HostingReviews.io – Webhosting Reviews Without The Affiliate Links

How many times have you found reviews of webhosting companies only to discover they’re filled with affiliate links? The presence of an affiliate link leaves the validity of content in question. HostingReviews.io by Steven Gliebe, hopes to solve this problem by documenting micro reviews without any affiliate links attached.

The Far Above Average Hosts Per Customer Reviews
The Far Above Average Hosts Per Customer Reviews

HostingReviews.io works by documenting what people say about their webhosting provider on social media sites such as Twitter. These micro reviews are stored in a queue that Gliebe and his helpers process. Tweets that clearly express happiness or dissatisfaction are marked as such.

The Technical Details

Gliebe collects tweets matching certain keywords into a database using Twitter’s stream API. There are keywords setup to cover each host as best as possible. For example, Site Ground, SiteGround, and @siteground. This process means there is nothing special people have to do other than mention their host.

It is not really a submissions site where someone can say “I want what I say to be there” which can be abused. Gliebe describes the process being similar to a researcher taking a sample large enough to draw conclusions from. “I want to cover a lot of hosts eventually and that would be expensive to human-process so again that means not everything will be included, but whatever is excluded, will always be done so across the board at random as not to unfairly affect scoring.”

“Some people have asked me to add specific tweets. I decided not to do that because it will skew results (ie. someone submits only good or only bad ones for specific hosts). I’m sticking with the data Twitter themselves automatically roll in 24/7.”

If the user’s statement is in regard to a specific aspect of hosting (support, uptime, etc.), that is noted too. The micro-reviews and the data derived from them are presented on the site. Since users are more likely to Tweet dissatisfaction with their webhost, the overall scores are low. Gliebe notes that comparison is key.

FlyWheel Reviews With Pretty Charts
FlyWheel Reviews With Pretty Charts

The site is relatively new so there isn’t a lot of data to work with but what I’ve seen so far matches what I’ve noticed in my Twitter feed. Flywheel leading the pack doesn’t surprise me as I’m consistently reading tweets raving about their service and support.

In the past few months, there’s been more positive tweets about Pagely than I can remember. So being the number two webhosting company on HostingReviews matches what I’ve seen.

The site is a great resource as long as it keeps its promise of not using affiliate links. While 140 character tweets leave out a lot of context, I still think they have value. If you’re looking for webhosting reviews without an agenda, consider browsing HostingReviews.io.

Would you like to write for WP Tavern? We are always accepting guest posts from the community and are looking for new contributors. Get in touch with us and let's discuss your ideas.

31 Comments


  1. Hosting reviews are a really tough subject to grasp. While most review sites do make money from their reviews, they’re not simply just ranked due to how much money they are making; they are ranked based on which ones they feel are best and which their readers and commenting on.

    That said, I do like this idea but it is a bit flawed.

    First, if nobody is paying anyone, how will the costs for this site be justified? Hosting review sites get a ridiculous amount of traffic and I really can’t see someone paying out of pocket for the expenses as well as taking the time to maintain the site.

    Secondly, while Twitter is a great place to see what people think about something, they are just as likely to tweet if there is 2 seconds of downtime vs a serious issue. Without full scope of the issue, there’s really no way to determine how legitimate the tweet is.

    Like I said, I like the idea, but it does have some flaws that need to be worked out.

    Report


    1. Hey Jeff, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      I wish most hosting review sites ranked hosts based on the ones they and their readers feel best about. That is just not the case, though. This is not to say there aren’t honest ones. I can think of three or four. They use affiliate links so they are easy to question, but I do trust their effort and wish there were more. Affiliate junk sites are a very widespread problem that most people in the hosting industry are aware of. It’s the buyers (in general) that are not and that is what’s troubling.

      I wouldn’t start a project like this if there was no prospect for monetizing it. I have some thoughts on that. One is to advertise complimentary products in a sidebar (web design training, WordPress themes, mailing list services, etc.). My focus right now is traffic and it’s clear to me already that a hosting review site without affiliate links has the potential to generate more traffic than sites that do have them because the trust-factor is raised. Less revenue per visitor but with more visitors is what I’m thinking.

      Every tweet expressing a good or bad experience is worth figuring in. Some experiences will be more crucial than others. That’s okay because it’s true of tweets for all hosts. As long as all hosts are treated equally, the scores should be suitable for comparison. With quantity, the data will paint a picture that can be used as a reasonable guide. It seems to be working already but will be at its best after one year (scoring will only go back that far to keep things fresh).

      There will be things to adjust as we go. Accuracy is what I care about most.

      Report


      1. Believe it or not, affiliates still need to pay attention to the quality of the hosts as cancellations don’t get paid out. Yes, they are making money but they are definitely paying attention to quality as one of the top metrics.

        It see this being exploited. Twitter accounts and mass tweets can definitely be paid for to edge people one way or another. My recommendation would be to put in the work to get specific information out of the user outside of just a single tweet.

