Affiliate Tracking And The Success of Bluehost….

The affiliate market is a very important part of Bluehost’s business.  Affiliate marketing was our chosen method to grow Bluehost.  Of course we did direct marketing and we hoped that our word of mouth business would continue to grow.  All in all it has worked out really well.

There were two reasons our affiliate marketing worked so well.  First, I think our hosting package was/is superior to our competitors.  This made it easy to promote our services compared to our competitors.  The other important reason that we did well was because our tracking was more accurate than our competitors.  We made sure there was no way that a sale would not be counted.  We wanted our affiliates to make a ton of money because we knew that would ensure that our business continued to grow.

Over the past 3-6 months we have noticed a very interesting change in behavior.  Private browsing, anonymous surfing, etc is WAY up.  Not  only is a significant amount of traffic not using cookies (At least not cookies that live more than 30-60 minutes), but we are seeing a greatly increased number of users ip addresses that are changing multiple times during a single page loading.  This has always happened in the past, but it was an insignificant amount of traffic.  That just isn’t the case anymore.

The majority of tracking has always been done by cookies, and then if they are not present to fall back to IP address.  That is no longer good enough.  Effective today, we will now be tracking using the traditional cookie, and ip tracking, but we will also use a method that can punch through virtually every anonymous or traditional proxy server, or series of servers, and give us real identifying info.   This has yielded a fairly substantial increase in tracking accuracy.  I have debated myself all morning on whether I would give the technicals details of how this works, but I have decided against it.  I think this is a competitive advantage for us.

This means that effective immediately many affiliates will see a measurable increase in conversion rates from all our hosting brands including Bluehost, Hostmonster, and Fastdomain.  Thanks to all of our more than 50,000 affiliates!  You are the reason we have been able to grow so quickly!

Matt Heaton / President

30 Responses to “Affiliate Tracking And The Success of Bluehost….”

  1. Tom says:

    Hi Matt,

    Out of curiousity, what’s the reason for maintaining what appears to be nearly identical offerings between different brands? Bluehost, Hostmonster, fastdomain, and dreamhost too right? Why are they spread out like that?


  2. Ian Littman says:

    DreamHost isn’t a BlueHost property :). BH/HM/FD are in SLC, DH is in California. DreamHost constantly has insane deals and random crap, and they use their own control panel system. BH uses CPanel and doesn’t have insane hosting deals.

  3. Tom says:

    Is this for CJ or just your own internal affiliate program?

  4. Ben D. says:

    Ditto Tom’s question. I publish CJ and Linkshare links on a site I run and would love to put Bluehost’s links up.

  5. Craig says:

    I hope you realize that your company’s name is being dragged across cyberspace mud due to the fact that you shut down Joe Posnanski’s blog without having the common decency to inform him of your decision.

  6. Luke says:

    “we will also use a method that can punch through virtually every anonymous or traditional proxy server, or series of servers, and give us real identifying info. This has yielded a fairly substantial increase in tracking accuracy”

    From a privacy standpoint this statement is a bit scary, but I guess that’s life.

  7. This sort of thing makes me queasy. I wonder, gee, are they just using LSOs, or are they doing something really intrusive and unacceptable. Open and transparent behavior is key to trust on the Internet, and secret methods make me wonder if I shouldn’t be shopping for a new provider. So, I would urge you to at least share enough information that we can be comfortable about what you are doing (or not comfortable if that is the case). As a member of EFF, I am particularly concerned about any methods which compromise user privacy or security. I hope you will reconsider and become more open about your methods.

    Thanks for considering these issues.

  8. Tom Grover says:


    Glad to find your blog. I have used for several years and recommended it to dozens of people.

    This last week, however, the customer service I have received, and problems from Orem have been very frustrating. My account has been deactivated twice now with no warning. The first time I called and was helped by Tavita. He was actually great and handled the problem very well, and apologized. Then again, my account was deactivated today without any warning. I had some word files from school backed up on my computer. Now I can’t access my email. When I called customer service I was transferred to the Abuse Department and was treated very poorly.

    If there is a problem with what’s on my servers, I don’t mind fixing it. But I think it’s inefficient and unfair, not to mention poor customer service, to simply shut down a customers account with not communication or warning when there is a problem with what is being kept on the servers. I really want to stay with bluehost. Up until about 10 days ago I did nothing but sing your praises and told many, many people how great bluehost was. Right now I am debating about whether I should look elsewhere. Like I said, except for the last 10 days, I really haven’t had a problem and have liked bluehost. I don’t want to have to go elsewhere.

    Anyway, I think it’s great your accessable through the blog.

