Category Archives: Featured

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Web Hosting Deals (2017)

Missing a deal? Please Contact Us

Company Offer Restrictions Coupon Start End
A2 Hosting 67% off Shared HUGE67 Nov 23 Nov 27
A2 Hosting
50% off Managed / Core VPS
CMVPS Nov 23 Nov 27
A2 Hosting 40% off Reseller RSL40 Nov 23 Nov 27
BlueHost $2.65/month Nov 24 Nov 27
CloudWays $150 Hosting Credit Credit applied at 10% monthly bill until credit expires BF150 Nov 21 Dec 11
GreenGeeks 70% off shared hosting  Nov 24  Nov 27
HostGator 80% off
InMotion Hosting $2.95/month Nov 24
Kickassd  6 months free  annual plan  50FRIDAY  Nov 21  Nov 24
Kinsta  30% off first month  Discount applied with support ticket (put in coupon code)  ReviewsignalBF2017  Nov 24  Nov 27
LiquidWeb
Dedicated Servers 50% off for 3 months
BF17PROMO Nov 30
LiquidWeb
VPS 50% off for 3 months
BF17PROMO Nov 30
MediaTemple
40% off Annual Plans
Nov 24 Nov 28
Nestify $49/year for Shared Personal Plan (Normally $19.99/month)  New customers  REVIEWSIGNAL2017 Nov 23 Nov 30
Nestify $199/year for VPS-Lite Plan (Normally $79/month)  New customers  REVIEWSIGNAL2017 Nov 23 Nov 30
Nexcess
80% off First Month
New Customers Only  BF17 Nov 24 Nov 27
SiteGround 70% off Shared Nov 24 Nov 27
WPEngine
35% off first payment
cyberwpe35 Nov 22 Nov 30
WPX Hosting Double Sites, Bandwidth, Disk Space
Two Year Purchase
Nov 22 Nov 29
WPX Hosting Three months free
Annual Subscription
Nov 22 Nov 29
WPX Hosting $1 First Month
$1 for the first month
Nov 22 Nov 29

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).

WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks (2016)

LoadStormLogo

Sponsored by LoadStorm. The easy and cost effective load testing tool for web and mobile applications.

This is the fourth round of managed WordPress web hosting performance testing. You can see the original, 2014 version , and 2015 version.

Companies Tested

A2 Hosting [Reviews]
BlueHost [Reviews]
CloudWays [Reviews]
Conetix
DreamHost [Reviews]
FlyWheel [Reviews]
GoDaddy [Reviews]
Incendia Web Works
Kinsta
LightningBase
LiquidWeb [Reviews]
MediaTemple [Reviews]
Pagely [Reviews]
Pantheon [Reviews]
Pressable (Formerly ZippyKid)
Pressed.net
Pressidium
Pressjitsu
PressLabs
Hosting Agency (German)
SiteGround [Reviews]
Traffic Planet Hosting
WordPress.com VIP
WPEngine [Reviews]
WP.land
WPOven.com

Companies that didn't participate this round but did on previous rounds: WebHostingBuzzWPProntoNexcessA Small Orange [Reviews] and  WebSynthesis [Reviews].

Every plan was donated by the company for testing purposes with the strict stipulation that it would be the same as if any normal user signed up. There is a notes section at the bottom that details the minutiae of changes made to plans at the end of this post. Nearly every single company had security issues that I had to get around, so they worked to make sure my testing went through properly. Load testing often looks like an attack and it's the only way I can do these tests.

The Products

This year is a bit different than years past where every company and plan competed against one another. When I started the price gap was from $5/month to $29/month. Last year the gap was $5.95 to $299. I was only testing entry level plans but the market has dramatically changed since I first got started. Today, there is demand at many different price points and lots of companies have gone upscale with WordPress.com VIP at the top of the price bracket starting at $5,000/month. The only logical way to break things up was by price brackets. So below you will see the brackets and which companies participated. Specific details will be included on each bracket's write up.

