. However, some profiles just couldn’t generate any stats.
Not getting complete or uniform data sets means we can’t really compare them fairly. So I won’t give this section too much weight.
However, here are some 2020 observations we could make:
- GoDaddy & HostGator grew their fan base significantly on Facebook.
- SiteGround grew its Twitter fanbase substantially.
- GoDaddy & Hostinger grew their fanbase significantly on Instagram.
In all, it looks like several web hosts did a great job growing their social media fanbase.
PART 2: Which web hosts were audiences searching for?
Next – we looked at market interest.
A customer shopping for a web host will usually follow multiple steps. Many will do their own research and read reviews before choosing a web hosting brand.
So, we wanted to understand which brands people were searching for online. We dove into 4 types of keyword research:
- Google Trends Web Search
- Google Trends YouTube Search
- Brand Search on SimilarWebs
- Searches for Brand + Review
Google Trends – Web Search [via SimilarWeb]
To get a better idea of brand authority, we first checked global searches on Google Trends.
This can give insight into how strong a brand is, particularly in relation to competitors in the same industry.
Overall, it seemed most web hosting providers were on a flat or slight downward trend. GoDaddy in particular, has the most obvious decline in Q3.
Lets remove GoDaddy to zoom in and take a better look at the others.
Bluehost, HostGator, and Namecheap had a clear lead for the period starting 2019 and stayed on top for most of the year.
Yet in terms of growth – Hostinger was the only web hosting brand from the pack to show a significant increase in brand voice share. They rose up from 5th place to close the gap and come to level terms as one of the top 3 players.
This suggests that interest in the Hostinger brand grew impressively in 2020 in relation to competitors.
Google Trends – YouTube Search [via SimilarWeb]
Of course, Google isn’t the only way that people are getting their info. To add extra dimension to our findings, we checked the world’s second-biggest search engine – YouTube.
Here’s the data (minus GoDaddy).
HostGator and Bluehost start strong as the most searched web hosts on YouTube (excluding GoDaddy). But, again, it seems that the web host with the most impressive leap in search interest is Hostinger.
Midway through the year, the number of people searching Hostinger on YouTube skyrocketed. Hostinger maintained this top position through the rest of the year.
It makes sense – their YouTube search correlates with their spike in subscribers.
In all, Hostinger seems to be doing a good job of using YouTube to attract and engage new audiences.
However, Google Trends doesn’t show us the volume of brand search. It can only show the popularity of search terms in relation to other search terms. So, we took it one step further.
Brand Search [via SimilarWeb]
Next, we looked at the branded search monthly average, via SimilarWeb. It’s similar to Google Trends but helps give us an idea of volume.
Here’s an overview of monthly branded search for all hosts. GoDaddy dominates once again.
Time to remove GoDaddy.
Supporting the Google Trends data, it seems like Namecheap, HostGator, Bluehost and Hostinger all enjoyed the highest monthly searches.
If we want to put a rough number to search growth, we can compare average monthly brand searches at the end, and start, of 2020.
The data suggests that Cloudways and Hostinger had the biggest increase:
|#||Web Host||Dec19 – Feb20*|
Brand Review Search [Via Ahrefs]
The last metric we explored was the keyword combination of “brand + review”. For example, “Bluehost review”.
This keyword combo allows us to see how many people are doing their own research to find out more about a brand, rather than just trusting a brand’s stature.
For this, we used the popular SEO tool Ahrefs.
While most of us would expect another GoDaddy win, Hostinger upsets the odds and ranks at the very top of customer reviews. Coming in next is Bluehost and Namecheap.
|#||Brand + Review||Global Volume|
|4||InMotion Hosting review||1,900|
|7||A2 Hosting review||1,100|
With GoDaddy ranking surprisingly low at #8, it’s fair to question why people aren’t looking for GoDaddy reviews.
It could certainly be because GoDaddy is a household name and people already have trust in the brand. Or, it could be simply that GoDaddy sparks less interest in new web hosting users. That’s something only time will tell.
What can be said with more conviction, is that Hostinger’s gaining interest among new and potential web hosting customers – and to a greater degree than the competition.
A shift in audience interest?
Declaring that GoDaddy is dominating the web hosting market won’t win us any originality points. Still, our research suggests something interesting – GoDaddy did not grow the fastest last year. In fact, the data suggested a decline in several metrics.
Instead, it looks like many people are directing their interest to the newer kids on the block.
Verdict: Keep your eyes on Hostinger
From our observations, the winner and title holder for the fastest growing web hosting brand in the world across 2020 goes to… Hostinger.
While many web hosts demonstrated growth last year, we can’t deny that Hostinger’s name just kept jumping out again and again.
Hostinger boasts the following impressive wins in 2020:
- Strongest growth patterns for web traffic.
- Most impressive growth in YouTube subscribers.
- Most significant Google trends increase worldwide.
- Highest YouTube trends increase worldwide.
- Substantial increase in brand searches.
- Most extensive research intent (“brand + review” keyword).
The data suggests that 2020 was a strong year for Hostinger.
Not only did they grow in traffic – they also seem to be piquing the most curiosity amongst anyone researching web hosts.
It’s always fun to see a smaller web host making waves. Established in 2004, Hostinger has really come a long way in a short time.
Whilst they initially sold themselves on affordability, they really seem to be focusing on upping the quality and speed of their hosting, these days. And their strategy of fully localising websites seems to be paying off.
Put simply – Hostinger’s rise across the board – from their web traffic growth, to an exploding YouTube fanbase, and impressive increase in brand searches, can’t be ignored.
We’re excited to see where the future takes them!
Other notable mentions
Whilst we’re giving the crown to Hostinger today, we also were impressed with Kinsta’s growth patterns over 2020. They’re a strong runner-up.
Kinsta showcased huge growth in web traffic and a significant brand search increase.
Behind these two web hosts, we can see a string of other brands that show steady growth and strong potential to climb the ranks in future.
Whilst 2020 wasn’t a fun year for most, it’s great to see that there are newer web hosting brands disrupting the market.
Whilst goliaths like GoDaddy are unlikely to be overtaken in traffic numbers anytime soon, it seems that the newer web hosts are strong forces to be reckoned with.
Our research suggests that Hostinger and Kinsta successfully caught the public’s imagination.
We’ll definitely be keeping our eye on them.
Stay tuned – for our next round, we may just dive deeper into this to see how the market evolves further.