Hosting reviews would seem like a simple search engine result that will take you to the very information that you seek. You would expect Hosting reviews from your peers. People that actually use the hosting companies they recommend, or used the ones they recommend to avoid. The problem is many of these sites were not put up to inform people who to choose that will best serve your needs. They are telling you who to host with all for the sake of a sale. The most common held belief by those that understand what most hosting review sites are, is that they are about high affiliate payouts. Which does happen, but not with all hosting reviews. Some don’t do it for affiliate payments.
For over a decade there are sites that specialize on hosting reviews and other phrases one might search for in hopes of finding a good host. Most do it for one sole purpose and that is to get you to sign up with one of the hosts they recommend. March 2013 I decided to go after a site that thought it would capitalize on their hosting own reviews. The funny thing is they choose to call out other hosting review sites for doing what they were doing. Like many so called review sites, Digitalfaq.com had no data to back their claims. But it went a little deeper than that, as the claim was these fake review sites were only interested in high payouts and were blogs. While at the same time a disclaimer that made it seem like it was a crime to make a commission.
Which brings me to the reasoning behind this post. Back in March I was told by someone that I should reference Digitalfaq.com. Digitalfaq.com was no different than any other review site. They offered reviews, with nothing to prove their claims. Hosting review sites being blogs and all about high payouts was nothing more than one distraction of the many stereotypes used to make a case to pick a host they recommend. The popular perception of review sites is that they only promote high payouts, which is not entirely correct. As for the perception that they are all blogs, many may be. It would be great if every site offering Hosting reviews was just a blog endorsing only those that offer high affiliate payouts.. I would have had little reason to expand from a single page website. Digitalfaq.com wants to distract from the fact they are a forum, with a list of hosts where at best only 89% of the hosts paid out a commission. Interestingly enough those that may not pay were at the bottom of their category. Which begs the question would you rather sign up with hosts 1 -5 or 6 – 10? But not always are hosting reviews done for the sake of an affiliate payout. Despite they deceptions, its not unreasonable to assume that there are other reasons besides affiliate payments for those 11% of the hosts listed to be on lists of recommend hosts.
My experience in the hosting reviews industry
Long before I started this site, I was a hosting provider. Sites that provided hosting reviews were not all that common back when I started. I believe at the time most hosts did not offer affiliate programs. Though there were sites that’s very profit was generated from affiliate income from non-hosting related sites. My first successful hosting company had an affiliate program. Not to mention the one secret till now that I have yet to reveal is how exactly we brought in so many customers in when we started up. We made an agreement with some so called marketing gurus or multi-level marketing gurus (those that claim they can tell you how to get rich…… just buy their book,,,, tapes….. and other materials…..). Months after we started our agreement I come to view this as a proverbial deal with the devil. At the time I was naive about the nature of such operations, but these days I believe they are parasitic. The biggest problem was at the time we offered them reoccurring commissions, something I do not advise any company to do. After all, all they had to do was convince people to sign up with my company. After that keeping them was the responsibility of my company, and the MLM affiliates were sitting back collecting commissions. Many of them eventually stopped sending us new customers as someone else came along and offered bigger payments up front (though not reoccurring) which gave us a good reason to stop sending them payments.
Despite the deal with the devil, there were other deals we made that were symbiotic in nature which benefited the referring company and my own company. Like a deal with a software company that would offer free hosting with our company whenever anyone bought their product. They got something free to offer their customers, and we got a supply of new customers.
2003 was the time I noticed top 10 sites. My business partners and I assumed that these were owned by other hosts. After all private registration was not as common back then (though I am not sure it was offered at all back then). One ever lasting example of this is thehostingchart.com, where IXwebhosting.com sits at the top. Has been at the top since it came on to try and scavenge the customers from a company called featured price. Looking at the whois for both domains provides you with the name of Fathi Said.
By 2007 I started to see a problem when webhostingstuff.com decided that I had one too many positive reviews for a host that did not give them money. Which in short led to the creation of this site, a tale I have told one too many times.
Hosting reviews (bogus reviews): motivation and techniques
For this post I wanted to make a guide to the various types of false hosting reviews, and by no means is this post done. My intention for this post is to help consumers make an informed decision when dealing with review sites. I will modify it over time and re-releasing it as a new post as time goes on.
Hosting reviews – Data, or lack there of
I am not saying that all review sites are dishonest, or that you can’t get informed information from the data they provide. Generally hosting review sites provide little to no data backing their claims that a host is good (or bad). They want you to assume just because they have a site they are experts on the hosting industry. One of the funny things that I have found is hosting reviews sites that are not hosted on any of the hosts they recommend.
