List of VPN affiliate programs you should avoid

I have been promoting various VPN companies as an affiliate for four years, these are the ones I recommend you to avoid, I wish I had known about them before myself.

IPVanish: High on the list, ironically, what puts me off this VPN affiliate program is the incompetence of their affiliate manager. He would keep emailing me asking that I put up banners for their company, this is perfectly fine, what it is not fine is that after informing him that I was a hobby blogger and I hardly had any traffic, he would still email me every three months asking again, to which I would reply the same, and he then would contact me once again. The impression I got is that he doesn’t keep track of email communications.

I tried IPVanish for a month for free and I wrote a blog post with a review of their services, because I don’t earn a living with my blogging, I can afford to be honest, the review advised people not to buy IPVanish. After posting it, Dave, my IPVanish affiliate manager, contacts me once again and asks me to write a review of their services, I let him know that I already did and give him the link, inviting him to reply to the post if he feels like it, he kind of says that the review is awful but never bothers to counter argument my points in the post. Really? He can’t be bothered to defend his own company? Fine by me no problem.

Three years down the road as an affiliate with IPVanish, Dave sends me one of his bi-monthly emails, he has forgotten all about me as usual, he only wants me to put up banners in my blog. I let him know that after reading IPVanish terms, I don’t like the 15 day cookie tracking and the $100 minimum pay out is too high. He offers me a 30 day cookie tracking and $50 pay out if I place an IPVanish banner in my blog, I tell him that I have $57 in my affiliate account (earned in 2 years) approved for payment, he agrees to pay me next month if I place an IPVanish banner in my blog which I do.

Two weeks later we get to payment day and no money comes in, I email Dave about the problem and he tells me that one of my already approved sales, has been “marked as fraud“, it turns out that customers only have a 7 days money back guarantee and this sale/commission had been approved for more than a month, according to his email “there are instances where our support team goes in and audits subscriber accounts” and “Unfortunately, the fraudulent account brought your commission total back down to $30. So that is the reason you were not paid out this cycle.

VPN affiliate program customer service
VPN affiliate program customer service

I am not going to work anymore with IPVanish for the following reasons: affiliate panel sucks (confusing lay out), affiliate manager sucks (he does not keep track of previous conversations), cookies suck (15 day tracking), pay out conditions suck ($100 minimum and they cancel commissions that have already been approved).

EarthVPN: I have been with them for two years, the first three months I made a few sales and I was quickly paid with Paypal after reaching  the minimum $50 pay out. However, for the last year I have had trouble getting paid in a few occasions.

Update EathVPN 2015: This company has stolen $90 from me, they don’t reply to tickets, I have also contacted them in Twitter and they did not reply, I have had a ticket opened for 3 months waiting for payment, every time they close it without any reply. I will say it clear:

EARTHVPN YOU ARE THIEVES.

Don’t take my word for it, I attach screenshots with evidence.

1- EarthVPN owns money

2-EarthVPN not replying to tickets

3- EarthVPN not replying to tickets again

4- EarthVPN ticket account

5- EarthVPN not replying to Twitter

NordVPN: Great promotion materials and high commissions, this made me read their terms and conditions with attention, I am always suspicious of high pay outs and I look for a catch. Sure enough there was one, I read that tracking cookies in NordVPN only last 7 days. I believe this is well below industry standards and it doesn’t seem right to me, many people don’t buy straight away, they wait more than a week. I would have never signed up with NordVPN affiliate program if the 7 day cookie had been prominently displayed, now that I know this I won’t even start their promotion.

VPNTunnel: I used to have an affiliate account with this small Swedish company, I made two sales, around $35 commission, then one day I noticed that they had removed their affiliate program, but affialite links where still working directing traffic to their site. VPNTunnel never contacted me to let me know that their affiliate program was to be ended and they never paid anything out. If they open again their affiliate program there is no way I will sign up again with a company that has such low business standards.

Review OpenVPN provider Acevpn

I have been using Acevpn Premium VPN package for three months, I was given the account in an online give away and I have been using it to get around georestricted online TV services like CWTV and Pandora Radio. I liked that Unblock TV comes bundled with the VPN, I had never used DNS unblocking services before. After changing the name servers in my router with the ones AceVPN gave me Unblock TV behaved flawless as advertised, no video buffering and it detected when my browser visited Hulu, activating the USA proxy in the background.

