Why I don’t use hosting provider affiliate schemes

Every so often, a hosting company will contact me asking if I want to take part in their affiliate scheme. It’s always sold as a win-win situation – they get more business and I get commission. Given that I’m often asked for hosting recommendations, this would be an easy additional income stream for me.

Since going freelance full time however, I have not used hosting provider affiliate schemes, for the following reasons:

  • There’s a risk that I’ll recommend one service over another because it pays more commission.
  • Even if I make every effort to be independent, I might subconsciously lean towards the service which pays more.
  • Even if I don’t take commission into account, clients might think that I’m recommending a service because of it.
  • Some of the best hosting providers – including the one I use – don’t pay commission.
  • Commission ultimately comes out of the client’s pocket through higher prices (the most egregious yet transparent example I saw of this was a firm of solicitors whose quote through estate agent referrals included £200 (20%) of commission charged directly to the client).

I also don’t agree with trail commission, where I continue to get paid for months or even years after a recommendation. By that point the hosting provider has succeeded on their own merits, and shouldn’t continue to pay me.

Some industries have moved away from commissions for similar reasons, although it’s usually been as a result of regulatory action rather than principles. For example, financial advisers in the UK generally charge fees directly to clients now, instead of receiving commission (some products are exempt, such as insurance). I agree with this approach and I consider a specific hosting recommendation to be a service that I would charge directly for like any other, rather than by the back door.

1 Comment

  1. We had an affiliate program running for a few years. The rational was since we had customers referring us anyway, why not give them a small reward for doing it?

    Two things happened: the people we were trying to reward didn’t care enough to participate; they were happy to send friends to a host that they knew would take care of them. the people who did use the program sent the wrong kind of customer. Their expectations were too high (no, hosting doesn’t include building your website); they had no clue why they wanted hosting in the first place, and so on. Support costs on affiliate referrals was higher, client satisfaction was lower, and turnover was higher.

    In short, the program net none of the advertised objectives. We shut it down.

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