Today starts Season 2 of our podcast. And we are excited to say the least because it also begins with a new partner. Bluehost has stepped up to the plate to sponsor both our regular Wednesday shows and our series for the next season (six-months).
To kick it off the right way, Casey Rowland, Marketing Director for Bluehost, joins us today. Listen in as he shares with us the history of Bluehost, their involvement with WordPress and eCommerce, and what the future holds for them in the WordPress open source community.
Also, stick around till the end to hear what we have lined up for the next six months on our in-depth series each Monday.
We chatted about:
- The history of Bluehost: how and where it all started
- How WordPress played into their history and influenced their involvement
- What Bluehost brings to their customers around the eCommerce space
- Some of the exciting things coming to Bluehost in the next year
- How WordPress is becoming an even bigger part of the future for Bluehost
Bob Dunn: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the WP eCommerce Show. Bob Dunn here, also known as BobWP on the web. Today is a huge day for our podcast in a couple of very exciting ways. First, it’s the start of Season 2. Now, you may be wondering why we’re starting Season 2 a little earlier than when we first started this podcast last March, but our second big announcement will explain that more.
What is really, really, exciting is that our friends over at Bluehost have stepped up to sponsor the next six months of the WP eCommerce Show, and I’m talking not only about our regular Wednesday show, but also our Monday series. I’ll be sharing with you a bit at the end on what you can expect from that. You’re going to see a lot of content coming your way twice a week, at least for the next six months, and to celebrate this partnership, I’m lucky to have Casey Rowland, Marketing Director at Bluehost, on our show today to kick it off. Hey, Casey. Welcome to the show.
Casey Rowland: Hey, Bob. Great to be here.
Meet Casey Rowland, Marketing Director at Bluehost
Bob Dunn: Now, unless you live in a cave or somewhere else very remote—and I’m not talking about Casey, I’m talking about you, our listeners— I’m sure you’ve heard of Bluehost. What I’d like to do is have Casey introduce himself and give us some insight into why Bluehost believes in the power of the web.
Casey Rowland: Oh, for sure, so thanks for the great introduction, Bob. I am Casey Rowland, the Marketing Director here at Bluehost. Bluehost has really believed in the web and the power of the web since the company’s inception back in 2003. One of the reasons we got started as a company was to give people the power to get their voice out onto the internet. We started in late 2003. It’s super-disruptive, the way that we’ve kind of changed the industry by offering free hosting for advertisements based within people’s websites, and we quickly changed after that to a paid service. As we changed and pivoted into a paid service, we became more and more focused on open source and giving back to the open source community.
So it’s something that our founders really believed in, and something that our team here currently still believes in. We really do believe in the power of open source and giving back to that community, which is why we’re super excited to partner with you, Bob, and talk shop about WordPress, because we love what WordPress has done for the web and how much it’s powering the web now.
Bob Dunn: Yeah, I’m so excited about this. This is, there’s so much I’ve already been planning and different shows that we have coming up, and I know you’ve touched a little bit on when Bluehost started. Could you give us a few more details around the history of Bluehost? Give us some of the juicy stuff.
Bluehost’s beginnings: organic growth and a focus on the customer experience
Casey Rowland: For sure. For sure. It was started here in Provo, Utah, started on the south side of Provo by a couple of friends, namely Matt Heaton, who was one of the original founders, as well as Dan Handy. These two guys put their heart and souls into the company, really wanted to make the best web hosting experience possible for any consumer out there. They would constantly look at our servers and see what, see the performance of it and see how they were doing compared to the competition, see how much more load those servers could take, and how much they could offload onto other servers. They focused heavily on the product, which is why Bluehost, in the beginning, was so successful.
They focused so heavily on making it a great customer experience that they kind of had the mentality of, “If you build it, they will come,” and people started to come in droves. There was a lot of organic growth, a lot of word-of-mouth growth through the open source community. As people heard about how great the platform was, they just started coming, and they’ve really enjoyed how much the platform performed and how well that it performed for their clients, so the company grew organically at first, and as we grew and became more known in the open source community, and in the WordPress community specifically, we started to make connections with Matt Mullenweg and with some of the other major players in the space, and they saw how much we were devoting to the WordPress space. We’ve formed a strong partnership and collaborative effort to make the open source side of WordPress great.
It’s helped us grow, and I personally believe that it’s going to help us to continue to grow for a long time to come. It’s something that I personally value very heavily. I take the partnership that we have with WordPress serious, and we really are committed to making Bluehost the best WordPress experience on the market.
