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The Ranking Secret WhoIsHostingThis.com Doesn’t Want You to Know

WIHT-Disclaimer

At the first look, WhoIsHostingThis.com might look like a nice little ‘free’ online tool to find out which web host a particular site resides on. However, if you look closely enough, you’ll soon find out that there’s another (primary) motto behind operating the site apart from the apparent one (i.e. establishing themselves as the #1 online tool for finding out a site’s web host, nameservers etc.). Inspect a bit further down the line, and you’ll be surprised seeing what’ll scream “shady” to any experienced SEO enthusiast.

To anyone who’s not a web hosting / affiliate marketing veteran, it might not appear clear that they earn from affiliate links placed throughout the site. Even though they place a tiny, thin strip of disclaimer at the footer that says, “10% of outbound clicks use affiliate links”, while browsing their web hosting reviews manually, I found that figure to be nowhere near the actual value (which is, I’m afraid, close to 100%).

Now, this is not the big issue. I’ve highlighted this merely to reveal their commercial intent behind operating such a busy site and tool. Now that this is off the way, let’s see how far they go to drive traffic to these money-generating pages.

I’ll include a few screenshots of SERPs of “[host] review” type keywords of a few popular web hosting companies (that pay good affiliate money):

 

SERP: SiteGround Review

SERP: SiteGround Review

SERP: BlueHost Review

SERP: BlueHost Review

SERP: HostGator Review

SERP: HostGator Review

Now, it may seem from these SERPs that they must be the undisputed authority when it comes to web hosting reviews, right? I’d love to believe that, only if I didn’t see their “best web hosts” page. It lists some of the most notorious hosting companies, like Arvixe, WebHostingHub, iPage and a few others which have literally hundreds of negative reviews on genuine web hosting forums like WebHostingTalk. Let a screenshot do the talking:

Arvixe-Reviews-on-WHT

Now, it is needless to say that the reviews on a well-moderated community-based forum like WHT are likely to be way more legit than 5-star user reviews on WhoIsHostingThis. In fact, you can use their own tool (Who Is Hosting This) to know that many of the user reviews are fake. Let’s look at a very recent user review of BlueHost on their site:

 

sample-bluehost-review-on-WIHTNow, let’s see where the site that’s claiming to be on BlueHost actually hosted:

sample-arvixe-review-on-WIHT-2

Wow! Not only is it not hosted on BlueHost, it turns out that this site hasn’t ever existed. WhoIs.net and Archive.org only confirm that finding.

Also, their own “expert reviews” aren’t really reviews. They’re more of a summary of the web host and the features that it offers. They don’t contain any sort of description of any personal experience with the host.

Now, this is only one part of the story — this is only about making a positive, but false impression about a web host (that pays good affiliate commissions) on the mind of a potential buyer. How low can a company, which offers shady reviews like that, go in order to gain search traffic to those money-making pages? Especially, since they seem to rank #1 on Google for practically all popular web hosting company review related searches. Let’s find out.

For this, let’s consider the keyword, “bluehost review”. The keyword gets 2,400 searches per month on average on Google US, with the average CPC being around $8. WhoIsHostingThis undoubtedly ranks 1st for this keyword, and let’s see how.

Page-specific SEO metrics according to Ahrefs

Page-specific SEO metrics according to Ahrefs

Now, you may wonder, what type of links constitute those 200 backlinks. Upon a closer look I found the main type of links making up that large link profile to be aggressively placed guest post links. Let’s take a look at some of them:

B2C-link

ExtremeJohn-link

HFB-link

wordwatch-link

howtospoter-link

This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. Note one thing, though. These links won’t be considered as bad if they linked to their homepage (as most of the anchors suggest) than the BlueHost review page. Let’s say I do a guest post and in the author bio, there’s a line, “Rohit is a blogger at TechTage.com”. Now, if I link to an inner money-page instead of the homepage using such an anchor, wouldn’t it be a bit misleading both for the users (who’d land up on an inner page thinking they’ve landed up on the homepage) as well as the search engines?

Now that you know how WhoIsHostingThis.com uses shady on-page as well as off-page tactics to rank high in the SERPs and bank, recommending web hosts with tons of negative reviews on legit forums in the process, help spread the word against these affiliate income-focused hosting review sites that spread misinformation for their own profits. The next time you need to choose a web host, make sure you’re looking at a legitimate review.

Rohit Palit
 

I'm a 19 years old Web Entrepreneur based out of Kolkata, India. I'm a technical SEO fanatic. I'm also interested in web hosting and WordPress. Want to get in touch? Connect with me on - My Personal Site, Google+, Facebook & Twitter.

  • Great insight Rohit!

    I have been observing this phenomenon WhoisHostingThis for the past 4 years and yes, I must admit that not only they have been rigging search engine rankings but also in their internal ranking of webhosts, they rank them on the basis on the affiliate payout (ever wondered why Siteground > BlueHost on their site, even when BH is much better than SG).

    Not only this, I am even more appalled when my friends buy hosting even after consulting my opinion saying Google searches are more accurate. They fall in the vicious cycle, losing their time and money and finally saying, “Sunit, you were right!”

    The story doesn’t end there though.

    Have you seen domain registrars? Many of them start off with a basic pricing for a domain, say $4-$10 (no, not referring to promo pricing of $1) for the first year. The next year the renewal goes about just fine. If you have waited long for the third year, you will suddenly see that the price ramped up to $20 per domain. If you stay with them for year after year, you will see the prices rising over time and the addons getting more and more expensive after every renewal. Its almost a disincentive for long term customers. All the major registrars like GoDaddy, Namecheap, Enom, Domain.com keep using this price scamming tactic. I, for one, have stopped using the auto-renewal feature, but honestly I cannot speak for the other people out there.

    There are many more such things on the web I’d like to highlight, but I’ll not discuss over here as time is short. My upcoming blog post will be discussing about them in great detail.

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  • Yes, Rohit, you are right. I also researched recently and found that these sites are making backlinks for internal pages to get higher ranking and they are on the top. Do you believe, some backlinks are hidden by using CSS command “display: none ”
    But, they have dominated Google and whenever we search for any host, they are on the top. Salute to this site’s SEO strategist.