If the data is not made up or data is provided, they are unclear about how exactly they came to the conclusion the hosts they display are worthy.
- No data just claims
- Copy and paste product specs
- Uptime – hosting server not customer server(s)
- Customer rating only (no customer information for validation)
- Customer reviews – no domain
- Customer reviews – domain
Ideally the last one should be the bare minimum that any hosting review site offers.
Types of Hosting reviews strategies and gimmicks
- Top 10 (or other number)
- Hosting Directories
- Award sites
- Single page / multi page one hosting company focus review site
- Search engine key word targeting review sites
- Customer based hosting reviews
- Cookie stuffer
- Customer reviews
- Gimmick reviews
Hosting review sites may have more than one strategy. Like take for example Webhostingstuff.com had a top 25 list, and yet is also a directory, awards, and has customer reviews.
Top 10 (or other number) hosting reviews
Examples: Hosting-review.com, Webhostingstuff.com,
There is not a lot to explain here, but generally these hosting reviews focus on web hosts with high payout, but not always. As long as the site is strictly about hosting, I have yet to see the top list not appear on the main page for a site.
Hosting reviews Directories
Examples: webhostingstuff.com, web-hosting-top.com, and Hostjury.com
In short hosting review directories are a list of hosts. The most effective of these sites are those that cover not a handful of sites, but thousands. This gives them and advantaged of numbers when it comes to search engine indexing. Add customer reviews on there and you have another reason for search engines like Google and Bing to place a hosting directory on the first page first result for “(host name) review”. This strategy can be damaging to small, new, and hosts that don’t compensate the hosting review site. One example of this was Webhostingstuff.com, which used its hosting directory to divert traffic to their top 25 list. When a non-paying host got too much positive feedback it was deleted to motivate visitors to view the top 25 list.
Examples: Webhostingstuff.com, web-hosting-top.com, webhostdir.com, hostingreview.com
The best examples of awards sites can be found on Hostgator.com’s list of awards.
When I first started reviewing the hosts that appeared on webhostingstuff.com, I found awards for other review sites. At first I thought that the award sites were either affiliates or getting paid under the table. But last year I come to realize that award sites may have a more parasitic relationship with the hosts they award. Mainly because Zyma.com got an award from hosting-review.com:
Zyma.com had done little to be an Editors choice of 2012 with ½ a month of down time. The down time was not a red flag for me, as this is not the first time I have found a host down yet being promoted by a review site . What had my attention was the low payments that someone got if they referred visitors to zyma.com . Hosting-review.com is by default a top 10 site. Top ten sites generally focus on high payouts by commonly known brands. The main page for Hosting-review.com does just that.
Now why would I call an award site a parasitic relationship? As I stated back when I was looking at hosts that appeared on webhostingstuff.com’s top 25 I noticed a lot of them had awards from other review sites. At the time I thought it was bad when a host did not link back to the hosting review site that awarded them. Turns out they may have knew what I was too slow to grasp. For those hosts like Zyma.com that linked back to hosting-review.com there were two possible outcomes:
- Get paid a small commission by Zyma.com if the visitor goes back to Zyma.com and orders. (least favorable outcome)
- The visitor explores the site and picks a host on a top 10 list. (most favorable outcome)
In short award sites are traffic thieves.
Single page / multi page one hosting company focus review site
There are a ton of examples, most of which are too low on search engine ranking to mention. These sites focus on one hosting company. Like one I saw for Hostgator.com which seemed to just copy and paste everything from FAQ section, blog entries, and whatever else Hostgator.com may have. I have yet to see one that does not focus on large payout companies.
Search engine key word targeting review sites
Examples: hostignsthatsuck.com, alreadyhosting.com,
While sites like webhostingstuff.com could be considered search engine experts, they only get top rankings in search engines because of their directories and customer reviews.
Hosting review sites that focus on key words concentrate on specific key terms.
An example of a reviews site that relies on key words is hostingsthatsuck.com. In short they focus on the following search engine result “(hostname) sucks”. This may seem an unusual strategy. But they use it to draw people in, and then try to prove that the host does not suck. For review sites like Hostingsthatsucks.com, there is an advantage of focusing on new and small hosts as they have less competition. Regardless of the payment being small, minimal work is required to get into small and new hosts’ sucks search results. All they have to do is one post on their blog.
Many of these key word targeting review sites focus on “*host name* review(s)”
Customer based Hosting Reviews.
Examples: webhostingstuff.com, hosting-review.com, alreadyhosting.com, hostingsthatsuck.com,…..