 

<$25/m $25-50/m $51-100/m $101-200/m $201-500/m $500+/m
A2 Hosting A2 Hosting LiquidWeb A2 Hosting Kinsta Kinsta
Bluehost Conetix Bluehost Bluehost Media Temple Pagely
DreamHost LLC Lightning Base Cloudways (AWS ) Conetix Pagley Pantheon
Flywheel Pantheon Cloudways (Google) Kinsta Pantheon Pressable
GoDaddy Pressable Kinsta Liquid Web Pressable Pressidium
Incendia Web Works Pressjitsu Lightning Base Pressable Pressidium WordPress.com VIP
Lightning Base SiteGround Media Temple Pressidium Presslabs WP Engine
Media Temple WP Engine Pagely Pressjitsu SiteGround
Pressed WP.land Pantheon
Hosting Agency.de Cloudways (DigitalOcean) Pressable
SiteGround Cloudways (Vultr) Pressidium
Traffic Planet Hosting WPOven SiteGround
WP.land

 

Methodology

The question I tried to answer is how well do these WordPress hosting services perform? I tested each company on two distinct measures of performance: peak performance and consistency. I've also included a compute and database benchmark based on a WordPress plugin.

All tests were performed on an identical WordPress dummy website with the same plugins except in cases where hosts added extra plugins. Each site was monitored for approximately two months for consistency.

1. LoadStorm

LoadStorm was kind enough to give me resources to perform load testing on their platform and multiple staff members were involved in designing and testing these WordPress hosts. I created identical scripts for each host to load a site, login to the site and browse the site. Logged in users were designed to break some of the caching and better simulate real user load. The amount of users varies by cost.

2. Blitz.io

I used Blitz again to compare against previous results. This tests the static caching of the homepage. I increased the number of users based on monthly cost this time.

3. Uptime (UptimeRobot and StatusCake)

Consistency matters. I wanted to see how well these companies performed over a longer period of time. I used two separate uptime monitoring services over the course of a month to test consistency.

4. WebPageTest.org

WebPageTest with 9 runs, first view only, native connection. I tested from Dulles, Denver, Los Angeles, London, Frankfurt, South Africa, Singapore, Shanghai, Japan, Sydney, Brazil.

5. WPPerformanceTester (free plugin on WordPress.org)

I created a WordPress plugin to benchmark CPU, MySql and WordPress DB performance. The CPU/MySql benchmarks are testing the compute power. The WordPress component tests actually calling $wpdb and executing insert, select, update and delete queries.

 

Notes - Changes made to Hosting Plans

A2 - VPS Servers can't install WordPress out of the box without extra payment for Softaculous. Disabled recaptcha.

Conetix - disabled WordFence and Stream plugins.

SiteGround - fully enable SuperCacher plugin

GoDaddy - 24 database connection limit increased if you notify them of heavy load

CloudWays - disabled WordFence

Dirty, Slimy, Shady Secrets of the Web Hosting Review (Under)World – Episode 1

It's been approximately three and a half years since Review Signal launched.

The mission was simple: provide honest web hosting reviews.

(Almost) Everyone wants that. Consumers would love to not get screwed over by fake reviews/recommendations. Tech savvy consumers have all but given up on honest web hosting reviews even existing.

So why has it been so difficult to spread the word about what Review Signal does and why it's different? How come nobody else is really making a strong effort to do the same?

The easiest explanation is money. Money corrupts everything is a pretty common belief and in the web hosting world it's practically the law of the land.

Many web hosting companies are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for you to sign up new customers with them. And it's generally not the ones you would in good faith recommend to a friend. And these companies hire many people with the sole goal of convincing reviewers, bloggers, anyone with a voice that they should sell out.

And it's worked.

From some of the largest players like Drupal and WordPress down to the small, anonymous review sites that plague Google's search results for web hosting reviews. They have sold consumers out; for millions of dollars into their pocket.

How Are Web Hosting Companies Paying Hundreds of Dollars for a $5/month plan?

Let's look at underlying numbers that make this whole business possible before we continue. It seems crazy that companies could offer hundreds of dollars per sale for such small purchases.

The basic goal is Lifetime Value of Customer (LTV) > Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

CAC is the hundreds of dollars they pay someone to send them a new customer. So the value they are getting from a referred sale must be greater than the X hundred dollars they pay.

So how are they getting hundreds of dollars per customer? Lockins and cross/up-sells are the primary ones. They generally only give the super discounted rates for customers who commit to long-term contracts (1-3 years generally) and often require you to pay for it entirely up-front. So that $5/month hosting deal, may cost $180 up front ( $5/month * 36 months = $180). That's before they have attempted to sell you any extra services such as backups, domains, security, premium features, etc. They don't have to make more on any specific customer, but they know in aggregate how much extras they are going to sell.