        Report


      2. I don’t know, Jeff. You’re the only one I’ve heard try to justify this type of site and coincidentally you work for a web hosting company.

        I’ve always thought hosting companies must like these types of sites since they’re making them money. There are reasons certain affiliate programs are good choices for marketers, even if the host is not great. Fake accounts and mass tweets are a concern but not difficult to spot and not very common. The public can check things out with a project like this but not on the typical affiliate marketer’s website.

        One of your own affiliates explains the problem pretty well in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6SiHak6ERM

        He’s very happy with your service which makes me happy.

        Report


  2. This is definitely a fascinating experiment. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for how hostingreviews.io trots along.

    I do see that there are some potential flaws as Jeff Matson said above, but I expect they can be worked out.

    Report


    1. Thanks Michael. Please send me any thoughts you have about where improvements can be made.

      Report


  3. Sounds like a lot of work. Could this be a job for the Mechanical Turk? Or why not automate it with some type of sentiment analysis? The results they come up with seem pretty close to what I see from sentiment140.com.

    I could see some hosts — who do well in the rankings — wanting to support this, and if they did they still would have no influence on the data which is completely public.

    Report


    1. I can manage it right now but adding more hosts will involve more labor and I do want to add more hosts. Without having looked too much into Mechanical Turk, I think it would be better to have a relationship with the people processing tweets. Another thought (a wild one) is to have visitors process a few tweets while they stop by (have multiple visitors process the same tweets to confirm there is no abuse or mistakes).

      Automated sentiment analysis would be incredible. I gave a couple API’s a test and wasn’t impressed but I want to look into it again after the site is established. I will check out sentiment140.com. My gut says humans will always be best but I would love to be pleasantly surprised.

      There is so much to think about and I appreciate everybody who has been given me feedback.

      Report


    2. Automated sentiment analysis is what we do over at Review Signal. It also has a few years of data on web hosts as well. As Steven said, existing APIs won’t do it. I had to write it from scratch to get sentiment analysis good enough to be worthwhile. That was an incredibly time consuming and difficult task.

      Report


  4. While I applaud the intention behind the project I can’t help but wonder how effective it will be. Human nature is such that people complain much more than give praise where it is due. Just take a look at the premier hosting discussion forum “web hosting talk”. Even extremely reputable hosts find that they get dinged with a negative “review” which is in actuality merely a complaint.

    Experience has taught users that a public outcry will get them faster and probably a more generous response from their host than a private ticket.

    There are quite many hosts which are not that good at advertising or promoting themselves but which outpace the more popular hosts like wpengine, bluehost, digitalocean, etc. by leaps and bounds and what’s more, they do so at a fraction of the cost!

    These “diamonds in the rough” are very difficult to find but I’ve had the best of luck finding them through the WHT forums where they themselves hang out and talk shop amongst themselves. I recently found a superb fully managed vps host at a price you wouldn’t believe.

    Report


    1. I recently found a superb fully managed vps host at a price you wouldn’t believe. Now send me the vps host website:

      Report


      1. LoL, ok, I didn’t want to come across as a fanboy but I am a bit giddy about them so here goes: rosehosting

        they have a special on right now celebrating 13 years in the biz so you the coupon to get the best price

        Report


    2. Thank you, Rob.

      It’s true that customers are more likely to say something negative than positive on Twitter. This doesn’t affect the ability to compare hosts because it’s the ratio of good to bad tweets for a host that generates their score and affects rankings. From the article:

      Since users are more likely to Tweet dissatisfaction with their webhost, the overall scores are low. Gliebe notes that comparison is key.

      I think I will make an FAQ page to answer this and a few others that have been coming up.

      Web Hosting Talk is great. I’ve been using a VPS provider I found there too. It’s been neat to see that their customers on Twitter are generally having the same good experience as I am. I would say they were a diamond in the rough (had not seen them elsewhere) but perhaps not at an unbelievable price (though a really good one considering its managed).

      It’s WiredTree, by the way. Which VPS provider are you speaking of? Starting with about 50 but I keep a list of hosts to add when I have more manpower available. A host currently needs 10 tweets to rank.

      Report


      1. Yes, wiredtree has a fantastic reputation (well deserved). But they were a bit too restrictive for me since they only provide litespeed servers, so if you want to use nginx or apache or your own custom stack you’re out of luck.

        the host I’m referring to is rosehosting, not very well known even after being in the biz for 13 years, even so, I haven’t found a critical peep about them

        Report


  5. I was involved in a conversation over the weekend about HostingReviews.io and what it stands for. They think the site will eventually have some sort of revenue generator added to it. There is a manual labor process going on behind the scenes and you can only do manual labor for so long until the thought of $$$ takes over. There’s a history of WordPress sites going down this road.