I soon learned that DNS proxy services are not a good idea if your ISP changes your computer IP every time you reboot. For the DNS proxy to work you have to link your computer IP to the proxy DNS first, when your computer IP changes you have to log into your Acevpn account, erase the old IP and add the new one. It is not hard to do, but if you get a different IP every few days it is annoying and I just preferred to watch TV with the VPN switched on instead of the DNS proxy, it saved me time.

If you have an IP that remains the same (static), Unblock TV will work just fine for you, the only caveat is that not all  TV websites are supported, iHeart radio for example, does not work with AceVPN Unblock TV, you can suggest Acevpn staff to add it, they add new sites when there is enough demand.

Windows OpenVPN provider Acevpn
Windows OpenVPN provider Acevpn

As for the VPN, you should know that AceVPN does not have a proprietary VPN client, you have to download the original OpenVPN client with no interface, servers can only be accessed right clicking on the VPN taskbar logo and configuration files have to be manually edited. The good news are that you only have to do this once and Acevpn has easy to follow instructions with screenshots about how to configure the software, however, it will take 30 minutes of your time to read those instructions.

I regard the OpenVPN right clicking system confusing, the more expensive Ultimate VPN package shows up in the list. The cheap VPN package I was using only allowed me to connect to the USA, UK and France servers, the other dozen locations were taking screen space and I could not access them.

The main points you should know about Acevpn is that their website is disorienting, they have two different VPN packages but you aren’t clearly told what the differences are in between them, Acevpn has lots of internal links that keep you going around in circles. Support was quick to reply the one time I contacted them in the forum, VPN set up instructions are neat, although, if they had a proper VPN client, the customer would not have to set up anything.

The Premium cheap VPN package is good value for money if you are happy with just three VPN servers, the Premium package that allows P2P traffic is overpriced in comparison with the competition. Acevpn privacy policy isn’t great either, all they say is that they don’t keep logs but they don’t tell you what kind of logs they are talking about, if connection or website logs and they don’t mention where their company is based.

The only reasons why you might want to sign up with Acevpn and not somebody else, is that DNS unblocking TV services are included for no extra charge. That is all I liked from them, I think that to start competing with other VPN companies they should organise their website so that basic information, like VPN package differences, can be found in less than an hour, and if they can’t afford paying a developer to build their own VPN client, at the very least don’t make customers download twenty configuration VPN files when they can only access three of them.

If you want an alternative to Acevpn I suggest PIA VPN they fix all of the shortcomings that AceVPN has and prices are equally cheap.

Visit Acevpn homepage

Block malicious bots from scanning your site

Looking at my site statistics I have been observing how for the past three months a bot scans my site multiple times a day. I don’t know the purpose, but I know that it is using a fake ISP name and user agent, companies running a bot for a good purpose, like research or archiving a site, don’t mislead webmasters with fake metadata data, I assumed this is a malicious bot and I obviously wanted it blocked.

The fake ISP that my analytic StatCounter software shows for this bot is labelled as “Merck & Co.”, a multinational pharmaceutical company, the operating system shows as Windows 8 and the browser is either Chrome or Firefox. At first glance everything looks fine, I only realised it is a bot because my blog has less than a hundred visitors a day and it was  odd to see twenty daily visits from Merck & Co. when they are not even computer related. I dug deeper to see what URL it was visiting and it appears it scans all tags, I then looked at the IP host name, that is when it became clear  to me that it was a bot with a fake ID, the hostname (reverse IP) belonged Amazonaws.com (Amazon Web Services), a cloud service renting cheap servers.

Wordfence list of blocked IP
Wordfence list of blocked IP

Every single Merck & Co.” hit scanning my site came from the same US Amazon data centre and they are using more than one server, they have thousands of IPs, although in the same range. On a side note, a month ago my Adsense account had a 1000% increase in earnings, it earned me $1000 in a single day when it normally earns me $1/day. It was obvious that a bot had been clicking on advertisements,  and since this wasn’t me, I am assuming that a black hat hacker was trying to dry out Adsense funds out of a competitor.

