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Fake "independent" web hosting review sites

When people are buying web hosting, one of the things they will look for are independent reviews comparing the many web hosts out there.  Unfortunately, there are many affiliates who capitalize on that by setting up their “review” sites while the web hosting companies pay them to shill for them via affiliate commissions (more info on affiliate marketing here).

These reviews have nothing to do with the quality of web hosting and everything to do with shilling for the hosts that pay the most.  Affiliates will tinker with their rankings to find out which order makes them the most money.  The comparison below shows two different webpages on the same domain.  In this case, the affiliate probably screwed up and did not intend for the pages to be different, as you can navigate from one page to the other.  But this clearly shows that affiliates are not very interested in providing an honest review.

web-hosting-shill-comparison

A variation on this is web hosts shilling for themselves.  One web host put up a fake review site where they listed themselves as #1 (without an affiliate link because that would be superfluous), and put affiliate links for their competitors in the rest of the slots!  If they happened to drive traffic to their competitors, they still make money.

Wordpress

Wordpress is trying to make money to support itself, so it too has jumped on the affiliate marketing bandwagon.  It has a page recommending web hosts here:

http://wordpress.org/hosting/

To some degree, Wordpress gushes about its recommended hosts and vaguely discloses its affiliate relationship.

We’ve dealt with more hosts than you can imagine; in our opinion, the hosts below represent some of the best and brightest of the hosting world. If you do decide to go with one of the hosts below and click through from this page, some will donate a portion of your fee back—so you can have a great host and support WordPress at the same time.

Personally, I’ve had a site hosted with Dreamhost (one of the hosts recommended by the people behind Wordpress) and they weren’t great.  Their hosting was down for an entire day when their data center lost both power and its backup power (granted, they weren’t entirely to blame for their data center losing power).  Support also forgot to get back to me about my domain transfer problem and it took me weeks to get it resolved.  Which brings us to…

Overselling

Overselling is the practice where web hosts absurd amounts of bandwidth and disk space. Some even go so far as to offer unlimited bandwidth and disk space. However, hidden away in the terms and conditions are clauses that allow them to kick customers off for using excessive server resourches (e.g. using up too much bandwidth, CPU, memory, etc.). The web hosts have little intention of actually delivering on their advertised claims. The reason why they can get away with overselling is because 99% of customers use very, very little bandwidth and disk space. Almost all websites use <100MB of disk space and less than 5GB of bandwidth. The typical customer will not realize that overselling is false advertising.

The other downside to overselling is that it attracts the kind of customer that does use a lot of server resources (e.g. warez sites). Before a web host kicks these customers off their service, these customers will use a disproportionate amount of a server’s resources and cause all websites hosted on a particular server to be slow. When you purchase shared hosting, your website is hosted on a server that is shared with other customers. Overselling is typically a bad practice for the customer as your web server may be shared with resource pigs. Or crazy promotions like Dreamhost’s $9.99 for the first year may cause a huge surge of customers that the web host can’t adequately handle. When looking for a web host, I would like for a web host that does NOT oversell their services.

Resources

One good resource for learning about web hosting and picking a web host is Web Hosting Talk.  WHT readers tend to be savvier at spotting and outing shills, though you still need to take what you read with a grain of salt.

One Comment

  1. Dee Catch wrote:

    One of the more sophisticated affiliate sales website with fake reviews making millions is toptenreviews dot com. They also tend to get #1 spots on google.

    Saturday, July 14, 2012 at 11:38 am | Permalink