I have always wondered what motivates web hosting companies to offer big affiliate commissions. And I have never found a good answer. The most probable explanation I have been able to think of is that hosting services actually do not pay for every sale an affiliate refers. Instead they just pay a commission for, e.g., one out of three or one out of five sales. In the course of time it has appeared that my thoughts have been right. Most of the hosting companies (if not all of them) avoid paying for each customer their affiliates refer. The differences between the various providers are mainly in the way each web hosting affiliate program accomplishes this "goal".
I am going to write about my experience with three of the most popular web hosting providers among affiliate marketers. Advertising high commissions have enabled these hosting companies to offer some of the best affiliate programs in the eyes of the publishers. What my experiment shows though is you should not trust these companies. And since you cannot trust them in regard to their affiliate programs I am not sure they can be trusted in respect to their hosting services either. Note that all of the described events below have happened through Commission Junction's affiliate network but I do believe CJ is not involved in the "cheating".
I have already used a dozen or two of affiliate programs and I have never had any major problem with any of them except for the hosting companies. I try to test somehow each program before investing much time or money in it. I usually do this with just a small exposure first without putting too many resources into it. Sometimes if there is a friend of mine wanting to purchase a service or a product I decide also to recommend him something through an affiliate program if I think there is a suitable offer in that moment. And I actually explain this to my friends so they are aware I would get a commission. So it happened I was able to test three hosting companies this way. They were HostGator, BlueHost and FatCow and unfortunate for them I was aware they owed me particular commissions.
FatCow affiliate program
I have already written about the case with FatCow's affiliate program here so I won't go deep into details. FatCow.com offers a relatively cheap web hosting and good affiliate commissions. In periods of promotions the commissions are so high and hosting prices so low that FatCow are actually going to need three or even more years in order to get the money they've paid for a commission back. There is not any guarantee a client will stay with them for years so practically FatCow can lose a lot of money if they pay correctly for every commission. So after losing 4 of my 5 commissions with them (as explained in the referred article), here is my opinion about their affiliate game.
When you make a sale for them, FatCow list it under your CJ's reports. Later they cancel it. Thus you do not get the commission paid but FatCow probably list the sale initially with the idea to become a 5 green bar advertiser. There is an indicator on Commission Junction based on the volume of commissions paid by each advertiser. By listing sales they actually cancel later, I suppose FatCow aim at higher ranking in regard of this indicator. I could be wrong but what is their real purpose does not have such big importance anyway. So to recapitulate, FatCow's approach of not paying your deserved commissions is the following. They initially list a sale you've made in your CJ reports and later cancel it. In my case this happened 4 out of 5 times and you can find more details by visiting the link mentioned earlier.
The above happened a couple of years ago. I tried another web hosting affiliate program after that and I had some mixed experience with it so I stopped promoting any hosting companies. Since I do not have any particular evidence that company has been doing something improper I won't include it in this review.
The second part of the article recounts my experience with BlueHost and HostGator affiliate programs.