Monday, March 26, 2012

Web Hosting Affiliate Program Research: HostGator, BlueHost, FatCow - Part 2

Read the first part of this article introducing a common problem and my experience with FatCow here: Web Hosting Affiliate Program Research: HostGator, BlueHost, FatCow - Part 1. banner
BlueHost affiliate program
This month a friend of mine asked me for a web hosting provider. Having in mind the experience with the cheaper FatCow hosting I recommended to him BlueHost, whose hosting service had actually a lot of good reviews on the Net. He made a purchase of one of their hosting packages but a commission for the sale did not show in my CJ account. I asked BlueHost about it and they answered very fast asking about the primary domain of my friend's account. I wasn't able to find whether they would credit my account with the commission cause my friend decided to cancel his purchase after BlueHost temporarily deactivated his account with the requirement to submit a copy of his personal ID. It appeared that HostGator would want the same later but he didn't know at that time. So I could not tell if BlueHost were going to pay me for that sale but even if they did it, I wouldn't be happy. If I was going to promote their hosting not to my friends only, I wouldn't be able to know who and when signed up with them in order to chase my commissions. And this is not acceptable.

Anyway, I decided to research though why I hadn't got the commission immediately and here is what I've found. If someone commences signing up for a BlueHost account and enters his data (most importantly an email address) but for any reason does not finish the registration in a few minutes, BlueHost send an email to that address with a link for completion of the registration. It's a promotional link and offers a discount but what is the most unpleasant here is the link actually rewrites the affiliate cookie previously set in the client's browser. This means that all about 120-day-long referral period is actually nonsense cause chances your affiliate cookie will be rewritten by a link in a follow-up BlueHost email or by a competitor's link is practically very high. I've personally checked this a few times and each time the affiliate cookie has been rewritten. Thanks for such affiliate programs. They make me stop promoting them even before I've started. :) banner
HostGator affiliate program
After cancelling his fresh account with BlueHost, I referred my friend to HostGator. (Un)surprisingly they also requested a copy of a photo ID. This time he made it and sent it to sales team after which they reactivated his hosting account. Now about HostGator affiliate program. Similar to the experience with BlueHost, a commission didn't appear in my account after the sale was made. I asked HostGator via CJ mailing functionality but unlike the case with BlueHost, there was not an answer for a few days. I decided to ask directly through HostGator's affiliate email address and the response was considerably faster. They asked for the domain name of the claimed referral and after I provided it, they awarded the sale to my CJ account.

Around this time I received also an answer to my initial message sent through CJ (of course, asking about the domain of my claimed referral). I answered I had already got the commission but I was bothered by the fact I should contact HostGator in order to get it. This time, no response followed at all. I decided to write once more directly to their affiliate email address and asked what was the reason for not getting the commission automatically. There was no any reply again. I suppose HostGator have just ignored these two inconvenient emails cause there has not been any response for weeks now. So thanks to this affiliate program too - nothing tempting in it for me. (Read a follow-up to this case here.)

Apparently, each of the web hosting affiliate programs has its own way to minimize the number of actual commissions it pays. This is not a big surprise having in mind how unnaturally big amounts they advertise for providing them with referrals. Obviously, if you make a broad promotion you won't be able to know the majority (if not all) of the people that sign up though your affiliate link so chances are most affiliates won't be able to complain with some firm arguments against these web hosting companies' behavior. Something more, most of the affiliates won't be even aware they are ripped off by the hosting providers. Maybe there are other companies in the area of web hosting offering lower commissions that actually pay for each sale. This is not impossible cause I haven't had any serious issues with other affiliate programs (in categories which do not pay such inflated commissions).

Finally, I suggest everyone to think again if (these) hosting providers are worthy of promoting and whether they actually pay you what they advertise and have to. What they deserve is an affiliate boycott but I am not so naive to think this is going to happen. There will always be people that like and even love to be cheated one way or another. A reasonable action I can ask for though is those who have been patient enough to read until here to share this article in any appropriate place they know without spamming. Let's bring at least some awareness of these shady web hosting affiliate programs.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this info.

I am also having a problem with my HostGator affiliate account.

I signed up two of my clients - totally new accounts for them with separate credit card info. They are saying that these are "duplicates" and invalidated the commission.

I don't understand this. These are non-tech clients who give me their CC #s and ask me to do the set up, so I do use my email address.

But why should that make a difference? These are totally new accounts for HostGator that they would not have gotten if I didn't recommend them.

Do you have any advice on this?


John Moscow said...

Hi Jenifer,

It seems that HostGator really play some games. My case described above has had some new development since the last couple of days. And this time it looks like they attempt an apparent fraudulent activity. I've written to them explaining that I can easily prove they are not right and I'll see what is going to happen.

About your question, I can't give you a particular advice but if you are able to prove you are right, just go after them. Scam should not be encouraged.

Anonymous said...

We've had similar problems with the program. They reversed about 90% of our leads equally over $4,000. 90%!!!

John said...

Hi, very interesting article, thanks. I run the affiliate program for our hosting company and I actually came across this article because I was trying to research how these other web hosts can pay out so much commission. Hostgator apparently pays up to $125 per sale. If you order their hosting at under $5 per month, that would take 25 months for them just to break even. Our experience is that many of the websites that get put up don't make it past the first year....

Ok, so I feel better now. We don't compete with these huge numbers. We offer commissions which are roughly 4 times the monthly fee (so if the monthly fee is $4, we'll pay about $15). Seems small compared to some other companies, but we don't mess around with our affiliates, we pay what we owe them!


Anonymous said...

Blue host and Hg atleast pays something.iPage has to pay me more than 2000$ and they says they can't pay it now!!

John Moscow said...

Well, sorry to hear about your problem. I think iPage is a clone of FatCow and I've also written in the article that FatCow are not reliable so it is not surprising you have problems with them...

Edward Chung said...

Thanks for the writeup. I am a bluehost affiliate, these days they cheat by posting a cheaper monthly fee on Adwords than the fee offered by new affiliates. I have many accounts deleted by the signees just a couple of days after signing up as Bluehost offers a 30 days money back guarantee. Every one seeing the Adwords ad will surely delete the account referred by me and sign up for a new account with monthly fee reduced by 25%. It is just totally unfair to affiliates.

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