Bob Dunn: You touched a bit on my second question, as far as how WordPress has played in this entire history of Bluehost. Is there anything else you can add, as far as how integral WordPress was part of that?
Integration with WordPress
Casey Rowland: Yeah, like WordPress, for us, we are trying to be lockstep with them, and we’re trying hone the platform in. WordPress, for us, is a vital piece of who Bluehost is. When we look at our developers and our customer service agents, we look for people who are knowledgeable in WordPress. They have to have an understanding of what the platform is, how it works as a CMS, how people like our customers, the small business, and the eCommerce side, actually uses the platform, have an understanding of what it means to build a website on WordPress. It’s something, when I started here at Bluehost, truth be known, I had only built websites mostly with a builder.
I hadn’t ever stepped into developing my own website, and I took it on as a challenge to build a website with WordPress, and so I faked a website for my wife and her little business, and it was incredible to see how powerful the platform is and how you can mold WordPress to be what you want it to be. That’s one of the coolest things about WordPress, and it’s what keeps me excited about our relationship with WordPress.
Bob Dunn: Yeah. I mean, that’s kind of how I got into it, too, back in, I think, 2007. It was like I was in the print industry, was doing graphic design, and I moved into the web, reluctantly, because I didn’t really like programming and HTML and all that stuff, so when I saw WordPress, I was like, “Wow, this is kind of cool. This gives me a different route to take with my customers and my clients,” so yeah, I dove right into it and it’s amazing what it can do, and that’s pretty cool, that you dove right into that site.
Casey Rowland: Yeah, completely. The fact that it’s been built organically, like from an open source community, I think is what really does make it so powerful. That really is one of the reasons why Bluehost was able to grow, and that’s why WordPress plays such a heavy part in our continued success here. I think that the more that we can align Bluehost with the open source community and the WordPress community, the more success that we’re going to have.
Bluehost and the eCommerce connection
Bob Dunn: So now, we touched on WordPress and stuff, and you know this is a podcast all about eCommerce. I know that hosts and everybody in WordPress is bringing eCommerce more to the surface because of its availability and how it can actually grow easily to a rather large eCommerce site using WordPress. What is Bluehost bringing to their customers to help them with their eCommerce sites?
Casey Rowland: Oh, see, now, eCommerce, to me, is very large, right?
Bob Dunn: It is.
Casey Rowland: Because you can talk about so many different aspects, whether that’s an online store or if it’s through like an affiliate program or any way to monetize your site, there’s just so many different ways. Like eCommerce, to me, is more broad than just store. It’s more like monetizing your site at the moment.
Bob Dunn: Exactly.
Opportunities: Affiliate revenue and WordPress-WooCommerce integration
Casey Rowland: Here at Bluehost, we have a number of different things we bring to the table. I’m going to start, since I’m more on the marketing side, I’m going to actually talk a little bit more about our affiliate program. It’s one of the better programs, if not the best program, in the hosting space. The referral base, this is actually, it’s $65 per referral. It’s a one-time payment per signup, so it’s really easy to make some good money quickly. We have a number of ways that we help our affiliates grow. We recently started with a lady whose name is, her call sign is Making Sense of Cents, and it’s makingsenseofcents.com. She has done a write-up on how to start a blog, how to really get your website going, and we’ve helped her monetize her site exponentially since she’s started with us, and that’s only one of multiple success stories that we have on our affiliate program.
We have people who will send five or ten referrals to us every single month, making them a couple hundred dollars more every month, which is awesome, because it’s a secondary stream of income for a lot of these people. They are able to focus on their real job and have a little bit of extra money on the side that helps pay some bills, or keeps the lights on, or makes the holidays a little bit easier to get through, or pays for that vacation that they’ve always wanted to take. So that’s one thing that we bring to the table, as far as eCommerce goes. The other one is our integration with WooCommerce and WordPress, so we have an integration where it will automatically set up WordPress with WooCommerce on the platform, and you can immediately start to build your store.
You don’t have to go out and try to push things together or, and figure out what to do. It’s, you come in, you buy the one product, and it automatically builds the store for you. It’s easy to use, makes putting your store online super easy.
Starting an online store got a lot easier
Bob Dunn: I love the point you made. I mean, those are two great things, and two very different things, but like you said, they fall under the eCommerce umbrella, and the point you made that eCommerce is broad, because way back when I first set up my first online store, which was even pre-WordPress, which was a big failure, but that’s another whole story, I looked at eCommerce. When I first looked at eCommerce way back in the, oh, I don’t know, might have been around 2000 or so, or maybe even a little bit before that, I thought, “Okay, eCommerce is online stores. That’s all it is.” And it’s just grown into so many different aspects of basically just making money online.