If you're really curious, I dug into the financials of some of the publicly traded companies (EIG, GoDaddy, Web.com) to see what some of those numbers looked like. They were getting between $100-180 per subscriber per year. I'm also fairly sure that most customers stay for longer than a year.

So if companies are extracting $180/year/subscriber, paying a $200 commission for a new subscriber is a no brainer if the new subscriber stays over 14 months. Suddenly, the economics of these incredibly high payouts should make sense.

Back to the Corruption

Corruption doesn't happen in a bubble. Someone has to be corrupted. In many cases, it would seem the pure motivation of making a lot of money is enough. Most people create a site dedicated to pimping their visitors to the highest paying companies.

In other cases, there is blatant astro-turfing going on.

hostgator self promo on TC

Perfect example from the techcrunch article about reviews being a cesspool, now deleted of course.

But the most hidden corruption happens behind the scenes. It's the people with titles like Affiliate Program Manager and Partner Marketing Specialist. For many of these companies, their job is to try to convince people to use their brand/authority to sell the company's product for a commission.

What Happens Behind The Scenes of Operating a Web Hosting Review Site?

I'm going to show you exactly what kind of offers I get regularly here at Review Signal.

rs_sample_review

 

 

rs_top5

 

rs_rankings_for_salers_affiliate_no_thanks

This is just a tiny sample of the 'offers' I get regularly. Most look like the email from dedicatedsolutions, trying to convince me to sign up for their affiliate program. Some, like Eli Saad from domain.com straight up tell me that my rankings are for sale (really classy). Alec from tdwebservices won't stop spamming me and refuses to remove me from his list, while literally offering to provide reviews of his own company for me to publish (vomit). Scroll to the bottom for bonus Alec Mwali material. And I've redacted someone from InMotionHosting's name because they were extremely apologetic, but they asked to be placed in the top 5 (sorry, they are based on actual reviews, not paid for).

A lot of companies just ask to be listed and mention their affiliate program as the reason why it should happen. They don't even think twice about what they are implying, it's become so ingrained in the culture of web hosting reviews that they are all for sale that nobody even takes a moment to realize how f***ed up that is.

Consider this me putting up notice, I will be periodically publishing the slimy emails and offers I get here at Review Signal. You may be named and shamed. So don't do it.

BONUS ALEC MWALI MATERIAL

Alec has contacted me on behalf of TDWebServices, Unihost and Codeguard. He has sent me full word docs with fake reviews to publish. He repeatedly uses the fake 'Re:' topic to get people to open and read his emails. When called out about it, he claims it 'was not meant to happen' and it 'keyboard error' or an 'issue with my email platform'. I think you better invest in a better keyboard and email platform, because your current one seems to be stuck in spam mode.

alec_mwali_2 alec_mwali_1alec_mwali_email_1 alec_mwali_email_2

 

Update: CodeGuard no longer works with Alec. (Source)

Free Web Hosting Offers for Startups

Software/Internet startups have never had it easier. A handful of the largest cloud hosting providers offer very substantial amounts of free credit to startups. If it says [Reviews] next to the company, it means we have published reviews of that specific company on Review Signal. Check out the offers below.

Company Offer Requirement
Amazon AWS Activate [Reviews] Free tier for 12 months. Free Technical/Business Essentials Training. $80 Credit for self paced labs. 1 month business support. Open Application
Amazon AWS Activate [Reviews] Varies by Partner Approved Accelerator/VC
Microsoft BizSpark (Azure) [Reviews] $150/user/month up to 5 users for 36 months Startup, <5 years old, <$1m revenue, and privately held.
Microsoft BizSpark Plus (Azure) [Reviews] $10,000/month for 12 months Approved Accelerator/VC
Digital Ocean [Reviews] $10.00 Anyone
Digital Ocean [Reviews] $250,000.00 for 12 months YCombinator/TechStars/Case-by-case
Google Compute Engine $300.00 Anyone
Google Compute Engine $100,000.00 for 12 months Approved Accelerator/VC/Incubator
IBM Global Entrepreneur Program $1,000/month for 12 months Open Application
IBM Global Entrepreneur Program $10,000/month for 12 months Approved Accelerator/VC/Incubator
SoftLayer [Reviews] $1,000/month for 12 months Internet dependent startup

If an offer is missing please contact us.

Loading...

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