As soon as I noticed it, I reported the scheme to Google myself to avoid any account suspension, you can report suspicious activity using your Google Adsense panel, the Adsense team never replied, I expected this, Google Adsense is known for never replying to their partners and treating them like garbage who don’t deserve a reply, the only reason for using them here is that for small traffic sites like mine they pay a little bit more than others.

There are two ways to block malicious bots from scanning your site, one of them is manually, it can be used if you have very few computer IPs you want to block and you don’t expect them to change. To manually block an IP from visiting your site download the .htaccess from your server using an FTP client like FileZilla, edit .htaccess in your computer, it will very difficult to do this with Notepad in Windows, Notepad has problems saving files with a dot (.) in front. To edit .htaccess use a proper editor for programmers, I recommend Notepad ++, it is the one I use and it is free (notice the ++ sign infront).

Add the following lines at the end of your .htaccess file, changing the listed IP address for the one you would like to ban:

# User IP Banning
<Limit GET POST>
order allow,deny
deny from 54.160.11.154
allow from all
</Limit>

If you want to block more IPs, add more lines that say “deny from” followed by the offending IP, as many as you need. If you want to block a whole range use the line “Deny from 54.160.1.0/24” (notice the /24 at the end, that is not an IP, that is the 512 IP addresses). By the way, the IP example I am using is the real bot IP scanning my site.

A second way to block an IP range from hitting your website is using a security WordPress addon called Wordfence. This addon allows you see live traffic, it scans your website to find malware and it monitors changes to core WordPress files, Wordfence automatically blocks IPs attempting to login into the administrator page too many times, this stops brute force attacks, you can use this addon to block a single computer IPs, adding it manually, or you can block a whole IP range, that is what I did to stop the fake “Merck & Co” bot.

Wordpress security addon Wordfence
WordPress security addon Wordfence

After installing Wordfence in your blog go to “Advance Blocking” and enter the IP range you would like to stop from visiting your site separated with a hyphen. You can learn the bot IP range by looking at the site analytics software, in this case the range I blocked was 54.69.0.1 – 54.69.255.255 and 54.68.0.1 – 54.68.255.255 those IPs belong to Amazon servers in Woodbridge,  USA. And if you ever change your mind, click on “Delete blocking pattern” and the IP range will be able to access your site again.

Wordfence also gives you the choice of blocking an specific browser or user agent, but it will not be useful against malicious bot, like “Merck & Co.”, the user agent is fake. You are also able to block a whole country from visiting your site and setting up double login authentication using your smartphone, but those are paid features. For the small hobbyist webmaster, the free version of Wordfence is enough to protect you, even if no bot scans your site, it can protect you in other ways.

Visit Wordfence homepage

 

HostMetro review, what they don’t tell you

I decided to sign up with HostMetro after contacting their support team to confirm that they allowed adult content. I liked that they had cPanel, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited addon domains, one click install and far better pricing than their competitors. It also caused me a good impression that HostMetro support team was straight forward about my first enquiry and very quick to answer, the 24/7 live chat, email and phone number for support became the icing on the cake.

Another thing I liked from HostMetro is that unlike some of the big hosts enticing you to sign up with them for a year with a discount voucher and charging you double when the promotion expires, HostMetro pledges to never increase renewal fees even if you signed up using a huge discount. This moved me to buy the 3 years hosting plan to lock in the bargain price permanently.

HostMetro control panel addons
HostMetro control panel addons

Sign up process was simple, account activation immediate and features all as promised. I moved six of my WordPress blogs from the old host that I had given up because of a price increase, and had Pingdom set up to monitor HostMetro uptime. Everything was too good and uptime was my main concern.

For the following two weeks performance seemed to be marvelous, for a site hosting adult content that consumed a fair amount of bandwidth I had no slow down or downtime at all, I could not be any happier, right until I decided that I should back up my account.

