If you’re in the market for a new web host then you’ve no doubt noticed the many review-based websites all over the web quick to tell you which web hosts are better than others and which web host to choose over others.
Chances are, if you choose the name of any web host at random – and then a second web host name at a random – and then put them together with “vs” in between the names and Google the phrase – such as “iPage vs HostGator” – you will MOST likely find at least one review website or blog out there comparing both web hosts’ features, if not multiple.
So, what’s the deal? Shouldn’t picking a web host be easy? No, no it’s really not.
Lesson #1 : Do NOT Believe the Hype Created by Web Host “Review” Sites – They are Mostly Garbage!
Most web hosting review sites are just affiliate/referral marketing sites out to make a buck. The hosts they recommend are just the ones that pay them the most for sending customers to their site.
If awesome-web-host-#1 only pays a 10% commission of $80, and shitty-web-host-#2 pays a 40% commission of $40 – who do you think review websites are going to recommend you go with?? The one that makes them the most money!
Think about it.. Web host review sites generally have at least four main categories that they judges service providers on: Price, Features, Stability, and Support.
So.. theoretically, shouldn’t they have the four web hosts leading those categories being recommended to readers? Perhaps even eight web hosts, at most, if they recommend the top two web hosts per category.
This is not the case. Whether the ratings on the Web Host review sites are just “Editor’s Ratings” or cumulative “User Ratings”, they are almost always bogus, always the same, and EVERY web host listed will have cloaked links and probably some banners to send you to the web host’s site to spend money – even if they suck!
Lesson #2: Learn How to Spot a Web Host Affiliate or Referral Link that Someone Earns Profit Through
As mentioned before, a “referral link” or “affiliate link” is a type of hyperlink that is tracked by a business in order to pay affiliates for their referrals to the business website that end up converting into sales.
They generally looks something like this: https://www.earthvpn.com/billing/aff.php?aff=088 (My EarthVPN affiliate link – I make a buck or two a month per person that signs up using that link.)
If I was just sending you to Earth VPN’s homepage, it would be http://www.earthvpn.com right? So spotting affiliate links is easy, it even has “aff.php?aff=088” in the url which is obviously an abbreviation for affiliate. Wrong.
How about this: http://hidemyass.com/vpn/r13661:1/ (My HideMyAss VPN referral link which also earns me a buck or two per referral.)
The above link looks pretty innocent, right? Almost like I’m sending you to a specific page for a certain VPN. Nope – affiliate link.
What about this one: http://www.hulu.com/r/qE2WSw (My Hulu Plus referral link, it gets me 2 free weeks of of Hulu Plus when other people sign-up for Hulu Plus using it!)
That one looks pretty innocent. Nope – affiliate link.
Some times you don’t have a full link url but instead just a word turned into a link. What then?
Always check the status bar in your browser to see where a link really leads
People will also cloak affiliate/referral links as internal links leading to another place on their site, such as this link: http://www.jsnowcreations.com/urls/EarthVPN
The above link is a 301 auto-redirect. Without being technically savvy, the best way to check the end location of any suspicious link like the one above is by running it through redirect-check such as the one found here.
You can see in the image above that my http://www.jsnowcreations.com/urls/EarthVPN link is actually a double 301 redirect since my link redirects to the affiliate link, and the affiliate link redirects to EarthVPN’s homepage!
Lesson #3: See Through the Marketing Gimmicks Web Hosts Use to Lure in Potential Customers
Does your computer have a magic hard-drive in it with unlimited space? Does your ISP give you an unlimited amount of bandwidth without limits or caps? Probably not.. So why would a web host offer all of those things?
They don’t. I mean, sure they might say they do.. but only if you pay more than what you initially started out paying.
Web-Hosts run on servers, which are commercial computers with all the same guts of a computer minus sound and video cards. They DO have limits. However, most basic websites won’t push the limits of a basic web host so they say things like this:
- Unlimited Storage
- Unlimited Bandwidth
- Unlimited Databases
- Unlimited Database Size
Sure, those things are unlimited.. but don’t expect to get them for free! When your website(s) hit the web hosts unlisted limits, you will get an email regarding a need to upgrade and your sites might even be disabled until you do unless you get back below the limits.
