Author Archives: Kevin Ohashi

avatar

About Kevin Ohashi

Kevin Ohashi is the geek-in-charge at Review Signal. He is passionate about making data meaningful for consumers. Kevin is based in Washington, DC.

Uncovering the Rose Hosting Spam Network on Quora

Welcome back to Dirty, Slimy, Shady Secrets of the Web Hosting Review (Under) World - Episode 3! Read Episode 1 | Episode 2

Today's post features Rose Hosting. Who I refuse to link to because their whole business model seems to involve comment spamming this blog and other sources of information. What started with a simple spam comment sent me down a rabbit hole I wasn't prepared for and shed light on a fairly large spam operation that spanned multiple sites, but my primary focus became Quora with a secondary focus on the web hosting review sites also being manipulated.

Visualization of Rose Hosting Quora Spam Network. An interactive version is available at the end of the article.

The Beginning

It started with a simple spam comment.

fakereview1

The poster tries to compliment the post and then drops in a RoseHosting mention and praises it.

But wait, there's an IP address! Looks like they made a mistake this time.

oscarstanley-arin-ip

So Miami Cloud Hosting is who owns the IP space that this comment came from. Let's see what comes up when I ping rosehosting.com

rosehosting-ip-ping

If you go to that IP, rosehosting.com shows up. So it's correct. Also if you look at their DNS:

rosehosting-dns

So we're 12 IPs away on that A record. Let's check out that IP that actually responded on ARIN.

rosehosting-arin-ip

Bingo. Same Miami Cloud Hosting.

So fakeish looking name, an email with zero google search results and coming from the same IP space on a the cloud hosting provider that hosts RoseHosting. Pretty damning, but unsurprising to see some astroturfing, many of the bigger players just rely on affiliates to do it for them and look the other way.

But I'm not one to accept shitty behavior in this business and just look the other way.

Digging Deeper

Let's see how many more I can dig up. I recognize the Rose Hosting name and know they've spammed me in the past.

jean-debushy-comment mike-hidemyass-comment pablo-comment

mateo-comment

 

The pattern seems to be emails with nothing associated with them on google. There is a protected twitter account with the same username as Pablo, but that's about it.

Mike uses HideMyAss, a VPN service designed to hide identities. VPNs/anonymity have a lot of value, they also happen to be abused by spammers a lot. This pattern looks nefarious.

Jean's comment follows the original Oscar comment's template: compliment, rose host spam, compliment.

They all added in HTML with the rel="nofollow" because they probably realized Google can easily see comment spam and cracked down on it. Putting a nofollow link is supposed to preserve your SEO value by not associating it as a spam link (because it's telling Google not to follow it). Why are these supposed customers adding SEO tactics to their comments and trying to hide their identities?

The Boss Man

I also got this email from Bob, who I assume is the owner based on what's listed publicly and the interviews he's done on at least one other review site which I don't trust a bit, and won't link to either.

But it's all class, I want to get listed and pay a lot.

generous-affiliate-program-rosehosting

So at best they are a 'subtle' please promote me for money kind of web hosting company (which almost every host will do). At worst, they are comment spamming and potentially astroturfing/sockpuppeting web host.

Searching For More

I searched WebHostingTalk, the largest web hosting forum that has run forever and has over 9 million posts.

rosehosting-wht

Just about everyone is talked about here. They have a company account that constantly posts ads. But how is it that in 14 years there are only 2 reviews and most of the threads are asking 'who?' Yet somehow, my blog is getting hordes of accounts recommending them. Another red flag.

Did they learn their lesson on WHT when an account got questioned about sounding like a shill? So the largest forum with 9,000,000 posts has basically nothing about them.

I kept searching and stumbled upon this gem on Twitter

twitter-brandonhimpfen-rosehosting-comment-spam

twitter-brandonhimpfen-rosehosting-discussion

I sense a pattern. Those crazy customers of ours who link to git and tomcat installation tutorials. Carl had a bit of a spamming spree according to Google.

Let's keep digging.

Sockpuppets and Patterns

jeandebushy-reddit-comments

Looks like I found Jean Debushy!

jean-debushy-serchen-review

And again.

jean-debushy-itzgeek-comment-spam

And again. Deep linking their ubuntu VPS on an ubuntu tutorial too, nice SEO tactic.

jean-debushy-quora

It's not a good spam campaign without hitting Quora!

So this name exists solely to promote RoseHosting and it all seemed to happen in October 2015. That's suspicious to say the least.

At this point it became clear that the sockpuppeting is more organized than I originally thought.

Organized Sockpuppets

I started to search the other names I had been spammed from and easily found more bad behavior.

oscar-stanley-disqus

oscar-stanley-discovercloud

Oscar is alive and well it seems on Disqus. and DiscoverCloud.

The Smoking Gun

Quora was the gold mine for uncovering this spam network. Once I found a couple accounts on Quora, I could go through their history and see who upvoted their posts. It would be practical if you were running a spam network to have many accounts upvoting one another to give yourself more visibility. More upvotes, more traffic, easier for me to track it all down.

I discovered 51 accounts connected to RoseHosting and mapped out how they connected to one another. I took those same names and searched for their re-use across other sites. 10 showed up on Serchen, 3 on HostReview, 6 on DiscoverCloud, 6 on HostAdvice, 3 on TrustPilot, 1 on Reviews.co.uk - all industry review sites being manipulated by these same spam accounts. I also discovered 11 more accounts connected to various review sites and comment spam.

Rose Hosting Quora Spam Network

This graph charts the connections (upvotes) of RoseHosting associated Quora accounts. If you hover over a name it links to the Quora details and any other related content spamming like review sites.

