Beware of “Web Hosting Review” and “Top 10 Web Hosts” Sites
As many readers of this site may already know I own and operate MDDHosting, LLC – a web hosting firm based out of Franklin, Indiana and we have been in business for over 2 years and 3 months as of the writing of this post. Over the last 27 months I have seen just about every type of fraud, scam, and lie and in my personal opinion affiliate scams have to be one of the larger issues facing web hosting consumers today.
Anybody with enough experience in the industry knows that most “web hosting review” and “top 10 web hosts” type of sites are simply affiliate link farms where the goal is to pull in as many visitors to click on their affiliate links as possible. Someone experienced in the industry who has “been there, done that” will often see through this and knows to conduct their own research and won’t fall for these tricks but someone new to the industry and turning to Google for advice won’t. While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that, what bothers me is when the site makes commission in a misleading way. Some sites actually do write up a decent review of the provider and provide links to sign up which is entirely understandable but some are not so honest and straightforward in their dealings.
One such site that is operating in a misleading way is “AlreadyHosting.com” which is operated by Jonathan Burdon of Murray, Kentucky. While going over our affiliate sales I noticed that one particular affiliate had an extraordinarily high conversion rate and to be honest I wanted to know what they were doing to achieve a conversion rate of 9%.
Their site “reviews” as of this writing 111 companies which is not a lot when you look at the hosting industry itself as having thousands of individual providers. When you look at any one of their providers that they review you may be surprised at the utter lack of any content or reviews (I certainly was). I have pictured the page that I found was sending the affiliate referrals to us and commented directly in the image as to how their methods are misleading. Not only does every host that they “review” offer links to “Promo pricing” and “Coupon Codes & Promotional Links”, but every one of these links goes directly to the provider dropping the affiliate code without giving any promotional codes or pricing.
I contacted Jonathan (read entire conversation here) and explained to him that we felt that he was misleading his visitors by offering links to coupon codes and promotional pricing when those links actually just dropped them on the affiliate URL where no such information can be found. We let him know that we were doing so pro-actively and that while we could have let him continue sending us visitors and simply refused to pay him any money at a later date but that we simply were not that type of company.
AlreadyHosting.com uses it’s SERP power to be seen for “[Hosting Company Name] Review” which means that the customer isn’t simply browsing for a list of providers but is looking for specific information on a provider that they are already considering. At the time of this writing I did a Google search for “GreenGeeks Review” and in 9th place is “GreenGeeks Review & Coupon Codes | AlreadyHosting.com”. Upon visiting this URL you will see that there is no review but there are links promising promotional pricing and coupon codes which anybody that is already considering that provider is going to click on. As soon as the visitor clicks on the link they are taken to the provider’s site and should that visitor continue researching the company before buying – AlreadyHosting will obtain commission on the sale due to the visitor having been interested in coupon codes and promotional pricing.
In my conversation with Jonathan I explained to him that we were more than happy to keep him on board with us as an affiliate as long as he was willing to modify the page to actually link to the content it claims to link to (i.e. promotional information or coupon codes) or to simply not claim to link to such content if it isn’t doing so and rather than editing the review page to modify or remove the misleading hyperlinks Jonathan decided to respond with a threat:
If you do not reconsider we will keep your
review active and will tell our readers how you treat affiliates and will
directly recommend that they sign up for another company. I will also
invest a lot in SEO for that page to ensure that it ranks high for all of
Upon visiting the “MDDHosting Review” on AlreadyHosting.com after this email exchange I found that he has updated the page with an “Important Note” stating that we had discontinued his affiliate account with us, which we have. I have no particular problem with this but what I do find interesting is the site claims to be a site containing the “BEST WEB HOSTING REVIEWS” which would lead the average hosting consumer to believe that they either have tried and reviewed the services they “review” directly or they have input from third parties who have done so and as such list them based upon their quality of service and support which is obviously not the case. Should any of these “best web hosting providers” find that AlreadyHosting.com is misleading their potential customers and committing affiliate fraud by using misleading hyperlinks AlreadyHosting.com may end up having to place this notice on more pages than just ours.
At the end of the day I don’t suggest trusting any of the “Web Hosting Review” or “Top 10 Web Hosts” sort of sites as they are all affiliate driven and a vast majority of them are simply misleading. If you do happen across a site offering coupon codes or promotional codes and it turns out there are none to be had make sure to clear your cookies so that you don’t pay these crooks for misleading you. I highly suggest a resource that is not affiliate driven for researching hosting providers such as the WebHostingTalk.com Forums.