There are many hosting reviews that have customer based reviews. Though the question is are they real? A good sign that they are fake is when they are 100% positive. The same can be true for 100% negative reviews. As there are some review sites that do purposely try to make a host look bad. This can happen because a hosting company pulled their affiliate program from the review site, or other reasons relating to pay. Like this example here:
In some cases hosting companies will post their own fake positive reviews to counter the negatives. A good example of this can be seen here:
An example of sites that I think have no merit in their reviews is alreadyhosting.com because they don’t show a domain that was hosted with the companies they recommend. Domains allow you to see some details like how long the person might have hosted with the company. Not to mention a look at their site can tell you how much they might know about webhosting. A site that just started with a host has no long term experience. Not to mention a site that still has a “coming soon” page is not going to be someone who has experience with the host they recommend.
Customer reviews, especially when frequent are great for search engine results.
A few years back I learned what this term meant. In short the moment you go to a site like alreadyhosting.com it loads your computer with affiliate cookies. So even if the hosting review site was not your cause for signing up with a host, they still get paid.
Cookie stuffing is generally considered black hat. It’s a great way to lose your search engine rankings should Google or any other search engine provider find you doing it.
Alreadyhosting.com was caught by Mike of MDDHosting.com.
To date this is the only review site that I have found doing this. Also as a side note, Endurance International Group hosts don’t seem concerned about cookie stuffing. Yet they also require annual or better terms to get a payout.
There are two sites that I cannot find that server as perfect examples of gimmicks that are used to draw people in.
The first which had an awesomely honest disclaimer ( I truly love the disclaimer link that followed you), brought people in by telling you who someone was hosted with. For which they had an affiliate link for some of the sites I tried.
However they also offered reviews and the first hosts to pop on the list were the high payouts.
The second review site used twitter feed to tell you if a host was good or bad. What pretty much proved this to be a gimmick was looking at the actually results that made a host good or bad. For example take godaddy.com, over the past few years they have had problems with Bob Parson shooting an elephant, their support behind PIPA/SOPA, and not to mention commercials that degrade women. All of which are bad public relations, however not an indicator of poor service. On the other hand you have, I think her name is Dana Patrick(race car driver?) tweets that have nothing to do with hosting at all. All of which were used to indicate if godaddy.com was good or bad. The worst of it was that bad service tweets were used to indicate that godaddy.com was good, and vice versa on good tweets. Even so a tweet does not prove someone actually hosted with godaddy.com, like those that protested their bad public relations.
Hosts that I have found that benefit from review spammers: Hostgator.com
I have refrained with good reason for mentioning sites as a whole as not all hosting reviews are done on the review’s website. As many reviews can be in the form of comment or email spam by affiliates that troll sites or use automated scripts. Many of them lead directly to a host with an affiliate link. Though the link they provide may lead to a review site. Most of the spam I have seen has an affiliate link that takes you to the host in question. If there is any host that has benefited the most from spam and done very little to curb the spam that would be hostgator.com. However that may change since Endurance International Group purchased Hostgator.com. Last year Hostgator.com did not send out its usual pre-black Friday penny hosting notification.
Here is an example of comment spam I was receiving in regards to hostgator.com:
I find it funny the guy who decided to post his site twice came back later to have his comments removed.
Hosting Review Payments
Generally Hosting review sites focus on one form of compensation; however there are exceptions like Webhostingstuff.com which while having hosts bid for spots, was also an affiliate of Hostgator.com (at the time they were the number 1 host) and advertising Gooogle.com adsense.
- High Hosting Affiliate payouts only (example: Hosting-review.com)
- Any Hosting affiliate program (example: Hostingsthatsuck.com)
- Any affiliate program (example: Digitalfaq.com)
- Paid per unit/bid per position (example: Webhostingstuff.com/hostingsthatsuck.com)
- Main focus is not to be paid by out siders, yet subscribes to other hosting companies affiliate programs (example:
Paid per unit / bid per position. Or what I like to refer to as under the table. Sites like webhostingstuff.com that allow you to buy your spot in a 1 – 25 position, or take for example Hostingsthatsuck.com, which wrote posts for a fee.
Main focus is not to be paid by outsiders are generally owned by the hosting companies that appear in the number 1 position.
A few examples of review sites that are owned by hosts
- Hostjury.com – Fused.com (though as of late they did drop to the # 2 spot)
- Thehostingchart.com – Ixwebhosting.com (they also own the second host on the list hostexcellence.com)
- Besthostdirectory.com – Siteground.com
- Avahost.net – Cheap-web-hosting-review.com
A good sign that a review site is owned by a host is when the host constantly shows up as the # 1 host.
The waybackmachine is a great tool for looking at a sites history: http://web.archive.org/
This post on Hosting Reviews is still under construction.
As I stated before this is a post that is in process, it is by no means complete on how fake hosting review sites operate.