Aftermath

I tried for months to reach out to Quora and have never heard a word from them. I did notice when I last checked (March 28, 2017) that at least some of the accounts have been banned. Maybe someone actually read my email and just didn't have the time to respond.

I have reached out to the web hosting review sites and will updateas I hear back from them. The only company that did respond and acknowledged the issue was HostAdvice (not to be confused with HostingAdvice which steals Review Signal content to mislead its visitors).

Sources

Full Data Table Available on Google Docs

 

Bonus

Thanks RoseHosting for having the decency to make sure you spammed this article as well. I am guessing your spammers don't understand irony. Or possibly the English language.

A new comment on the post "Uncovering the Rose Hosting Spam Network on Quora" is waiting for your approval
http://reviewsignal.com/blog/2017/03/31/uncovering-the-rose-hosting-spam-network-on-quora/

Author: Merritt George (IP: 75.86.176.9, cpe-75-86-176-9.wi.res.rr.com)
Email: merritt.george@gmail.com
URL:
Comment:
That's a great article! There sure are interesting parts of web hosting that people don't know about.

So hey I wanted to know if you do reviews on new sites? I was looking around and noticed that my current webhost, <a href="https://www.rosehosting.com/" rel="nofollow">Rose Hosting</a> wasn't listed and that's a shame! In a sea of companies with no scruples, they've stood out to me as a solid company that doesn't resort to shady tactics, delivers quality support, and has great uptime.

Would love to see a benchmark!

 

Bonus: Fake Review Screenshots

carl-williams-serchen-review

 

donald-wilson-discovercloud

 

akila-hostadvice

wesley-hermans-host-advice

emre-hakan-review-discovercloud

pete-williams-serchen

gary-coleman-hostreview

jean-debushy-hostreview

 

dirk-vlaar-serchen

 

Endurance International Group 2016 Financials

Endurance International Group (NASDAQ: EIGI) published their 10-K on February 24, 2017.

As one of the biggest players in the space, I like to look through and see what's going on with them.

2016's biggest news for EIG was the acquisition of Constant Contact for 1.1 billion dollars. Their financials have been broken apart now between Web Presence (hosting, domains, etc) and Email (Constant Contact).

It was reinforced early that BlueHost and HostGator are their primary brands and they plan on pushing them with more brand advertising (tv, podcasts, etc). I wonder if we will see a BlueHost superbowl ad to compete with GoDaddy?

In 2015, our total subscriber base increased. In 2016, excluding the effect of acquisitions and adjustments, our total subscriber base was essentially flat, and in our web presence segment, ARPS decreased from $14.18 for 2015 to $13.65 for 2016. We expect that our total subscriber base will decrease in 2017. The factors contributing to our lack of growth in total subscribers and decrease in web presence segment ARPS during 2016 and our expected decrease in total subscribers during 2017 are discussed in “Item 7 -  Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations ”. If we are not successful in addressing these factors, including by improving subscriber satisfaction and retention, we may not be able to return to or maintain positive subscriber or revenue growth in the future, which could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial results.

Year Ended December 31,
2014
2015
2016
Consolidated metrics:
Total subscribers
4,087
4,669
5,371
Average subscribers
3,753
4,358
5,283
Average revenue per subscriber
$
13.98
$
14.18
$
17.53
Adjusted EBITDA
$
171,447
$
219,249
$
288,396
Web presence segment metrics:
Total subscribers
4,827
Average subscribers
4,789
Average revenue per subscriber
$
13.65
Adjusted EBITDA
$
172,135
Email marketing segment metrics:
Total subscribers
544
Average subscribers
494
Average revenue per subscriber
$
55.11
Adjusted EBITDA
$
116,26

 

Overall, it's probably not a good sign to see Average Revenue Per Subscriber going down on their hosting segment which was the core of the business. The Email segment is hiding/offsetting that a lot.

HostGator, iPage, Bluehost, and our site builder brand) showed positive net subscriber adds in the aggregate during 2016, but these positive net adds were outweighed by the negative impact of subscriber losses in non-strategic hosting brands, our cloud storage and backup solution, and discontinued gateway products such as our VPN product. We expect total subscribers to decrease overall and in our web presence segment during 2017, due primarily to the impact of subscriber churn in these non-strategic and discontinued brands. We expect total subscribers to remain flat to slightly down in our email marketing segment.

The future doesn't look good based on these statements. Decreasing ARPS and decreasing subscriber base seem like a recipe for decline. They don't seem to even expect growth in the email marketing segment. I'm really having a hard time seeing any positive outlook on this.

In 2017, we are focused on improving our product, customer support and user experience within our web presence segment in order to improve our levels of customer satisfaction and retention. If this initiative is not successful, and if we are unable to provide subscribers with quality service, this may result in subscriber dissatisfaction, billing disputes and litigation, higher subscriber churn, lower than expected renewal rates and impairments to our efforts to sell additional products and services to our subscribers, and we could face damage to our reputation, claims of loss, negative publicity or social media attention, decreased overall demand for our solutions and loss of revenue, any of which could have a negative effect on our business, financial condition and operating results.
Our planned transfer of our Bluehost customer support operations to our Tempe, Arizona customer support facility presents a risk to our customer satisfaction and retention efforts in 2017. Although we believe that the move to Tempe will ultimately result in better customer support, the transition may have the opposite effect in the short term. We expect that the transition will take place in stages through the fourth quarter of 2017, and until the transition is complete, we may continue to handle some support calls from our current Orem, Utah customer support center. The morale of our customer support agents in Orem may be low due to the pending closure of the Orem office, and agents may decide to leave for other opportunities sooner than their scheduled departure dates. Either or both of these factors could result in a negative impact on Bluehost customer support, which could lead to subscriber cancellations and harm to our reputation, and generally impede our efforts to improve customer satisfaction and retention in the short term. In addition, we are consolidating our Austin, Texas support operation into our Houston, Texas support center, which could also negatively impact customer support provided from those locations during the transition period.

