Let me preface this article by saying yes, I am an affiliate of the web hosts on this website. I do make commissions on any sales that are generated through my website. It is part of how I make my living. However, I DO NOT accept offers of a higher commission rate from web hosting companies. I don’t want to be a part of that problem that I will cover below.
I have some unique insight into how web hosting companies run their affiliate programs. I was the head of two different affiliate departments throughout my time in the industry. Now that I am no longer employed by any hosting company I think that it’s important to explain to web hosting customers how these affiliate programs work, and how web hosting review websites rank their hosts. Long story short, the vast majority of “review” websites are not truthful at all.
This is the quickest and easiest way for a company to become the “best” web host on any given review website. When I was heading the affiliate programs for the companies I worked for we would regularly offer review sites a $200 commission rate to make us their best web host. This is the biggest issue with web hosting review sites today. Instead of actually reviewing the web hosts they just put whoever offers them the most money at the top. Not a bad business practice for them as far as a money making standpoint, but this doesn’t help the customer in any way. The web host could be terrible, but get a 5 star review because the reviewer knows that if you buy, they get paid more. In many cases I found myself writing the review for the affiliate because they were either too lazy to do it themselves or didn’t care to find out about the company.
Like I said above, I don’t accept higher CPA offers from hosts because I don’t want that to be a part of how I rank them. HostMetro, the company I rated as the best shared host, pays me the lowest CPA of any host on my reviews. VPSDepot, where this website is hosted and is my best rated VPS host, doesn’t even have an affiliate program.
User reviews are some of the most important pieces of information to a prospective customer. It’s one thing to read a professional review, but you want to see what other customers think of the host. Unfortunately most review sites don’t monitor who is writing the reviews or where they are coming from. I have only come across 2 websites that actually removed reviews because they were fake.
Web hosting companies will write fake reviews acting as a customer to give them a better reputation on websites. I have also worked with affiliates who took bad reviews from one company and placed them on another company’s page because they weren’t being paid a high enough CPA. Most of the affiliates are selfish and vindictive. If you don’t pay them what they think they deserve then they are going to do everything they can to ruin your reputation. Unfortunately for the web hosting companies, some of them have the power to do this.
I do not allow customers to write reviews on my website for two reasons. One is that it is sometimes impossible to see if the review is genuine or fake and written by a host. The second is that too many bad reviews are written by angry customers who are blatantly in the wrong. They are just as bad as vindictive affiliates. They refuse to believe that the problem they are having is in no way associated with the web host so they make it their personal goal to trash that company wherever they can.
Affiliate programs are a numbers based game. If you aren’t converting enough of your traffic into sales for the affiliate then you are going to be dropped down in ranking. It has nothing to do with how good they actually think your product is. If you generate 15 sales in a month at the #2 position and the #4 spot generates 16 sales then you’re going to be dropped to a lower spot. Affiliate websites are money makers. Instead of accurately informing the customer affiliates are doing everything they can to get you to sign up.
Web hosts are always competing with each other to get the top spots on affiliate websites to make more sales. Plenty of web hosts will add fake sales into an affiliate’s account to make it look like they are sending a lot more sales than the other hosts. This, in turn, makes the affiliate want to increase their ranking. It has nothing to do with how good the service is, but how much money the affiliate stands to make.
The example I will use here is from iPage, because it is the most blatant. As of right now they are the #1 web host on most review sites. Why? Because they offer hosting for $1.89/month and pay out a hefty CPA. I have been offered $250 from them and my website doesn’t get nearly the traffic that other review sites do. I assume they have offered at least $300 to the high traffic review sites.
Let’s do some math for a second. iPage offers web hosting for $1.89/mo if you sign up for 2 years. That’s $45.36 for 2 years of hosting. How could they afford to pay a $250 commission on a $45.36 sale? They would have to keep a customer for 5 and a half years just to break even, right? You just made the mistake that most customers do. You imply that renewing with iPage will cost you the same as your initial payment. Nope. Their renewal price for that same 2 year account is $8.49/mo, or $203.76 for the 2 years. They can get away with this by burying it in their terms that the $1.89 is a promotional price.
You won’t find out what the actual prices are unless you do some deep digging into their knowledgebase articles. This is the only place I have been able to find their renewal rates. And this is why you will not find them anywhere on my website as a suggested web host. I refuse to support a company that so blatantly tries to screw over their customers.
The EIG Effect
Most beginners who are looking for a web hosting company don’t know this, but Endurance International Group (EIG) owns over 50 different web hosting brands and they market them as if they are separate web hosting companies. Many of these hosting companies are what you will come across on top 10 hosting review sites. They include iPage, JustHost, FatCow, BlueHost, HostMonster, HostGator, and a whole lot more. For a full list you can Click Here. This allows them to buy every position on a hosting review website. This, in turn, means the customer is going to be buying hosting from the same company no matter what, without knowing that every brand is owned and operated by one company.
What’s worse is that EIG makes offers to purchase any web hosting company that becomes popular enough. Very recently they purchased HostGator for $225 million. Fortunately for the customers of HostGator, EIG has yet to make much of a change to the service, which is why they still are my #5 host. Unfortunately, when EIG purchases a hosting company, they usually run it into the ground by laying off support staff in order to outsource it for cheaper.
What’s the point of writing all this? I just want people to be as informed as they can when looking for a web host. I don’t like web hosts that try to screw over their customers. Don’t get me wrong, there are some websites that are legitimately reviewing web hosting companies and ranking them accordingly, but they are VERY few and far between. Take anything you read on any review site with a grain of salt. Chances are there is a lot of money to be made for that outstanding review that you’re reading.