    The other aspect of the conversation was about the negativity surrounding affiliates and their reviews. They pointed out how you have an affiliate program for ChurchThemes http://churchthemes.com/affiliate-program/ and the question was, if you thought affiliates were so dishonest, then why bother having a program attached to your theme company.

    This was just a highlight of the conversation but it definitely provided some food for thought.

    Report


    1. Yes, good things to consider. I’m going to have to make an FAQ page.

      My intention is to monetize the site. It has to at the very least support itself. My hope though is that it will do much more than that. I shared some thoughts on this with Jeff Matsen above.

      I haven’t made a blanket statement about all affiliates being dishonest. That’s not my crusade at all. You can tell them to read the About page on HostingReviews.io where I lay the problem out very specifically.

      There’s nothing bad about affiliate programs themselves. The problem is an abundance of affiliates with questionable ethics who setup “review” sites.

      Companies decide what to allow with their affiliate programs and affiliates decide how to conduct themselves. Standards vary from company to company and person to person. The number of hosting review sites with affiliate links that are doing a good job is slim. I do know of a few hard to spot hosting review sites that are providing good information while using affiliate links. This is why I say things like “most” and “very common” instead of “all”.

      The churchthemes.com affiliate program terms are laid out here if the person you talked to is concerned about how I run my business: http://churchthemes.com/affiliate-terms/#requirements. We reject 77% of affiliate applicants. I don’t want our brand associated with sites that deceive people (ie. making up fake discount codes) or that don’t add value (some affiliates will just copy/paste a whole ThemeForest description).

      So I repeat, I am absolutely not universally opposed to affiliate marketing, not even with regard to web hosting. A site like HostingReviews.io could actually exist with the exact same data and affiliate links because the data is all publicly verifiable (which is a problem with other sites). Having affiliate links makes people skeptical, though (thanks to the abundance of low standard affiliates). How do you know the site’s owner is not gaming you? Unless they’re Mother Theresa, there’s probably not much they can do to assure people other than leave out the affiliate links.

      Whoever you spoke with is free to email me if they have questions or suggestions. My email address is on the Contact page.

      Report


  6. A valiant effort perhaps – but looking through the ratings I for one don’t find much correlation with my own experiences… Also, reviews are just one small aspect of choosing the right hosting of course.

    Report


    1. Thanks Brin. It’s an overall picture of what the masses are saying so it’s not likely to match any one person’s experience. That’s where the advantage is. You can ask one person about their experience with hosting and roll the dice to see if you end up just as pleased as them or you can take a look at what many people think and increase your chances of finding a host that works out.

      I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the other aspects of choosing a host. My long term idea is to introduce other information to help people find the best match.

      Report


      1. Jeff – just watching it now: some good tips in there for sure! Nice work! ;)

        Report


      2. Steven – in order of importance: security, reliability, speed, cost and support. In my humble opinion.

        Report


      3. I agree, those are important factors. HostingReviews.io considers four of the five. Security would be hard to track via Twitter. People are always tweeting that their site got hacked and blaming the host when of course it is not clear that it is actually the host’s fault (so I pass over those). Most WordPress sites I’ve seen compromised have been running old versions and you know the kinds of passwords people choose.

        I do see some tweets from people complaining that their host just sent their password via email in clear-text or that they were upset about being asked to provide part of their password over the phone for verification. Sometimes it’s necessary to store server passwords in order to provide support but it gets me wondering about the security practices of some hosts, those providing shared service in particular.

        Report


      4. Really serious security failures at large hosts that affected a lot of people are typically well reported by a wide range of reputable sources, including the host’s own public statements. Keeping some type of historical log of these for each host might work. Maybe a brief what happened and action taken summary.

        Report


      5. That’s a great idea. If things go well, I want to spend time working in information from sources in addition to social media. Thank you, Dan.

        Report


  7. Not trying to kill the idea, but isn’t it more open to be abused to take tweets to rank hosting providers? One hosting provider could “buy” tweets from, say, a thousand different Twitter accounts to raise their ranking, or another one can buy, say, ten thousand tweets to sink their competitors.

    Report


    1. It’s not more open to abuse than a traditional hosting review site in which anybody can submit a review but no reader can look into where it came from. With that model, hosts can submit false reviews and nobody apart from the site owner can check them. On Twitter, people can see the tweet, who made it and even interact with them to see that they are a real person and so on. That’s the main reason I chose social media for this project.

      I haven’t seen any evidence that what you fear is happening but it is something I am aware of as a possibility. I do pass over suspicious and accounts from time to time but I’m not sure hosts are behind them. I would sure love to call out and forever blacklist any host caught being so corrupt in a public forum. It would just be a matter of time before they’re found out. They’d have to be fools to risk their reputation like that. The trend charts would probably be affected in an obvious way.

      Report


  8. They are gonna need to find some kind of money maker method to keep the boat floating. It is a matter of time before they will change it up. I have seen it over and over again. See what happened to Trustpilot. They used to be 100% objective but not anymore

    Report

Comments are closed.