The story about BlueHost getting rid of hundreds of jobs in Orem was widely talked about. It also came up that A Small Orange was getting some of the same treatment. That would be in line with getting rid of Austin where ASO was based. It's interesting to see EIG selling this as a 'long term' move, unless it's entirely a financial one to reduce costs. I've yet to track a single EIG brand substantially increase its rating, but it has destroyed plenty of them (The Rise and Fall of A Small Orange or The Sinking of Site5). These companies they acquired often had much better ratings and knew how to provide customer support.

I did find one interesting bit in the contract with Tregaron India Holdings (Operating as GLOWTOUCH or Daya), the line item for "New hire and ongoing training for all support positions." It makes it sound like this third party company is responsible for training all EIG support staff, along with many other things like migrations. Which have been absolutely disastrous and how Arvixe ended up as one of Review Signal's lowest rated brands which was done by this group.

But who are Tregaron?

The Company has contracts with Tregaron India Holdings, LLC and its affiliates, including Diya Systems (Mangalore) Private Limited, Glowtouch Technologies Pvt. Ltd. and Touchweb Designs, LLC, (collectively, “Tregaron”), for outsourced services, including email- and chat-based customer and technical support, network monitoring, engineering and development support, web design and web building services, and an office space lease. These entities are owned directly or indirectly by family members of the Company’s chief executive officer, who is also a director and stockholder of the Company.

In 2016 EIG spent $14,300,000 with Tregaron. And it wasn't the only business connected to the CEO.

The Company also has agreements with Innovative Business Services, LLC (“IBS”), which provides multi-layered third-party security applications that are sold by the Company. IBS is indirectly majority owned by the Company’s chief executive officer and a director of the Company, each of whom are also stockholders of the Company. During the year ended December 31, 2014, the Company’s principal agreement with this entity was amended which resulted in the accounting treatment of expenses being recorded against revenue.

Another $5,100,000 for this particular company.

So how bad were those migrations?

A key purpose of many of our smaller acquisitions, typically acquisitions of small hosting companies, has been to achieve subscriber growth, cost synergies and economies of scale by migrating customers of these companies to our platform. However, for several of our most recent acquisitions of this type, migrations to our platform have taken longer and been more disruptive to subscribers than we anticipated. If we are unable to improve upon our recent migration efforts and continue to experience unanticipated delays and subscriber disruption from migrations, we may not be able to achieve the expected benefits from these types of acquisitions.

Understatement at its finest.

Overall, things look pretty glum at EIG, which was trading at over $9 on the day this came out and is now under $8/share.

I generally try to keep my opinions fairly limited, but some things need to be called out for the good of consumers. EIG has acquired a lot of talented people and managed to squander them repeatedly. I'm not sure why the company seems to be toxic towards retaining good talent. When EIG are writing statements about trying to improve customer service and have acquired some of the highest rated brands (A Small Orange) Review Signal tracks, and then dismantles them it creates a cognitive dissonance.

Perhaps EIG needs to get rid of the top management. The incestuous relationships between the contracted companies and the CEO are create some questionable incentives. Combined with the objectively poor results from those companies on things like migrations, it seems inexcusable. I'm not optimistic about anything EIG are doing and feel bad for some of the exceptional people I know that still work there.

goodbye hostingreviews

Goodbye HostingReviews.io, I Will Miss You

It's strange writing a positive article about a competitor. This industry is so full of shit, that it feels weird to be writing this. But if we don't recognize the good as well as the bad, what's the point?

In order to bring you more accurate web hosting reviews, HostingReviews.io is now merged with HostingFacts.com and soon to be redirected to HostingFacts.com
-HostingReviews.io popup notice

HostingReviews.io was a project created by Steven Gliebe. It was basically a manually done version of Review Signal. He went through by hand categorizing tweets and displaying data about hosting company. Besides the automated vs manual approach, the only other big difference was he didn't use affiliate links. It was bought out by HostingFacts.com last year sometime and left alone.

I'm truly saddened because it's disappearing at some point 'soon.' The only real competitor whose data I trusted to compare myself against. So I thought I would take the opportunity to write about my favorite competitor.

I am consciously not linking to either in this article because HostingFacts.com, who purchased HostingReviews.io, has HostGator listed as their #1 host in 2017 who are rated terribly by both Review Signal (42%) and HostingReviews.io (9%). So whatever their methodology purports to be, it's so drastically out of line with the data Steven and I have meticulously collected for years that I don't trust it one bit. Not to mention their misleading and bizarre rankings showing BlueHost #4 and in the footer recommending A Small Orange as the #4 rated company. In their actual review, they recommend A Small Orange, I guess they missed The Rise and Fall of A Small Orange and the fact that HostingReviews.io (March 2017) has ASO at 27%.

It would be easy to be upset that someone copied the same idea, but the reality is, it's quite helpful. Steven is a completely different person, with different interests, values and techniques. He also didn't put any affiliate links which many people believe are inherently corrupt. But our results for the most part, were very much the same. So the whole idea that affiliate links corrupts Review Signal rankings, I could pretty confidently throw out the door.

I just want to clarify that I had actually built most of the site before seeing Review Signal. I probably wouldn't have started if I knew about yours first. We came up with the same idea independently. They are similar but nothing was copied. I was a bit disappointed to find out that I wasn't first but later happy, after chatting with you and seeing that we were kind of the Two Musketeers of web hosting reviews.