Casey Rowland: Yeah, and it’s funny you’ve mentioned a big fat failure, because I also had quite the failure. My wife and I, when we first got married, we thought the exact same thing, like, “Oh, we should start an online store. We could sell baby clothes and women’s fashion items,” and it quickly became a failure because, A, we didn’t have the revenue coming in that we thought we were going to have coming in, so we weren’t able to market it the way that we thought we were going to be able to market it, and, B, it was ridiculously hard. So this was 10 years ago, right? It wasn’t as easy to start a site back then, and today, it’s amazing to me how easy it is for someone to decide, “I am going to start an online store.”
And there’s such a wide variety of options out there that people can pick from that they can just go, spin up a store within a day, two days, really getting humming, and throw some money into social media or into some PPC, and your store is going.
What’s in the pipeline at Bluehost?
Bob Dunn: So now, let’s talk about the future. We’ve been talking about the history and then what you’re doing currently for eCommerce side of things. Can you share a bit of what lies ahead for Bluehost?
Casey Rowland: Oh, most definitely, so this year is really a year where we are going to focus heavily on our investment in WordPress. We really do believe that we can make our product a little bit easier to use. I’m not going to get into how we’re going to do this, because I’m going to tease that out for a later date, but we are looking into how the product works with WordPress and how we can more easily integrate the product into WordPress. It’s, like, WordPress is such a vital piece of Bluehost that we’ve really decided that, in the next two or three years, we are going to be the biggest WordPress host in the market.
Bob Dunn: Cool. That’s a great goal.
Casey Rowland: Yeah, it’s a lofty goal. There’s a lot of people moving into the WordPress space, because they see the growth that’s happening right now. I believe WP Tavern came out with a stat that said that WordPress now powers 27% of all websites, which is incredible, so we are really going to invest into the WordPress space. You’re also going to see us at a lot of WordPress events this next year, WordCamp specifically. We already sponsored WordCamps worldwide, but we are going to increase the number that we actually attend. I believe we’re going to be in Miami next month, and Bob, correct me if I’m wrong here, but I believe you are also going to be in Miami?
Look for BobWP and Bluehost at WordCamp Miami
Bob Dunn: Yes, actually, you, or Bluehost, is sponsoring me, to go there, and we’re going to be doing a live podcast from WordCamp Miami, which is … It’s going to be fun. It’ll probably be video included. I’m not sure if it’s going to be a Facebook Live thing or what, but they’ll be announcing it, and we’re going to work on talking to some of the eCommerce peeps that are there, and probably we’ll even pull in a cohost, somebody from Bluehost to ask the hard questions with me, so yeah, it’s going to be fun.
Casey Rowland: I’m excited about it. The WordCamp thing really does get me excited. When we were back in Philadelphia for WordCamp US last year, it was great to be able to interact with the rest of the WordPress community and hear their stories about how they are using WordPress to start a business or help their friends start businesses, just learn more about the web, so I love getting out to those events and talking to people. Personally, I’m excited to get down to Miami, and don’t tell my boss, but let’s be honest, it’s going to be nice to get to Miami for a couple of days.
Bob Dunn: All righty. Well, as far as future, and you’ve shared quite a bit of that, is there anything else around how WordPress is going to play into the future of Bluehost besides what you’ve already said?
Casey Rowland: I think just moving forward, we’re going to be very closely partnered with WordPress, or at least try to partner as closely with WordPress as we can. I think one thing that we want to do is make our product the best for WordPress, whether that’s a shared server or a VPS server, whatever you’re trying to build, when you think WordPress, you’re going to think, “Bluehost is the place that I need to be.”
Bob Dunn: Cool. All right. I am with the right partner here on my podcast, that’s for sure. I’m so looking forward to this.
Casey Rowland: Yeah.
Bob Dunn: Well, Casey, I know you have a busy schedule, and I’m going to let you get back to all this work, your lofty goals, as you said, but it’s been great to get this overview of Bluehost, a bit of history, a bit of what’s going on, in the future, and I know that I’m looking forward to the next six months, because we’re going to have some really cool stuff coming up, and I just wanted to thank you personally for your support, and also for taking the time to come on the show.
Casey Rowland: Oh, thank you, Bob. This is great. I’m so happy that we’re able to partner up together. I’m super excited for the next six months as well.
Bob Dunn: Very cool, and I will see you in Miami, right?
Casey Rowland: Yes, sir.
Bob Dunn: Excellent.