Anybody familiar with cPanel knows that there is a “Backup” button that you can use to create a full account back up, I was unable to see this button anywhere in HostMetro cPanel. I opened a ticket and HostMetro told me that they had removed the “Backup” button from the panel because some users were consuming too many resources with it, but I could have the button reinstated for a price, $1.95/month. It rattled me that HostMetro would give me such a lame excuse to charge extra for a feature that all hosts have by default. Back up is not an email or site monitoring addon, backup is an essential feature that you can’t live without, no serious webmaster would spend their time building a site and have no backup.

HostMetro support informed me that if I wanted to it is possible to backup the sites with FTP, and they are right, but FTP takes you much more time than cPanel backup as there is no file compression and MySQL databases have to be kept separately.

I was not happy about HostMetro gimmick to get more money out of me so I asked for a refund, support then replied to the ticket that they were willing to reinstate cPanel “Backup” button for free. Unfortunately I already felt uneasy about the company and I did not want to be tied with them for three years and risk who knows what down the line when there is no possibility of refund, I insisted on my refund and without any hassle within four days Hostmetro had send my money back to Paypal and the account was cancelled.

Overall, uptime for the two weeks I was with them was good, support was quick and reliable, prices are cheap, and they were quick to refund me without problems. It is a pity that HostMetro marketing was deceiving. I have a mixed feeling about this host because they treated me properly and the extra $1.95/month they asked for  being able to back up the account still makes the prices reasonable.

My advice is that you give them a go because maybe they have changed their cPanel back up policy by the time you read this and if you contact HostMetro support threatening with closing the account if you don’t have this feature they are very  likely to offer you this for free like they did with me.

Visit HostMetro homepage

Hostmetro 20% discount coupon with word: moneyoff

How to create a WordPress child theme for beginners

A WordPress child theme allows you customize and edit your WordPress theme without risking doing irreparable damage or losing all changes you have made after updating the theme.

A WordPress child theme inherits the parent theme functionality,the Cascading Style Sheet is imported from the original theme and all modifications you make to it are stored in the child theme instead of the parent so that they can not be overwritten.

Beginners can create a child theme using one of the following plugins:

One Click Child Theme: It can be used in shared hosts to create a WordPress child theme with a single click. It doesn’t require you to learn how SFTP works.

Child Themify: Compatible with multiple sites, a WordPress special edition called MU (Multisite) able to administrate more than one wordpress installation with a single interface.

Wordpress child theme diagram
WordPress child theme diagram

Orbisius Child Theme Creator: It can create unlimited child themes from a single parent theme. This plugin includes a child theme editor to compare side by side the original parent theme file with the modified one.

Creating a child theme manually

Advanced users can create a child theme if they know how to SFTP to a server and edit Cascating Style Sheets.

To have a WordPress child theme you first have to create a child theme folder inside wp-content/themes you can name that folder anything you like, normally, if it was based on the twentyfour theme it would be called twentyfour-childtheme

Then you code an empty style.css file as written below, just replace where it says twentyfour with the name of your original theme:

/*
Theme Name: Awesome Twenty Fourteen
Template: twentyfourteen
*/
@import url(“../twentyfourteen/style.css”);
/* Theme customization starts here */

Save the style.css file and upload it to the twentyfour-childtheme folder you have previously created.

Now you will see the new twentyfour-childtheme inside the Worpress administration panel going to Appearance>Themes  activate it and you ready to customize the new layout without fear of breaking anything. Reverting changes will be as easy as activating the original theme.

Just a warning, I have found it difficult to add analytics to a child theme because I am not well versed in web design. I got around it by downloading the StatCounter plugin for WordPress so that I don’t have to edit my theme to add any analytics code and the code will always be there after a theme update or change.

To save you time, I am making my child theme CSS file described above available for download in this post. You will also find an empty functions.php file and an empty images folder, those are used to augment the level of child theme customization, like creating a widget, you don’t have to necessarily use everything, uploading all files will not tear apart your layout.

Download twentyfourteen child theme files

Review Arvixe shared hosting package

After extensive research I picked Arvixe to host my site over the other dozen of budget hosting companies due to the good online reviews, their quick reply to one of my presale questions, cheap prices, the size of the company guaranteeing that they will not evaporate overnight, the host allowing adult content and because they are not part of the Endurance International Group (EIG), a big hosting corporation worth hundreds of millions of dollars that owns HostGator, BlueHost, iPage, FatCow and other 50 different hosting brands marketed as if they were independent to hide that they belong to the same owner.