    Have a great day!

  9. Hi,

    Happy to hear this from you, thank you for the informations, I’ll take a detailed look to your aff. program. I wish you more succes!

  10. I know I am going to sound like a commercial here but when people do things right it is important to say so.

    I am continually amazed that I get a robust feature set and great uptime as well as real live tech support, usually on the first ring, from patient people who speak English. Best of all, with the affiliate program I get it free -or better than free because I usually get more than two folks to sign up per year so Blue Host is actually paying me!

    I’m no programmer -just a small businessperson and, on a good day, a power user. Blue Host is the single best product I (usually don’t have to) buy for my business. Matt Heaton is personally in touch with his customers on a regular basis through this blog and is open about his business decisions. He has never flagged in his seemingly manic desire to build Blue Host and to offer more to his customers.

    Believe me, I bitch when I need to (usually about Comcast!) but I believe you should always call out those who are doing a great job.

  11. I am extremely happy to see this advancement. I’ve been with Hostmonster for about 3-4 years now and an affiliate for 2-3. I refer all my clients who need hosting to use Hostmonster.

    Usually everything goes right as rain, but I have noticed a few times that the tracking was broken for whatever various random thing a client may have done or what they have disabled/blocked and I didn’t receive credit for a referral, of course through no fault of Hostmonster.

    I simply send an email and they manually credit my account when that happens. Hopefully, this will secure the issue so that I don’t need to bug Hostmonster every time it happens.

    I love Hostmonster truly, being a web designer I’ve seen dozens of different hosting setups, and Hostmonster is always the best. Funny thing is; when I first worked on a project that was hosted by Bluehost I thought to myself, how there’s actually another decent host out there? Not realizing that it’s the same people behind the scenes ;).

    Small world too; Hostmonster is based out of Utah and I was born in Provo and grew up in Orem. I now live near Seattle, WA.

    I’ll end with this; Hostmonster is the best host I’ve ever seen and Go Daddy is the worst. Excellent work Matt and everyone else that’s apart of the team.

    Thanks, Bryan

  12. Russ says:

    It is a pleasure to work with a company like Bluehost that offers a quality shared web hosting product and has high conversions…

    Also, I look for growth in a company as a priority and this is true as well..

  13. Phil Lembo says:

    Just wanted to add my endorsement of the comment above about

    “real live tech support, usually on the first ring, from patient people who speak English”

    I do IT for a living and have endured the thankless life of an Internet webmaster. You know the corporate cliche about “our employees are our greatest asset”. In the case of Bluehost this is a reality. Your people behind the scenes are *the* best, no exaggeration.

    Thanks for providing real value in a market that’s saturated with smoke and mirrors.

  14. Mark Johnson says:

    Yeah I just wanted to add my shout out to you and your company.

    Bluehost is an amazing value for money. And the fact that you always seem to be looking for the features that will make our website dev lives easier is an absolute god send.

    Thank you Matt.

  15. I agree with George’s comments above and as ours is a VLSI Training Site with lot of videos in Main area and membership areas which generally accessed simultaneously by multiple students and till now we never faced any problem.

    We have tried some with other hosting and saw lot of glitches and bandwidth degradation but blue Host is great with no problems at all and we fully appreciate the value created by Blue Host.

  16. I’ve been a mostly happy customer. Love the shell access, the solid and fast customer support. Until recently there has been no complaint.

    I am not asking you to post this on your blog. I don’t want gripes about bluehost posted here – that’s not the goal. I was and am still a happy customer.

    When I was out of the country recently, without email or web access, bluehost shut off my web site leaving my customers web sites broken. There was no warning. Fortunately one of my customers was able to contact support and get the sites turned back on.

    Turns out, the shutoff was due to some files that were found that had no links to them. They were determined to be “storage” – something I didn’t even know was against the rules. Even a cursory look at the files would identify them as backup copies of the main site.

    I called customer support when I returned. They sent me the file list, I cleaned it up. I got very little sympathy from support when I said I wanted to elevate a complaint about this up the food chain.

    Here’s the thing. Shutting me off with no warning left me with a real black eye in front of my customers. I would ask that shutting off access to sites be done only as a last resort and after the customer has been given reasonable time to address the issue.

    In my case, there was no warning, no emails about the reason for the shutoff. The sites just went dark, left my customers with a “suspension” message, and left it to me to figure out what happened. Very heavy handed and it soured me a little on what I consider to be an excellent company.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

  17. I have been hosting with Bluehost only for a short while. I have domains hosted on their other brands Hostmonster, and i can surely say without any hesitation, that the service i have received so far has been the best. I have been hosting websites with different service providers since the past 12 years, and i can proudly say that your support guys really rock.. You guys are without doubt the best among the best.
    Keep up the good work. I can recommend you to anyone who has a need for webshosting.
    Thanks for the excellent support.