- Steven Gliebe

I decided to actually look at how close we really were using old archive.org data from Jan 2015 when his site was still being actively updated a lot.

Comparing HostingReviews.io vs Review Signal Ratings (Jan 2015). I've only included companies that both sites covered for comparison's sake.

Company HR Rating Review Signal Rating Rating Difference HR Rank RS Rank Rank Difference
Flywheel 97 93 -4 1 1 0
Pagely 81 56 -25 2 18 -16
SiteGround 79 74 -5 3 4 -1
WiredTree 75 67 -8 4 12 -8
A Small Orange 74 77 3 5 2 3
Linode 72 74 2 6 5 1
WP Engine 72 74 2 7 6 1
LiquidWeb 70 70 0 8 8 0
DigitalOcean 66 75 9 9 3 6
MidPhase 61 59 -2 10 16 -6
HostDime 60 60 0 11 14 -3
Servint 59 60 1 12 15 -3
Amazon Web Services 55 67 12 13 13 0
SoftLayer 50 70 20 14 9 5
DreamHost 49 55 6 15 19 -4
Synthesis 47 74 27 16 7 9
Microsoft Azure 43 70 27 17 10 7
InMotion Hosting 43 52 9 18 20 -2
WestHost 43 51 8 19 21 -2
Rackspace 40 69 29 20 11 9
Media Temple 35 58 23 21 17 4
GoDaddy 30 45 15 22 25 -3
HostMonster 25 42 17 23 29 -6
Bluehost 22 46 24 24 24 0
Just Host 22 39 17 25 30 -5
Netfirms 21 44 23 26 26 0
Hostway 18 44 26 27 27 0
iPage 16 44 28 28 28 0
HostGator 13 49 36 29 22 7
Lunarpages 11 49 38 30 23 7
Mochahost 10 20 10 31 34 -3
1&1 6 36 30 32 32 0
Verio 5 35 30 33 33 0
IX Web Hosting 0 38 38 34 31 3

The biggest difference is Pagely. I'm not sure why we're so different, but it could be a few factors: small sample size (HR had 42 reviews vs RS having 291), time frame (Review Signal has been collecting data on companies as early as 2011) or perhaps categorization methodology.

To calculate the actual ratings, we both used the same simple formula of % positive reviews (Review Signal has since changed it's methodology to decrease the value of older views). There is a lot greater difference there than between ranking order. This could also be a sampling or categorization issue, but the rankings actually were a lot closer than rating numbers especially at the bottom. The biggest differences were about Pagely, WiredTree, WebSynthesis, Azure, RackSpace, HostGator, and LunarPages. Review Signal had most of those companies higher than HostingReviews with the exceptions of Pagely and WiredTree. WiredTree the actual % difference isn't that high, it looks more distorted because of how many companies were ranked in that neighborhood. Pagely still remains the only concerning discrepancy, some of which could be corrected by using a different rating algorithm to compensate for small sample sizes (Wilson Confidence Interval). If you use a Wilson Confidence Interval with 95% confidence, Pagely would have 67% which makes the difference only 11%. Something still is off, but I'm not sure what. Towards the bottom, HostingReviews had companies with a lot lower ratings in general. I'm not sure why that is, but I'm not sure that it concerns me that greatly if a company is at 20 or 40%, that's pretty terrible through any lens.

The Wilson Confidence Interval is something I'm a big fan of, but the trouble is explaining it. It's not exactly intuitive and most users won't understand. To get around that problem here at Review Signal, I don't list companies with small sample sizes. I think it's unfair to small companies because those companies will always have lower scores using a Wilson Confidence Interval.

I always thought if you were going to list low data companies, you would have to use it for the ratings to be meaningful. So I went ahead and applied it to HostingReviews since they list low data companies.

Company HR Rating HR Wilson Score RS Rating Wilson HR Rank RS Rank Rank Difference
Flywheel 97 0.903664487437776 93 1 1 0
SiteGround 79 0.725707872732548 74 2 4 -2
Linode 72 0.667820465467272 74 3 5 -2
Pagely 81 0.667522785017387 56 4 18 -14
A Small Orange 74 0.665222315806623 77 5 2 3
WP Engine 72 0.664495409977001 74 6 6 0
DigitalOcean 66 0.632643582791056 75 7 3 4
WiredTree 75 0.62426879138105 67 8 12 -4
LiquidWeb 70 0.591607758450507 70 9 8 1
Amazon Web Services 55 0.50771491300961 67 10 13 -3
DreamHost 49 0.440663157139283 55 11 19 -8
Servint 59 0.410929374988646 60 12 14 -2
SoftLayer 50 0.387468960047243 70 13 9 4
MidPhase 61 0.3851843256587 59 14 16 -2
Microsoft Azure 43 0.379726217475451 70 15 10 5
HostDime 60 0.357464427565077 60 16 15 1
Rackspace 40 0.356282970938665 69 17 11 6
Synthesis 47 0.317886056933924 74 18 7 11
Media Temple 35 0.305726756042135 58 19 17 2
GoDaddy 30 0.277380620794128 45 20 25 -5
InMotion Hosting 43 0.252456868216651 52 21 20 1
WestHost 43 0.214851925523797 51 22 21 1
Bluehost 22 0.193489653693868 46 23 24 -1
Just Host 22 0.130232286167726 39 24 30 -6
HostGator 13 0.110124578122674 49 25 22 3
iPage 16 0.106548464670946 44 26 26 0
Netfirms 21 0.1063667334132 44 27 27 0
Hostway 18 0.085839112937093 44 28 28 0
Lunarpages 11 0.056357713906061 49 29 23 6
HostMonster 25 0.045586062644636 42 30 29 1
1&1 6 0.042907593743725 36 31 32 -1
Mochahost 10 0.017875749515721 20 32 34 -2
Verio 5 0.008564782830854 35 33 33 0
IX Web Hosting 0 0 38 34 31 3