I was unhappy the way HostGator had been dealing with my hosting account since they were taken over by EIG and I wanted to make sure that when I switched host I would not be using the same EIG parent company under a different brand.

Feature wise, Arvixe provides a cPanel account with the same unlimited space and bandwidth that all of the other big hosts, with the pleasant extra of a free domain registered under your own name that you get to keep without having to pay for it for as long as you remain with Arvixe, and if you move host, you can transfer the domain name to the registrar of your choice. This alone is worth $10/year.

Arvixe hosting custom cPanel
Arvixe hosting custom cPanel

The signing up process is straight forward, with automatic approval if they payment isn’t flagged as fraud. I used Paypal and within minutes account credentials were received in my email inbox with standard information on how to configure DNS servers and SFTP.

Support is provided 24×7 by live chat, US based phone number, online forum and email. I opened five tickets in total and they were replied to in an average of two hours, I posted a couple of complaints in their online forums and they replied to me in five to six hours. I don’t live in the USA so it might have been night there when I posted.

Arvixe support was always helpful, the email address of their Quality Assurance team appears next to the tickets and you are invited to contact them if you are not happy with the support you receive, and if Quality Assurance does not solve your problem, you can escalate it to the Arvixe management team. Their contact email address is found in the signature of all Quality Assurance email communications, with a sentence encouraging you to write to the management if something is not addressed properly.

I have been with six different hosting companies in the last few years and Arvixe is outstanding when it comes to customer support. This is the only big hosting company I know of where you can directly contact the top bosses.

Now comes the dreadful part where I suffered multiple server downtime during my first days of hosting with Arvixe (langur server), sometimes as much as eight hours of downtime straight, other times just a few minutes, random and unexpected, making it impossible for me to update my blog, feeling unsure if the next mySQL error would allow me to save the data or go belly up and lose everything.

I posted a complaint in Arvixe public forums, thinking that since everybody can read them, they would take it more seriously than a private ticket. Arvixe response was to apology, stand by their 99.9% uptime guarantee and refund me one month hosting fees within hours of me bringing up the issue.

I decided to remain with them because Arvixe seemed to really care about the customer and no host is safe from possible server problems, but lo and behold, for the next three weeks my Pingdom account monitoring the website uptime sent me more downtime notifications. At the end of the month Pingdom indicated a total of 11 outages with a total server uptime of 96.68%, well below my expectations even for a budget shared host.

I believe they would have refunded me a second month hosting fees if I complained again but I decided that it was not worth the trouble. I lose five times refund fees in missing advertising revenue with just one day of downtime. It rattled me that in just seven days I had experienced the same downtime than for the last two years.

Pingdom server monitoring Arvixe hosting
Pingdom server monitoring Arvixe hosting

I decided to call it quits when I received an Arvixe notification informing all langur server users that we were going to be migrated to a new server because of hardware stability issues and during the next few hours of hosting we could notice sluggish performance visiting the site.

I took advantage of Arvixe 60 days money back guarantee, double the length of time that other hosts offer. After moving my sites to a more expensive semi-dedicated server with HawkHost, I asked Arvixe to cancel my account and refund me the two years I had paid in advance.

Arvixe Quality Assurance team offered me to promptly move my sites to a different server  but I was too rattled about the time I lost moving sites and I already had a new host so I turned down their offer. In less than 24 hours Arvixe refunded me every single penny, they did not charge me any Paypal fee or domain fee, which according to terms and conditions, were entitled to.

I had a bad experience with Arvixe but I was only with them for one month and they acknowledged the problem. I think that they deserve a second chance to make sure that the awful server downtime was only an unlucky coincidence that happened right after I signed up. Had it not been for the downtime the rest of the hosting package was perfect and perhaps in the future I could be back with them.

They also have a BusinessClass Hosting costing $20/month, with less users per server and better hardware. But with the meager advertisement income I make here, this was not an option for me.

20% off Arvixe hosting using the code: hosting20deal