Sep.27

Bluehost Affiliate Program

I was working with one of my new clients who set up her site on WordPress.com, which severely limited what I could do for her, so I recommended she signup for Bluehost. Bluehost offers ssh access and is only $4.95 / month, and I hear about a lot of affiliates who use it for their own sites. Awesome – that was my recommendation in my email.

Bluehost - Pricing

Price Increase

Of course, if I’m recommending a hosting provider, I want my cut of the deal. So after logging into CJ, I got my Bluehost affiliate link and tested it out (I always test my links before sending them). Imagine my surprise when the price went from $4.95 / month (without an affiliate cookie set) to $6.99 / month with the cookie set!

Bluehost.com from affiliate link

Big surprise there! As affiliates, we explain to shoppers that buying through affiliate links doesn’t cost them any more than if they bought directly from the merchant. But, this isn’t the first time this has happened, either (FTD – affiliate links cost more – thanks Tricia for the tip).

This is where I excel as a human, and fail as a businessman. I didn’t use my affiliate link when referring my client to Bluehost. I’d rather them save a couple of bucks, than me make a $90 commission. What’s also interesting is that going Incognito in Chome and making sure cookies were cleared still showed me the higher rate, and this…

Disclosure on Merchant Site

Another thing that surprised me was a statement on the Bluehost website when I (the shopper) was tagged as an affiliate-referred visitor:

Since you landed on this page of our site, we want to let you know you visited one of our paid endorsers while researching your purchase.

We’ve talked about Affiliates needing to disclose their relationships, and we’ve talked about OPMs needing to enforce it, but this is the first time I’ve seen a merchant disclosing the relationship.

So bravo to Bluehost for disclosing the relationship with your affiliate, but shame on you for charging more when affiliate links are used!

[fmtcpod pod=”f9d2b73e482fd540beb85113a34a52d4″ sid=”ericnagel”]
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Comments(13)

  1. Tricia
    1164 days ago

    What I find most interesting about this disclosure is that HostGator went above and beyond in their affiliate newsletter this week to talk about disclosure. Is there something going behind the scenes or is it just the two of them watching each other? It seems like too much of a coincidence out of the 1000s of affiliate programs out there doing nothing regarding disclosure that these two competitors are both getting proactive.

    I wonder if affiliates who found out about this price change will continue to promote their affiliate links knowing that they are actually hurting the customer with them?

  2. Geno Prussakov
    1164 days ago

    I love that solution for disclosure! Thanks for blogging about it, Eric. We’re talking about the need to enforce compliance, but without a tool (and I am not aware of any that would help us automate the monitoring of affiliate disclosures) all we do is check things manually. Needless to say, the process is time consuming, yet not 100% effective. So, Bluehost’s solution is a solution.

    Speaking of them “charging more when affiliate links are used”: I’ve seen this happen with a number of (major) brands in the past. Unfortunately, advertisers/merchants do do this. Bad for the affiliates, and certainly bad for the end users. Most of the latter won’t figure out how to revert to the earlier/lower price; and may even abandon the checkout due to this practice.

  3. Logan Thompson
    1164 days ago

    Very sneaky. Nice catch Eric. I’ve been recommending Blue Host to others for some time and honestly didn’t notice the price difference (my cookie must already be set).

    What’s interesting though is that when I go to Blue Host the price shows $3.95 a month and also has the affiliate disclosure on it. So

    • Eric Nagel
      1164 days ago

      What network did you get your link from? I used CJ – maybe you’re using a CPA network? Feel free to post your link – I’ll approve it & see what price I end up with 🙂

  4. Logan Thompson
    1164 days ago

    So I just took a look and it wasn’t actually my cookie that was set. I had clicked through from Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income blog (if you click his affiliate link it is $3.95 a month http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/resources/). I went to my link (which is through CJ, and it was the full price like yours).

  5. Daniel M. Clark
    1164 days ago

    Another sneaky bit o’ business, Bluehost pays affiliates different rates depending on the source/network. I don’t have a CJ account anymore so I can’t double check, but Eric, you said the commission is $90 through your CJ link, and I think that’s what I remember it being last time I saw it there… but the Bluehost in-house program pays out $65 – https://www.bluehost.com/cgi/partner

    I don’t know how common a practice that is in the industry because I never signed up for the same merchant at more than one network until someone pointed out the Bluehost discrepancy to me a while back.

  6. Nick Loper
    1164 days ago

    Interesting price discrimination based on the customer’s referral path. Wonder if the theory is an affiliate-buyer has been pre-sold a bit so they’re not as price-sensitive compared with a “cold lead”? Or if they just charge more because their acquisition cost is higher (affiliate commission).

    The disclosure on their site is cool though, and it would be interesting to test some sort of hybrid of disclosure/co-branded landing page.

  7. Chris Guthrie
    1164 days ago

    Use their in house affiliate program – it’s better than via CJ

  8. Shawn Collins
    1161 days ago

    Tricia – it may well be the same person making the disclosure decision. They are both part of HostingKit http://hostingkit.com/

    • Tricia
      1161 days ago

      That’s very interesting. Why would competing companies have the same company managing their affiliate programs? It definitely explains why both are all of a sudden pushing disclosure. It must be a decision that they made as a company for all of the programs that they manage.

  9. Logan Thompson
    1161 days ago

    They aren’t different companies (well technically they are). They have the same owners. Endurance owns a lot of the big hosting and domain companies out there.

    • Tricia
      1161 days ago

      I wondered initially if there was some kind of tie between the two but didn’t see anything obvious on their sites. I’m not in the Bluehost affiliate program, so I didn’t see if they sent the same type of email that HostGator sent to affiliates with explicit directions on how to disclose. Maybe it came down from Endurance that they each had to do something about disclosure but it’s up to the individual brands to decide how to deal with it?

  10. Bryan Knowlton
    1118 days ago

    Hello!

    This is Bryan Knowlton over at the Daily Blogcast for Internet Marketing.

    I just wanted to let you know we discussed your blog post on our show and would love if you could help get the word out to your readers!

    Episode 007 – iPad Beats Android Email Opens, Increase Conversions with Facebook Lookalike Audiences – Guest Blogging Opportunities – Bitstrip and more!

    http://dailyblogcast.net/2013/11/12/007-ipad-beats-android-email-opens-increase-conversions-with-facebook-lookalike-audiences-guest-blogging-opportunities-bitstrip-and-more/

    We found the article to be well written and decided to feature it in this episode. If you woud like to provide any additional comments, you can do that directly at the bottom of the page listed above.

    Since this is a Daily Podcast, we will definitely be visiting your blog from time to time to find more great articles to discuss. If you would like to leave us a comment, question or a voicemail, you can do that on the right side of the page at http://dailyblogcast.net

    Again, thank you for the blog post! Without it we might have not had much to talk about! 🙂

    You can subscribe (or let your readers they can) at http://dailyblogcast.net/itunes

    Thanks again!

    Bryan & Mark
    http://dailyblogcast.net – Because reading is hard…

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