Hosting Affiliate Programs: My Peculiar Experiences with WP Engine & HostGator

Over the past several years I’ve derived some of my income from testing out and recommending web hosting companies that I have ended up liking and using myself. And I’ve tried a ton of hosts: WP Engine, HostGator, A Small Orange, Pair,, Zippy Kid, Bluehost, Dreamhost, Godaddy, Namecheap, etc.

Each one of the above hosts has an affiliate program where if someone signs up through my link, I get paid a comission – often $50, $100, or even $150 per new customer. Since hosting is a necessity for anyone looking to build a site, it’s a pretty good deal. I get a commission, the customer gets a good host, and the host gets a good customer – triple win!

Today I want to talk about my wildly opposite experiences that I’ve had with WP Engine and HostGator in particular.

WP Engine has an affiliate program that pays $150 per referral and is operated through SharaSale.

HostGator has an affiliate program that pays $100 per referral and is operated through an internal program as well as CJ (Commission Junction).

“Hey, WP Engine – Stop Paying Me!”

Before I headed up to Affiliate Summit West in January of this year, I looked at my ShareaSale account and saw that I was receiving crazy commissions from referring new customers. I was making $150 per signup but something about the numbers seemed crazy high, even for how high their payouts are.

I looked into it and saw that due to a glitch in the way bonuses were being tracked, I was being overpaid by over $1,600 that month!

As much as I would have liked to spent that extra 1.6K – and there was a good chance no one would have noticed – that was just unethical. So I emailed the company and told them to look into it. A week later, the “glitch” was corrected and my referrals were being tracked accurately. BTW, I’m pretty sure this was only happening to my account since I had a special setup with them – so no, I don’t think they were bleeding money to affiliates in the month of January ;)

I love WP Engine. They have unmatched uptime, great customer support, and they treat their affiliates very well – sometimes too well. This is in stark contrast to HostGator…

“Hey HostGator – Pay Me!”

During the same time I was also recommending HostGator VPS, especially for users with many sites, non-wordpress sites, or for people who needed cPanel functionality. I was earning $100 for recommending each new customer – not as generous as WP Engine’s – but at $150 a pop, it’s still a good commission.

Then sometime last fall I noticed that a bunch of my HostGator commissions were being cancelled or invalidated. When I logged into my affiliate panel I saw this:

Hostgator Comissions

Troubling? Yes. But especially so since the website at the bottom of that list is actually a site that I helped my friend get started. I asked him to use my link so I could get a commission when he signed up (and I thought it was a good way to test if HostGator is skimming its affiliates). The site is still hosted, he’s still paying for it, but for some reason I never got paid for that referral. Maybe it’s because his theme is broken, but still – they’re getting paid, so why am I not?

That’s when I started to suspect there might be some foul play with how HostGator tracks their referrals. I started Googling to see if I’m the only one who has experienced a problem like this. Here’s a whole list of people who have written about similar experiences (there’s even more if you look):
Apparently it’s a problem.

Some people were recommending switching over to their CJ hosted affiliate program & away from their internal affiliate program. I ended up making the switch to CJ to see if this alleviates the problem.

I’ve hosted sites with HostGator since 2011 and have been very happy with their VPS server and super solid uptime, from a customer’s perspective. But this experience with their affiliate program left such a bad taste in my mouth that I moved all my sites over to A Small Orange VPS instead (they use SSD drives like WP Engine and I’m very happy with their service!)

Then as a “bonus” last month I got a payment from HostGator’s internal affiliate program via Paypal…

$100 HostGator commission
(see how it says 2 comissions, but only $100?)

At this point I just said forget it, I’m not even dealing with this anymore.

Quora Coincidence

Here’s a somewhat strange coincidence that might help explain why HostGator is over-reaching on their security measures and end up screwing a lot of affiliates out of legitimate comissions.

A few weeks ago I was reading a Quora question titled What are the best examples of people “cheating the system”? and here’s an answer I found by one of the responders:

Read Quote of Pranav Reddy’s answer to Gaming the System: What are the best examples of people “cheating the system”? on Quora

So apparently we have people like Pranav Reddy to thank for cheating HostGator out of money, which then trickles down and causes sh*t like this for the rest of us.
(Update: see Pranav’s clarification in the comments below)


So WP Engine overpaid me by thousands of dollars and HostGator has managed to invalidate a bunch of my referrals and underpay me. WP Engine pays $150 per new lead and HostGator pays $100 per new lead when they pay at all.

So yeah – I’ll let you make your own conclusion about that.

Posted 1 year ago on 07 March 2013

About Max Spiker

Max Spiker is the founder of DMAD and has been developing for the web for over 10 years. He is passionate about design, Wordpress, travel, iPhone apps, online marketing, and lifehacking. +Max Spiker is currently into studying rationality and decision making and creating fun online projects. Note: Some links on this site are monetized by affiliate programs - see disclosure for more details.

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