A lot of what my website revolves around is affiliate programs and partnerships. It’s no secret that I don’t agree with how web hosting affiliate websites are operated. These websites are not meant for you to find the best web hosting for your website, but the best web hosting for the affiliate’s bank account.
But how are you supposed to know if the website you’re reading when researching web hosts is full of legitimate reviews or part of the web hosting affiliate problem? There are a few ways to find out.
1. Affiliate Links
Affiliates need to track the traffic and sales that their websites generate. The affiliate programs that web hosts use provide each affiliate with a unique link to track the traffic. Sometimes, the affiliate program will not hide the affiliate link, so after clicking through you will be able to see the link in the browser URL bar. For example:
By clicking on the “Visit Host” link for InMotion on the home page of my website you will be redirected to InMotion’s website, obviously. As you can see in the URL, the tracking link shows that you were referred from my page. This means that you were tracked to my affiliate account and if you buy a hosting account I make a commission.
While this doesn’t necessarily mean that the website you are viewing is littered with fake reviews, it is a way of identifying that the website is owned by a web hosting affiliate.
2. No Bad Reviews
This is one reason to suspect that the website isn’t offering valid insight on the web hosting companies it is promoting. If it either doesn’t include any negative reviews that the ‘experts’ have written, or no negative reviews from customers, chances are the reviews themselves aren’t true. Affiliates have no incentive on writing negative reviews for web hosts because then they won’t be making any money from that host. Why waste their time when there is no profit involved?
3. Seeing many EIG brands in the top 10
This is when things start to get really fishy. EIG (Endurance International Group), if you are unaware, owns over 50 different web hosting brands and they are marketed as if they are their own companies. You will find a lot of these different brands dominating popular top 10 review websites. EIG offers affiliates a high commission rate to take over as many spots in the affiliate’s rankings as they can.
For example, the list on the right was taken from a popular hosting review website that is frequently visited. 5 of the top 10 companies are owned by EIG, so they have a 50% chance (or more since they occupy the top 3 spots) of getting your money if you sign up based on what this affiliate has to say.
4. Seeing iPage at #1
iPage is the crown jewel of EIG and it’s how they generate a ton of sales. They offer affiliates ridiculous commissions to have iPage at #1. Why? Because their hosting is cheaper than any other company. Why would you sign up for a more expensive web host that is lower in the rankings? The best host is cheaper than any other host. There’s no reason to look any further.
Both EIG and the affiliates know this, and this is why they put iPage at the top. It generates the most traffic from the affiliate websites and has the highest conversion rate. It has absolutely nothing to do with how good of a host iPage is.
5. Finding the review website on Google
Unfortunately, most of the review websites you find when searching on Google will be filled with fake reviews trying to get you to sign up. The web hosting companies employ people (like me, it’s what I used to do) who’s job it is to find affiliate websites and offer them high commissions for top spots.
The affiliate websites are found the same way you would find them. I would search Google for popular keywords (web hosting reviews, best web hosting, etc.) and try to contact any review website that showed up on the first page. These websites stand to make the web hosts a lot of money, so it is their goal to get listed.