This actually made the ranked order between companies even closer between Review Signal and HostingReviews. Pagely and WebSynthesis are still the two major outliers which suggests we have a more fundamental problem between the two sites and how we've measured those companies. But overall, the ranks got closer together, the original being off by a total of 124 (sum of how far off each rank was from one another) and Wilson rank being 104 which is 16% closer together. A win for the Wilson Confidence Interval and sample sizing issues!

Bonus: HostingReviews with Wilson Confidence Interval vs Original Rating/Ranking

Company Rating Reviews Wilson Score Rating Difference Rank Wilson Rank Difference
Flywheel 97 76 0.903664487437776 7 2 1 1
Kinsta 100 13 0.771898156944708 23 1 2 -1
SiteGround 79 185 0.725707872732548 6 5 3 2
Pantheon 84 49 0.713390268477418 13 3 4 -1
Linode 72 313 0.667820465467272 5 9 5 4
Pagely 81 42 0.667522785017387 14 4 6 -2
A Small Orange 74 153 0.665222315806623 7 7 7 0
WP Engine 72 278 0.664495409977001 6 10 8 2
DigitalOcean 66 1193 0.632643582791056 3 13 9 4
WiredTree 75 57 0.62426879138105 13 6 10 -4
Google Cloud Platform 70 101 0.604645970406924 10 11 11 0
LiquidWeb 70 79 0.591607758450507 11 12 12 0
Vultr 73 33 0.560664188794383 17 8 13 -5
Amazon Web Services 55 537 0.50771491300961 4 18 14 4
DreamHost 49 389 0.440663157139283 5 21 15 6
GreenGeeks 59 39 0.434429655157957 16 16 16 0
Servint 59 29 0.410929374988646 18 17 17 0
SoftLayer 50 72 0.387468960047243 11 19 18 1
Site5 49 83 0.385299666256405 10 22 19 3
MidPhase 61 18 0.3851843256587 22 14 20 -6
Microsoft Azure 43 358 0.379726217475451 5 24 21 3
HostDime 60 15 0.357464427565077 24 15 22 -7
Rackspace 40 461 0.356282970938665 4 28 23 5
Synthesis 47 36 0.317886056933924 15 23 24 -1
Media Temple 35 416 0.305726756042135 4 30 25 5
Arvixe 41 59 0.293772727671168 12 27 26 1
GoDaddy 30 1505 0.277380620794128 2 32 27 5
InMotion Hosting 43 23 0.252456868216651 18 25 28 -3
Web Hosting Hub 38 34 0.237049871468482 14 29 29 0
WebHostingBuzz 50 8 0.215212526824442 28 20 30 -10
WestHost 43 14 0.214851925523797 22 26 31 -5
Bluehost 22 853 0.193489653693868 3 34 32 2
Just Host 22 54 0.130232286167726 9 35 33 2
HostGator 13 953 0.110124578122674 2 41 34 7
iPage 16 128 0.106548464670946 5 39 35 4
Netfirms 21 34 0.1063667334132 10 36 36 0
Pressable 19 43 0.100236618545274 9 37 37 0
Hostway 18 34 0.085839112937093 9 38 38 0
Fasthosts 12 179 0.080208937918757 4 42 39 3
HostPapa 14 72 0.078040723708843 6 40 40 0
Globat 33 3 0.060406929099298 27 31 41 -10
Lunarpages 11 71 0.056357713906061 5 43 42 1
HostMonster 25 4 0.045586062644636 20 33 43 -10
1&1 6 540 0.042907593743725 2 46 44 2
Mochahost 10 10 0.017875749515721 8 44 45 -1
JaguarPC 10 10 0.017875749515721 8 45 46 -1
Verio 5 19 0.008564782830854 4 47 47 0
IPOWER 5 19 0.008564782830854 4 48 48 0
IX Web Hosting 0 45 0 0 49 49 0
PowWeb 0 10 0 0 50 50 0
MyHosting 0 9 0 0 51 51 0
WebHostingPad 0 5 0 0 52 52 0
HostRocket 0 2 0 0 53 53 0
Superb Internet 0 1 0 0 54 54 0

You will notice the biggest differences are companies with more reviews generally moving up in rank, small sample sizes move down. Because the sample sizes are so small on some companies, you can see their % rating drops dramatically. But since most companies don't have a lot of data, it doesn't influence the rankings as much.

Conclusion

It's been nice having HostingReviews.io around when it was actively being updated (the manual process is certainly overwhelming for any individual I think!). I will miss having a real competitor to compare what I'm seeing in my data. I don't know the new owners, but I do consider Steven, the creator, a friend and wish him the best of luck going forward while he works on his primary business, ChurchThemes.com. It saddens me to see the new owners ruining his work with what looks like another mediocre affiliate review site pushing some of the highest paying companies in the space. But it's yet another unfortunate reminder of why I'm so disappointed by the web hosting review industry.

Sources: All data was pulled from Archive.org.

http://web.archive.org/web/20150113073121/http://hostingreviews.io/

http://web.archive.org/web/20150130063013/http://reviewsignal.com/webhosting/compare/

HostingAdvice.com Steals Review Signal’s Content and Uses it to Mislead Visitors

This was originally written on July 7, 2015. The screenshots are mostly from that period using archive.org. The site has changed (no longer has a Top 10 that I see, but still misuses Review Signal in the exact same way). I was hesitant to bash competitors, but I decided I don't care, they are the ones behaving badly, I will call them out on it.

