Why We Switched From DIVI To Genesis And Siteground To WP Engine (hint: it may have something to do with a hostile takeover)

Have you ever felt like you knew your website wasn't looking or performing the way you needed it to, however when it came to making a change you could never bring yourself to take action?

Well that's how I've been feeling for the last 3 months after making the switch to a new WordPress theme.

A theme which everybody told me would change our business forever.

They weren't lying.

When we switched over from our previous theme (X Theme) to DIVI we thought everything was going to get better, but it in fact got a whole lot WORSE (more on this coming up)!

Also about 3 years ago we were using WP Engine and decided we were paying too much for hosting and so we switched to a cheaper account with Siteground.

Needless to say it turned out to be a bad move which you'll find out shortly.

In this post I want to cover the reasons why we changed both our theme and website hosting and how it's been the best decision we've made in a long time.

At the same time I'm going to show you a simple way of deciding what theme and hosting provider is right for you.

Let's start with a before and after as far as site performance goes.

Site Performance BEFORE The Switch

The first thing I did before making the switch was to get in touch with a bunch of different web hosts to ask them if they could improve upon my current performance.

At the top of my radar was WP Engine and they happened to have their own performance tool.

After running a performance check it was clear that something needed to change and change fast.

Our site had an average load time of 7.5 seconds which in today's fast consumption society was creating a negative experience for anyone visiting our website.

I'll explain why this factor is incredibly important coming up.

Site Performance AFTER The Switch

After making the switch to WP Engine and Genesis (I'll reveal the exact theme shortly) this is what happened.

We 2.5xed the page load time and almost 5xed the render time!

So literally just by changing our WordPress theme and hosting provider we more than tripled our performance.

Not bad for 3 days of work!

Why Is Website Performance So Important?

It's a good question and one that a lot of people ignore (myself included until just recently).

When we first started our skincare website over 6 years ago, I think people expected that websites take some time to load and that was a normal thing.

Due to the amount of content being created today, I feel like people “think” they have less time available.

Because of this, they don't want to wait even half a second extra to read a blog post or watch a video.

Well, guess who knows this?

Google.

Does Website Speed Affect SEO?

If you're like me, you may struggle to keep up with what Google likes and what they don't! In fact, for a long time we've avoided building a business around search traffic at all.

**Even though this was the basis of the first business we ever started!**

Because of this, I didn't think too much about what we could do to rank higher on Google and get more of their traffic.

That was until just recently when we realized we were missing out on a huge opportunity.

After spending a lot of time talking to people who were focusing a lot on SEO, it was clear that the one thing which kept coming was on site user behavior.

In other words, doing everything you can to:

  • Increase average time on page
  • Lower your bounce rate
  • Increase the average number of actions per visitor

And it's because Google looks heavily at these factors that having a high performing website matters A LOT!

In other words if your website loads faster then it will create an initial positive experience for your website visitors, which will lead to an improvement in on site user behavior.

The better the user experience, the higher Google will rank you on their search engine.

Note. This is one of MANY factors when it comes to ranking higher on Google.

Change #1: DIVI To Genesis

Genesis vs DIVI

Have you ever used a WordPress theme that had a lot of impressive features but in the end was slow AF?

Well that's how I feel about DIVI.

It has an assload of customization options, however when it comes to usability and performance it really is a pain in the butt!

That's why I went on the lookout for other options and this time I wanted to do it right.

So, I formulated a set of criteria that myself or anyone could use to find the perfect WordPress theme.

Ready for it?

I asked 4 simple questions and each were worth 25%:

  1. How extensive are the customization options? (most people focus entirely on this, however it's less important than you think)
  2. What is it's level of performance? (in other words: page load time)
  3. How responsive is the customer support? (test it out by getting in touch with someone before you buy)
  4. How often is the theme being updated? (the more the better)

Based on these 4 questions and after doing extensive research, in the end it came down to 2 themes (actually they're frameworks which is same, same but different):

  1. Thesis (DIY Themes)
  2. Genesis (StudioPress)

Thesis is one of the best performing WordPress themes of all time and designed specifically for SEO, however in the end I decided to go with Genesis due to the following reasons:

  • I found the PERFECT child theme for our website (used with the Genesis framework)
  • Their customer support was more responsive
  • It still offers very high performance and it nicely optimized for Google
  • WP Engine had just acquired StudioPress and I wanted to switch to them anyway

As soon as I saw that WP Engine had acquired StudioPress, I immediately realized that they would start to optimize their hosting for sites built on the Genesis framework.

In other words, there was an higher chance of getting an even better performance.

This was the trigger to make the move over to WP Engine and Genesis.

The Genesis Essence Pro Child Theme

Genesis Essence Child Theme

The way Genesis works is that it's a framework that requires the use of “child themes”.

In other words, the first step is to install Genesis on your WordPress website, then without activating it you upload and install a child theme.

The child theme is what then gets activated.

There are many different child themes to choose from and after doing my research it was obvious that the Essence Theme was clearly the best choice for us.

Here's why:

  • A nice blend of simple clean text and beautiful image placements
  • Easy to install built-in email opt in forms
  • It looks great on mobile (40% of our traffic comes from mobile devices)
  • I love the look of the category pages
  • The single post pages are perfectly laid out
  • Beautiful navigation menu
  • 3 types of layouts (left sidebar, right sidebar and no sidebar)
  • Simple plug and play (we hardly changed anything)

I knew I had made the right decision as soon as I installed Essence because it was clear it was going to be easy to get up and running.

