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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, VPS.net, 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)

Conclusion?

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 2 years 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.


10 thoughts on “Hosting Affiliate Programs: My Peculiar Experiences with WP Engine & HostGator

  1. Pranav Reddy says:

    Hey Max, just saw my answer from Quora quoted here. We did that once man. Just the way you asked your friend to use your referral, I used it from my friend. And the extra money he got from that, we shared.
    Yes, I accept we were greedy (I was in my teens back then) and tried it again. But I remember it didn’t work the second time. The tense I used in the answer might have made people think that we have done it a number of times. No man. Seriously, we really didn’t cheat them. And I don’t think we are the reason for HostGator over-reaching on their security measures.
    Cheers! :)

  2. rebeccaw says:

    I always check out this website before buying hosting – www. url-store. com – My personal favourite is godaddy because they're the simplest and usually the cheapest for new hosting packages.

  3. Shawn Smith says:

    I love Host Gator as a hosting provider…great support, up time, etc. But I hate their affiliate program.

    You must constantly monitor your sales to make sure they pay you your commissions. Affiliate support is a dismal experience as well.

    I’ll be switching to WP Engine soon and I actually didn’t know they had an affiliate program. Cool!! Maybe they’ll actually pay me.

    Hey, a bit of an off-topic question…Since you’re hosting with WP Engine, do you employ any other security plugins/services or just let them take care of it?

    Thanks

    • Max Spiker says:

      Yeah, WP Engine has always paid me – never had problems with them.

      To answer your question: For sites on WP Engine – I just let them take care of security. For sites not hosted there, I run Sucuri.net. I also do some basic stuff on all my WP installs – make sure there’s no “admin” username, use secure passwords, install the limit login attempts plugin, keep everything updated.

      If you’re interested in a good read on WordPress security, check out Locking Down WordPress

  4. Steve says:

    Hey Max, thanks for the review on hosts, and your insights, helped me a lot…I will be
    bookmarking this site for sure… :-)

  5. Isaac says:

    Max, I found your website while googling ‘Affiliate Income for HostGator’ through images because I wanted to be inspired by individuals like yourself who have made affiliate income with hosting plans. I recently started my own blog, allwordpresshosting.com and have a few reviews written for me. I am just starting in the game, and was wondering if there are any tips you can give me by looking over my site quickly.

    Instead of going out for drinks tonight, I’ve been working hard on my site and trying to improve it best I can. Instead of writing more reviews for now, I was going to have more content written on guides such as ‘how to install wordpress’ so I can attract links — would that be a smart move or should I just focus on generating more reviews?

    Any input would be appreciated. I’ll bookmark your page now for when you respond.

    • Max Spiker says:

      You have the same challenge we all have – creating enough unique compelling content to draw in visitors, links, (and consequently affiliate sales). It’s difficult to stand out in a sea of others doing the same thing – just gotta get creative & think about what types of articles other bloggers would be willing to link to – and for that I think these days you have to create extraordinarily useful content – maybe extensive speed tests or other more in-depth content.

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