  18. Joel Glovier says:

    I’m working on building my first website, and I just signed up for a bluehost account a couple weeks ago. One of the best decisions I’ve made for my business so far.

    I’m really interested in joining the affiliate program, because I believe in supporting good products. In fact, I already have a link to bluehost in my footer before I knew there was an affiliate program!

    How can I join the program??

    Thanks and all the best,
    Joel G

  19. Matt, I agree with all the other comments. Your company has the most amazing record of good service. We have not had a second of trouble since we signed on several years ago. Your people are the very best. Of course, I’m a little prejudiced, if you’ll notice my last name. I think our son made a very wise choice in joining your company. You have all the elements of an ethical smart, and thoroughly professional organization. No wonder you are successful. By the way, congratulations on being named Entrepeneur of the Year in the Enterprise. Well deserved!

  20. Mike Anthony says:

    The homepage picture is so grainy and low resolution. Do you think you could fix that?

  21. I just sign-up for the affiliate program but not do any promotions yet. I will try to put a review in my site hoping I can get sign-ups. Anyway this is a free affiliate program so it is a big bonus to us to earn additional income.

  22. Steve Atwal says:

    I’ve been with BlueHost for years and refer people to them all the time. I think BlueHost is a great hosting company. I’ve been very happy with their service, pro-active attitude of staying ahead technologically in adding features and performance, and competitive prices. My 2c :-)

  23. Tim Jones says:

    Apparently, the above writers don’t pay close attention to the level of service provided on the shared servers. For the last year, our account has been transferred to a “new” box. The result is a 8 CPU system with 16GB RAM that is constantly hitting the 60+ load average level. This has consistently resulted in calls from our customers complaining of lack of response from the server.

    When we contact support, as others have mentioned, we do get to speak with a human, but the result is always the same – you can get a dedicated server or we’ll be glad to refund the remainder of your contract.

    The protected CPU move is a good one, but for us, it’s too little too late.

    We had a full day’s outage on Thursday/Friday of last week and there was NO plan in place to provide alternate services – or even a “we’re having technical problems” page. Instead, users received failures and evantually invalid domain messages. We lost a rather major bid because of this.

    Contacting support resulted in the usual – the first person didn’t know why the system was down. The second person told us that the account had been flagged and that we’d just need to wait as the box had a hard crash that involved a full kernel rebuild and a hard FSCK on the shared filesystem.

    Hopefully, Matt will read this comment and learn from what’s happened here. There were hundreds of accounts shared on that one box, so there’s no way we’re alone in the frustration caused by this outage. Matt, you have my contact info, so I’d love to discuss our frustration level and how poorly your “technical” staff handled this.

    Tim Jones
    Soon to be ex-Bluehost customer of over 5 years…

  24. César Couto says:

    I’ve been using bluehost for almost 2 years now, and i must admit i’ve been impressed with it’s development for such a low price. I’ve been added all my sites and clients in bluehosts accounts. I’ve created a an affiliate account, unfortunaly almost my websites and blogs for advertising are Portuguese and people don’t (normally) click in other language banners.

    Still, everytime i add a client i’ll be using the affiliates link to earn some money and that’s very positive :) I’m really satisfied with the bluehost services.

  25. Kim says:

    This is great to know Matt. I love the fact that you are cutting edge and always pushing the envelope with Bluehost web hosting

  26. Jonathan says:

    Hi, Jonathan Burdon here from . I can personally attest to the success of the Bluehost and Hostmonster affiliate programs. Our website has had the opportunity to deal with tons of affiliate programs but none work as hard as HM & BH to ensure we get paid for referrals.

  27. Russ says:

    I think 2010 will be a big year for Bluehost and web hosting in general. Websites and the internet are booming and as long as Bluehost stays competitive and award their affiliate channel, it will be big…

    A bit of advice – I do think a redesign of Bluehost will go along way in terms of increasing your conversion rate. Its time.

  28. Corey says:

    It nice to hear from the top of the company with some updates on what is happening.

  29. Sarah says:

    Bluehost and Hostmonster are synonymous, as they are run by the same organization. I am not thrilled with either, as they both have a track record of deactivating customer accounts without prior warning and threatening the customer to leave. Like many used to be loyal customers, I am not recommending you anymore, because your customer service is giving you a bad reputation.

  30. matt says:

    There is a well-known project that is devoted to this. It starts with the letter “P”

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