Some other marketing gimmicks Web Hosts say to lure customers in:
- WordPress Hosting
- SEO Hosting
- Cloud Hosting
There is no such thing as “WordPress Hosting”, in order to host WordPress you just need PHP and SQL/MySQL which almost every host would normally have these days any way. “SEO Hosting” doesn’t exist because SEO refers to how you write the content of your site and what words you use, it is an action or technique, it has nothing to do with hosting other than being on the web. “Cloud Hosting” is an actual thing, but it’s not very useful to the average web host service user – it’s mainly a way of keeping your website safe from data loss by having it distributed over multiple remote servers – and many web hosts don’t offer a true cloud-hosting option and what they call cloud-hosting is just regular hosting with backups/snapshots stored on remote servers.
Another example of a tactic almost all web hosts employ is the “Free Domain with Hosting” gimmick. Sure, you get a free domain free for a year but then must renew it at a cost of $20 to $30 a year after that. You can generally skip the free domain during purchase and use a domain you already bought through domain registrar for around $5 to $15 per year. Plus, when your web host provides your free domain for a year, you don’t truly own it nor do you get full control of it!
Lesson #4: Read Where the Actual Customers and Webmasters Post about their Web Hosts
If you want to know what actual webmasters and website owners have to say about their hosting – go to where they go to bitch, give praise, and get help when their site is screwed up.
For example, pretend you are considering hosting at iPage. According to all the web host review sites, iPage is the BEST performance for the money out there. However, after just 20 minutes of browsing forums you will no doubt read the name “Endurance International Group” (EIG) and learn how they own iPage, BlueHost, and a slew of other web hosts to avoid due to bad services and support!
Here, I’ll lay it out for you:
- Web Development/Design/Hosting Forums*
- Forums of the Web Hosts
- Social Media/Network Presence of the Web Hosts
*Remember, always keep Lesson #2 from earlier in this article when perusing these forums!
Web Development, Design, and Hosting Forums:
See what hosts people are honestly recommending in the below forums, then check out the hosting sites to see if they have a package that will suit your needs.
Digital Point Forum – Web Hosting
Sitepoint Forum – Hosting
V7N forum – Web Hosting
Web Cosmo forum – Web Hosting
Web Hosting Talk Forum – Web Hosting
Forums of Web Hosts:
Once you found a few hosts to check out in the forums above, check out the host’s own forum to see how they treat customers and potential clients on their home turf. Also, having a forum for communication is a good sign coming from any web host, too!
Social Media and Network Presence of Web Hosts:
Next, after checking out all those forums, go to the actual social network/media profiles of web hosts and see what people are saying! Seeing a bunch of nothing might be better than seeing nothing but pissed of customers, right? Haha
Facebook Profiles of Web Hosts:
MDD Hosting Facebook
Hawk Host Facebook
Twitter Search for People Talking To/About the Web Hosts:
#StableHost – @StableHost
#CrocWeb – @CrocWeb
#MDDHosting – @MDDHosting
#HawkHost – @HawkHost
#Site5 – @Site5
#SiteGround – @SiteGround
After getting a handful of good web hosts honestly suggested from forums, weighing the features on their websites, checking their forums, and seeing their social media presence as well as interactions with customers – the choice for your next web host should be getting more clear!
Bonus! These might help you avoid some Endurance International Group hosts right from the start:
Lesson #5: Remember, These are Lessons – NOT Rules. A Little Good-Judgment Goes a Long Way!
Sure, you will run across a blog or website reviewing web hosts honestly but still using affiliate/referral links, and they might even be cloaked! You should at least be able to see through the “smoke and mirrors” and decipher what is legitimate and what is actually garbage being marketed.
There’s going to be some reputable web hosts out there offering good services that happen to have a landing page on their site dedicated to “WordPress Hosting” – more than likely it’s just there for SEO purposes in order to compete in the SERPs against shittier hosts doing the same thing. Can you blame them?
Use your best judgment, and if something seems too good to be true then it probably is!
And if after all this reading, you still want someone else to tell you what to buy..
I needed a new host recently and did a ton of research for a good shared-hosting solution that also had room to upgrade later if I needed it. Check out ANY of the hosts I LINKED to earlier in examples, they are all Non-EIG web hosts with strong support, good prices, and up-time over 99.9%. If you are wondering – StableHost is who I went with and I have been pleased thus far. 🙂
Want to help me earn some money as thanks for me keeping it real with you? Use one of MY referral links!
I hope this article has helped shed some light on how things work in the web hosting world..
Leave a comment below if you have any questions or input. If you currently have a web host, let the rest of us know how happy you are with their services!