Pagely is celebrating their fifth year of business right now. They have just launched their newly designed website (note to early readers: it's in process of launching at this moment, so some links may not work until later today) to reflect some of the ways they've changed over the years. They are also growing, rapidly.
The new website is a complete rebrand. They've tweaked their logo many times over the years, but they've completely changed it now. It's much more modern and can be used in a variety of ways.
The new website is flat, geometric, modern, and as sassy as ever (like with their Investors page they are quite proud of). In all, the redesign attempts to showcase happy customers and what makes them different.
They are introducing brand ambassadors — a kind of super testimonial — that includes names you'll surely recognize from the WordPress community.
Additionally, they are giving other managed hosts a bit of a sting with what they call #turnthepage, a dedicated page to highlight that they don't charge for pageviews, something that most managed WordPress hosting companies do.
Pagely has implemented the new branding and design elements across most of their platform, including their Support sub-site.
In addition to branding and a web redesign, Pagely is attempting to showcase that they were first to market with managed WordPress hosting, but also that they are best in class. The strategy — and particularly their recent all-in move to being an AWS-based service — appear to be working.
I discussed the Pagely redesign and their recent growth with Joshua Strebel, Pagely co-founder and CEO. He told me that they've seen an enormous amount of growth this year.
Revenue is up 28% in the last month alone and between 40-45% quarter over quarter. This means that Pagely is on pace to more than double in size between this summer and next.
To some this may seem a surprise, but it's part of some slow and steady investments Pagely has made in recent years.
They certainly did not scale at the pace of other players in the market — most notably WP Engine. They also (as noted above with the Investors page) have bootstrapped their company from the beginning.
Noone knows exactly how big Pagely is today, and that's part of what you get with their owners. Though I'm told they are “more than 10 people but fewer than 50.”
The Strebel's (on the left of the picture above) own the company — only sharing equity with some key employees — and they are proud of their independence.
It's nearly impossible to be a Pagely customer without feeling the presence of Josh and Sally Strebel's own personalities. And while Josh is an opinionated figure in the WordPress community, Pagely customers seem quite happy with that.
Managed host customer satisfaction
Steven Gliebe started a new project recently called HostingReviews.io, a website that attempts to collect non-biased reviews from social media about various hosting solutions. Pagely has a 94% happiness rating according to HostingReviews.io — matched only by Flywheel's 95% rating.
I like Steven's project because he is not using affiliates at all with this project, an aspect that spoils most hosting review websites. Here's a breakdown of some others:
Changes in managed WordPress hosting markets
It's been an interesting time to analyze the managed WordPress hosting market. For one, the term “managed WordPress hosting” is here to stay. Nearly every large player — including the likes of GoDaddy, Bluehost, Dreamhost, and more — offer a managed WordPress hosting product.
The differences between these large company products and the original smaller players — players like Pagely, WP Engine, Pressable, and later entrants like Flywheel, Siteground, and Pantheon — are beyond the name of the product. You really have to dig into each service and business model to get a full grasp of how they are unique.
And this is really hard.
For one, you can find positive and negative things about every host in the world. But also, these companies are often targeting different audiences. For instance, GoDaddy and the other large hosts pretty clearly want the smaller website audience, but to upsell them with a more WordPress-specific package. And that's fine; they can offer some great functionality for that.
But Pagely, Pantheon, and some others are going after bigger fish; and they are marketing themselves appropriately.
Going after WordPress.com VIP
WordPress.com VIP is the king of the big-WordPress mountain. They have the promise of infinite scale and excellent reliability. It's Automattic's own product and an excellent business model for them.
They are able to charge big companies big dollars (relative to other WordPress hosting, not compared to some enterprise software these companies are used to) to get the assurance that their website is hosted safely and reliably.
WordPress.com serves billions of pageviews every month. It's simply a massive platform and a comfortable place for companies to take their WordPress hosting needs.
Pagely wants to be an alternative to WordPress.com VIP. They see themselves as a viable and attractive alternative. For one, they'll tell you that you can run anything on Pagely; whereas WordPress VIP has a restricted ecosystem that involves approved-only plugins and stringent code reviews for any custom code, that often requires one of their VIP service partners to perform the work.
VIP is a great service. However it is no longer the only service capable of serving clients at scale. We are winning more of those high-caliber clients that need the extra flexibility our stack offers.
– Joshua Strebel, Pagely CEO
Pagely and others seeking the high end market are still relatively early on in their efforts; WordPress.com VIP is a behemoth in that market.
A changing tide
I've noticed — and I'm sure some of you have too — a change in tide of WordPress managed hosting. This year has no doubt been a very tough one for some managed hosts.
It's been painful to see customers that were once happy with their service — to the point of being huge brand ambassadors themselves — to quietly leaving and moving on to something else, now with warranted skepticism.
Personally, I try to stay pretty host-agnostic. It is a very difficult market to say anything about, due to its incredibly competitive nature. However, I think it's obvious that Pagely — accompanied by the likes of SiteGround and Pantheon — is on the rise while some of the other early entrants to WordPress managed hosting are struggling to consistently deliver on their promises.
However, with new-found popularity and fast growth, Pagely too can be susceptible to some of the same growing pains of their competition. But they say they're ready for it.
They've invested heavily in AWS and put all their technology chips in Amazon's basket. And they assure me that they have been hiring some of the best support techs and engineers in the business. Additionally, they tell me that because they aren't investing a ton of money into marketing, their customer influx is more natural and less likely to strain more linear growth levels.
Time will tell if Pagely is ready to scale with players that have more money and resources than they do, but they're definitely excited about the recent growth, the new brand and website, their brand ambassadors, and the challenges ahead.