This is Episode 2 of Dirty Slimy Shady Secrets of the Web Hosting Review World

I've long hated the fake review sites that plague the web hosting review business. But it just became even more personal. HostingAdvice.com decided to take reviews from Review Signal, edit them and selectively use them to promote companies with very poor ratings.

Let's take a look at what is happening at HostingAdvice.com (This links to archive of their site in case they change it and I don't want them getting any benefit for the BS they are pulling).

hosting_advice_mission

They claim to be an expert and say everyone sucks. They are calling everyone else spammy and unreliable. It's hard to argue with the sentiment considering I have the same stance here.

But let's take a look at their Top Hosts in 2015

hosting_advice_top

Media Temple as number one, not the most abusive ranking I've seen. They don't have the best reviews here, but they are 58% (56% as of Jan 2017), which is 2nd tierish, at least more than half their customers are saying good things. BlueHost is #2? That's just nonsense. They have a 47% (40% as of Jan 2017) which means less than half their users are saying good things about them.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!

hosting_advice_disclaimer

Remember that Highfalutin rhetoric about them being different and not spammy/unreliable? How could you possible need a disclosure like that if it were true? That's right, you're just like every other crap web hosting review site out there trying to pimp the highest paying affiliate program on unsuspecting visitors.

If that wasn't enough, there's always the coup de grâce:

Things are starting to make sense. But none of this has gotten personal yet.

So I took a look at the #3 Ranked iPage and to my absolute delight found this under 'Customer Reviews'

hosting_advice_stealing_reviews Yes, those are the two highest rated positive comments about iPage on Review Signal.

review_signal_actual_review

Except they've been given 5 stars which isn't something we do here. Also, they've edited this review without indicating they changed it (adding 'I'), which tells me they did this by hand and not scraping.

So that five star rating is made up. How made up?hosting_advice_fake_bluehost

So made up that this stolen review was given four stars. They are simply adding their own narrative and judgement to Review Signal's data.

At Review Signal, we only categorize as positive or negative.

Why does this matter and why is this so personal?

This matters because they were conscious enough of Review Signal to steal its content. They were also conscious enough to cherry pick the data they wanted to push the highest paying affiliates and ignored the fact they are selling out to some of the lowest rated companies around. They have JustHost listed as #9 (like many Fake review sites have in their top lists) when every indication shows that they have a terrible reputation. One of the absolute lowest on this site at 39% ( 31% as of Jan 2017) or you can look at the 21% on a no-affiliate link site that uses a similar methodology to Review Signal (now down to 7% as of Jan 2017).

2017 Update: iPage is still listed as 5 Stars with a 4.9/5 Rating as one of their best hosts in 2017.

Finally, what made this so personal is they are using the Review Signal brand to mislead consumers. This site was built to help consumers in a space filled with charlatans and it is painful to watch the brand be used by one of them to enhance their bottom line.

If you're not familiar with Review Signal, I suggest start by looking at our full dataset. Alternatively, you can read about how it works where our entire methodology is detailed including the algorithms used to generate our ratings. The gist of it is we use twitter data to listen to what good and bad things are saying about web hosting companies and publish the results. We validate our method using the few limited available metrics like NPS scores when given the opportunity.

A2, CloudWays, Heart Internet, HostPapa, OVH, Pantheon, ScaleWay and TsoHost Added to Review Signal

Happy to announce a lot of new additions to Review Signal including our first UK companies (HeartInternet and TsoHost). UK companies are displayed with a UK flag in search results and on the company pages.

Overall score is in parentheses after the company.

A2 Hosting (49%)

CloudWays (65%)

HeartInternet (28%)

HostPapa (27%)

OVH (38%)

Pantheon (77%)

ScaleWay (62%)

Tsohost (70%)

 

Review Signal’s Best Web Hosting Companies in 2016

2016 Year in Review

I like to take this opportunity to look back at the year and see how Review Signal has changed. This past year we added ~36,000 new reviews. Added one new company: WebFaction. 49.6% of reviews were positive overall. 52.1% of unique reviews were positive. What is interesting about the difference is that people with negative things to say were more likely to send multiple negative messages, but as a whole more individual people said positive things than negative.

This year was also full of interesting articles that took advantage of our unique position in the web hosting review space. The WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks (2016) was the biggest hit as usual. It grew massively in size/scope and tested companies across multiple price tiers up to Enterprise WordPress Hosting.

I also wrote about the Dirty, Slimy Secrets of the Web Hosting Review Underworld. I also tracked some major changes with The Rise and Fall of A Small Orange and The Sinking of Site 5 which tracked Endurance International Group acquisitions and how their ratings fell post-acquisition. A Small Orange's fall from grace even caused the first ranking algorithm update on Review Signal's history.

Best Shared Hosting 2016 – SiteGround [Reviews] (74.2%)

Best Specialty Hosting 2016 – FlyWheel [Reviews] (83.7%)

Best Managed VPS Hosting 2016 – KnownHost [Reviews] (80.9%)

Best Unmanaged VPS Hosting 2016 – Digital Ocean [Reviews] (71.3%)

Best Support 2016 – SiteGround [Reviews]  (80.81%). KnownHost [Reviews], LiquidWeb [Reviews], WiredTree [Reviews] all tied for second at 80% (WiredTree was acquired by LiquidWeb in 2016).

A big congratulations goes out to all of this years winners.