In the end it took less than 72 hours to get our website looking the way I wanted for a soft launch.

Change #2: Siteground To WP Engine

Siteground vs WP Engine

Have you ever hit the point in your business, where you just know you need to go to the next level?

Well that was me 6 weeks ago when I logged into my Siteground account.

I realized that it was time to take the Screw to the next level and that a cheap shared account at Siteground wasn't going to cut it ladies and gentlemen.

I also had a number of people telling me I should move over to WP Engine, however I decided to procrastinate, thinking it would take too much time and that it wouldn't be worth it.

Has this ever happened to you?

You put something off for a long time and when you finally took action, it turned out to be the best thing you could have done.

Well that's what happened with making the switch to WP Engine.

Before I say why I went with these guys, let me tell you the criteria I used to choose a hosting provider.

Even if WP Engine isn't the right fit for you, these 4 questions will help you out a lot.

Again, each are worth 25% to your overall score:

  1. How responsive and knowledgable is their customer support? (I annoyed them a lot on live chat!)
  2. Will they offer me better performance? (if you're not sure ask them to test your current performance using this free tool and if they say they can't beat it, they're not a good fit)
  3. How user friendly is their backend dashboard? (a lot of web hosts offer a terrible user experience and so ask them for a walkthrough)
  4. How easy will it be to migrate everything over to them? (if it's too complicated, it's not worth the time or effort)

There are a lot of other questions worth asking, however I felt like these were the 4 most important.

Notice how I didn't say “pricing” because when you first start, most hosting providers are affordable.

WP Engine starts at $35 a month which is slightly more than the cheap, crappy shared accounts at Bluehost or Hostgator, but still not enough in my opinion to break the bank.

Plus, as your traffic increases and you need to upgrade to something better, you should have the revenue available to do so by then.

After again doing my research it came down to 3 options:

  1. Keep my current account that is slow and cheap
  2. Stay with Siteground and upgrade to a dedicated server (starting at $269/month)
  3. Switch to WP Engine's Startup plan

In the end I went with WP Engine for the following reasons:

  • It's a hosting company designed specifically for WordPress websites
  • Their customer support understands WordPress and so they can offer you better advice (they also have 24/7 phone support)
  • They offer you suggestions on what plugins to use and ones to avoid (some plugins can cause lower performance or be a security risk)
  • They have a custom migration plugin that allows you to move your site over without having to pay someone to do it for you
  • For $35 a month, I could get close to the same performance as a dedicated server for $269/month at Siteground

Would I Recommend Making The Switch?

I think about these types of questions a lot because it would be easy for me to say just copy what we are doing if you want to get better results.

However, the truth is that if we all copied the look of each others websites, then the internet would be visually quite boring.

I know there are many different options out there as far as hosting and site design goes and so hopefully you now have a framework you can use to make a more informed decision.

What I can say is that I have had a much better experience this time around with WP Engine than the last time.

We had an account with them back in 2014 and I wasn't very impressed with their customer support.

Clearly they've made some changes as their response time is almost immediate now and their agents know what they're talking about.

As far as themes go, I like the simplistic nature of the Genesis framework.

Whether you're a: blogger, podcaster, coach/consultant, online course creator or you even sell physical products, there is a child theme for you.

Just be sure to check each demo carefully before you buy.

Learn More About WP Engine

Learn More About Genesis

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16 thoughts on “Why We Switched From DIVI To Genesis And Siteground To WP Engine (hint: it may have something to do with a hostile takeover)”

  1. Teresa Ann Duran

    I love it very beautiful! You guys are always on the leading edge. I have always been a fan of Genesis framework and I use their themes for many of my clients. Currently I am building my new site with Essence Pro as well.

  2. I was going to go with Divi but after Jill told me in the Screw group about reading this before doing that I switched to Genesis. Thanks guys!

    1. Thanks CD, yep we’ll be mentioned WP Engine and Genesis on that page soon.

      Even though WP Engine is far superior, I still think as an affordable option goes, Siteground is probably the best choice.

  3. Okay I read this and at first cried 😩 ugly tears! I was already a Divi + Siteground when you recommended it and I was like “YES I DID IT RIGHT”, but now I’m questioning my choices.
    (Breathe, wipe the snot from my nose) As I kept reading I felt much better. I think your choices are awesome and the questions are key and now I can determine the best course of action which might be to move over in December when I have the 72 hours 🤔

    1. I was feeling the same way about 3 months ago thinking it would be a pain in the butt to move everything over, but it turned out to be quite simple in the end. I think you can keep siteground for now and just switch over to Genesis for now. Later when your traffic starts to build, you can switch over to something like WP Engine.

  4. I know of some people who are building their services sites on shopify, did you ever consider shopify, any reason why you did or did not?

    1. Yeah because we don’t sell any physical products mainly. Secondly WordPress sites have traditionally ranked higher on the search engines which is a big part of our marketing plan in the future. Finally, I haven’t used Shopify and so I would have to spend some time learning the platform and that just seemed unnecessary at this stage.

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