Black Friday / Cyber Monday Web Hosting Deals

 Company Deal Restrictions Coupon Start End
A Small Orange [Reviews] 85% Off all new plans + 2X Memory (VPS 2X Memory on VPS only EPIC 11/23/16 11/29/16
A2 Hosting 67% off shared hosting BFCM67 Cyber Monday 12/02/16
 A2 Hosting 50% off Managed & Core VPS Hosting MANVPS50  Cyber Monday  12/02/16
 A2 Hosting 40% off Reseller Hosting RESELL40  Cyber Monday  12/02/16
 A2 Hosting 25% off Sprint Dedicated Server (Unmanaged, Core, Managed) SPRINT25 Cyber Monday Cyber Monday
Cloudways 25% off all plans for first 3 months Must get credit card authorized and new customers only. HOLIDAY25 Now 11/30/16
DreamHost [Reviews] 50% off Shared Hosting Now Cyber Monday 3pm PDT
 DreamHost [Reviews] DreamPress 25% Off  Now  Cyber Monday 3pm PDT
FlyWheel [Reviews] 25% Off (3 Months Free) Annual Subscription Only flyday2016 Now Cyber Monday
GoDaddy [Reviews] $1/mo Managed WordPress Hosting New purchase only, 12 month term hos1gbr22 Now 12/31/16
HostGator [Reviews] 65% off hosting, 1 hour flash sales for 75% off New plans only 11/25/16 12 pm CST 11/28 11:59 PM CST
Kickassd 6 Months for $6 Little Kicker Plan Only. Limited to 50. 6FOR6 Now 11/29/16
Kinsta 30% off first month Must open a support ticket with coupon code to apply it post-purchase ReviewSBF16 Now 11/29/16
MediaTemple [Reviews] 40% off one year of hosting WordPress / Shared / VPS levels 1+2 only CYBER2016 11/27/16 11/29/16
Nexcess 70% Off First Month Dedicated or Shared Servers NEX70OFF Black Friday Cyber Monday
Pressjitsu 50% off for 3 months after free trial Not on enterprise plans BF2016 Now 11/29/16
SiteGround [Reviews] 70% off annual shared hosting plans Black Friday Cyber Monday
WPEngine [Reviews] 30% off first payment cyberwknd Now Cyber Monday
WPX Hosting (Traffic Planet Hosting) $1 for First Month on Business (normally $24.99), Professional (normally $49.99) and Elite (normally $99). New Customers Only 00:01 AМ Wednesday, November 23, 2016 (EST) 11:59 PМ Wednesday, November 30, 2016 (EST)
 WPX Hosting (Traffic Planet Hosting) Prepay 3 Years, Get 5 Years New & Existing Customers  00:01 AМ Wednesday, November 23, 2016 (EST)  11:59 PМ Wednesday, November 30, 2016 (EST)

WordPress.com VIP Hosting Review (2016)

WordPress.com VIP participated for the first time in WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks. They were easily the most expensive service tested, clocking in at $5,000/month. They also host some of the most popular WordPress sites on the web and being Automattic's flagship hosting product, it has some huge expectations riding on it.

Products

Company Plan Monthly Price Visitors Allowed Disk Space Bandwidth Sites Allowed
WordPress.com VIP Basic $5,000 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 5

View Full Product Details

Performance Review

LoadStorm Results

Company Total Requests Total Errors Peak RPS Average RPS Peak Response Time(ms) Average Response Time(ms) Total Data Transferred (GB) Peak Throughput (MB/s) Average Throughput (MB/s)
WordPress.com VIP 4660190 8151 3726.38 2588.99 8186 101 197.82 158.29 109.9

LoadStorm test logged in thousands of users to simulate heavy uncached load on the server, scaling up with more users on larger plans after the $25-50/month range. WordPress.com VIP handled this test with minimal errors and never hitting the response timeout limit of 15000ms. In fact, it had the lowest average response time and and peak response time.

Blitz Results

Company Hits Errors Timeouts Average Hits/Second Average Response Time Fastest Response Slowest Response
WordPress.com VIP 146200 0 73 2437 6 3 21

The Blitz test is designed to make sure that static assets (which should be served from cache) are being handled properly and can scale to very heavy big spikes in traffic. WordPress.com VIP had a 17ms spread and a mere 73 timeouts out of 146,2000 requests. Certainly, top tier.

Uptime

Company StatusCake UptimeRobot
WordPress.com VIP 100 100

Perfect.

WebPageTest / WPPerformanceTester

I mention these because they are in the full testing but I won't bother putting them here. No company had any significant issue with either and it's not worth writing about. If you're very interested in seeing the geographical response times on WPT or what the raw computing power test of WPPerformanceTester measured, read the full results.

Conclusion

WordPress.com VIP stepped into the Enterprise level of our testing and proved itself worthy and earned our Top Tier WordPress Hosting Performance award. The huge expectations of being owned by the creator of WordPress, being one of the largest companies in the space and hosting some of the biggest brands in the world were met. The price for VIP is beyond what most site owners will ever likely spend, but for the few that can afford it, VIP's performance is certainly top notch.

wpvip

The Sinking of Site5 – Tracking EIG Brands Post Acquisition

"You'll notice their ratings, in general, are not very good with Site5 (their most recent acquisition) being the exception. iPage was acquired before I started tracking data. BlueHost/HostMonster also had a decline, although the data doesn't start pre-acquisition. JustHost collapses post acquisition. NetFirms has remained consistently mediocre. HostGator collapses with a major outage a year after acquisition. Arvixe collapses a year after being acquired. Site5 is still very recent and hasn't shown any signs of decline yet." - The Rise and Fall of A Small Orange, January 2016

Review Signal Rating Calculated Pos/(Pos+Neg), without duplicate filtering

Review Signal Rating Calculated Pos/(Pos+Neg), without duplicate filtering (January 2016)

That's what I wrote at the beginning of 2016 as I watched A Small Orange's rating collapse in a pretty popular post called The Rise and Fall of A Small Orange, which documented ASO's Rise and Fall, but also the fall of many EIG brands. One thing I mentioned was the recent acquisition of Site5 (and Verio) which had a fairly good rating on Review Signal at the time of acquisition. The trend seemed to be roughly a year to see the drop in rating, post acquisition.

Site5 ~ 1 Year Later

The acquisition of Site5 was announced August 2015. Here's the updated EIG brand tracking graph. One thing to note, this now uses the new rating algorithm which has a built in decay function to weight older reviews less. So the new graph uses the new algorithm but calculating each point in time as if it always used it. There will be some differences between it and the original graph (which prompted the change in algorithm). It's minimal for most brands, only when there is a major change in sentiment, it shows a change more quickly. Full details about the change can be read on Review Signal Ranking Algorithm Update.

eig_brand_review_signal_ratings_2016

What you can see is the reputation remained relatively stable until about April 2016 and then started a slow but steady decline where it has dipped below 50% for the first time recently. As with nearly every brand, except A Small Orange, the decline happened within a year.

Since the original post there also hasn't been much movement in any other brands beyond Site5 crashing and A Small Orange continuing to slide downward. Verio didn't see a dip post-acquisition, but it had a pretty low rating to start with that put it in the bottom half of EIG brand ratings already.

Why Do EIG Brands Go Down Post Acquisition?

The longer I am in this industry, the more stories I hear. A Small Orange was such an interesting exception and I've heard a lot about it from a lot of people. It's relative independence and keeping the staff seemed to be the key to maintaining a good brand even within the EIG conglomerate.

Site5 offers what I imagine is more business-as-usual in the EIG world. Cut staff, migrate to EIG  and maximize profit (in the short term). Site5's founder, Ben, reached out to a competitor, SiteGround, and arranged for them to hire a large number of Site5 staff that EIG had no plans on keeping according to SiteGround's blog. A very classy move from the former CEO and a seeming win for SiteGround, one of EIG's larger hosting competitors. I also saw similar behavior of long time staff all leaving when A Small Orange started to go downhill and staff from other EIG brands showed up.

Beyond simply trying to cut costs, you have to wonder why would you spend all that money acquiring these brands that have lots of customers, good reputations and talented staff that obviously are keeping the operation running successfully only to get rid of nearly all of that except the customers. But once you gut the staff, it seems like the customers notice, because it certainly shows up in the data I track.

Conveniently, EIG just published their Q3 2016 10-Q.

We have certain hosting and other brands to which we no longer allocate significant marketing or other funds. These brands generally have healthy free cash flow, but we do not consider them strategic or growth priorities. Subscriber counts for these non-strategic brands are decreasing. While our more strategic brands, in the aggregate, showed net subscriber adds during the quarter ended September 30, 2016, the net subscriber losses in non-strategic brands and certain gateway brands contributed to a decrease in our total subscribers of approximately 42,000 during the quarter. We expect that total subscribers will continue to decrease in the near term.

Overall, our core hosting and web presence business showed relatively slow revenue and subscriber growth during the first nine months of 2016. We believe that this is due to flat marketing expenditures relative to 2015 levels on this business in the first half of 2016 as a result of our focus on gateway products during that period, and to trends in the competitive landscape, including greater competition for referral sources and an increasing trend among consumers to search for web presence and marketing solutions using brand-related search terms rather than generic search terms such as “shared hosting” or “website builder”. We believe this trend assists competitors who have focused more heavily than we have on building consumer awareness of their brand, and that it has made it more challenging and more expensive for us to attract new subscribers. In order to address this trend, during the third quarter of 2016, we began to allocate additional marketing investment to a subset of our hosting brands, including our largest brands, Bluehost.com, HostGator and iPage. We plan to continue this increased level of marketing investment in the near term, and are evaluating different marketing strategies aimed at increasing brand awareness.

So the result of their current strategy this past quarter has been a net loss of 42,000 customers. They say their strategic brands on aggregate had a net subscriber increase and named the largest ones (BlueHost, HostGator, iPage) and they are going to focus on a subset of brands going forward. But the phrasing would seem to imply that some of the strategic brands experienced losses as well. It also means that the non-strategic brands lost more than 42,000 customers and pulled down the net subscribers to -42,000 customers last quarter.

The cap it all off, I got one of the most surprising emails from Site5 a couple days ago.

We wanted to let you know that we’ve decided to terminate the Site5 Affiliate program as of November 30th, 2016.

We want to thank you for your support of Site5, especially during our most recent move into Impact Radius, and we hope that you’ll consider promoting another one of Endurance’s other programs.

I guess Site5 isn't being considered a strategic brand if they are killing off the affiliate channel on it entirely, right after a big migration from Site5's custom affiliate program to Impact Radius. They also asked that affiliates promote HostGator now, which certainly fits in the strategic brand category.

It's extremely disappointing to see this trend continue of brands collapsing after a year in EIG's hands. What will be interesting going forward is that EIG hasn't acquired any new hosting brands for a while. They seem to be focused on their existing brands for now. I wonder if that will mean we will see any noticeable positive change or improvements in existing brands (or at least some of the strategic brands).

Loading...

Interested in seeing which web hosting companies people love (and hate!)? Click here and find out how your web host stacks up.