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WHAT’S A CONTENT DELIVERY NETWORK, AND WHY DO I NEED ONE?
Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) have opened the gateway to an entirely new way to boost SEO rankings. They are a collection of “points of presence” or “POPs” (also known as edge servers) that are strategically placed in a way that effectively delivers website content more directly to the site user. What’s that mean to you? With a CDN, when a user visits your site they view a cached copy of your website’s content from the closest edge server. This cached copy of your website’s HTML, CSS, images, and other assets can be loaded from multiple locations that are much closer to the user, which improves your site’s reliability, speed, and overall performance. The more efficient the site, the more likely users are to visit. So, the bottom line is CDNs raise the bar for user experience (UX) and improve search engine optimization (SEO) efforts overall.
For many of us, all this IT talk may seem completely over our heads. But that doesn’t make it any less valuable, of course. To solve this problem, we’ve worked together with our web experts to break this down into laymen’s terms we can all understand. Check out more below for an easy explanation to frequently asked questions regarding CDNs, as well as a deep dive for all you overachievers:
WHY SHOULD I USE A CDN?
The easy answer. Think of it like shipping. When you order a package from a store that only has one primary warehouse, it takes longer to get to you, usually has to travel further, and probably costs more, right? Now consider Amazon Prime. Amazon has warehouses and shipping facilities all over the country, all stocked with best selling items so that when you place an order, chances are the facility servicing you is nearby. That’s why they can offer guaranteed two-day shipping at no cost. A CDN will do the same by duplicating servers across a variety of locations to improve loading times, reduce cost, handle more web traffic without errors and improve your website’s security.
The deep dive.
Cloudflare notes that some of the benefits of using a CDN include the following:
- Improving website load times – By distributing content closer to website visitors by using a nearby CDN server (among other optimizations), visitors experience faster page loading times. As visitors are more inclined to click away from a slow-loading site, a CDN can reduce bounce rates and increase the amount of time that people spend on the site. In other words, a faster a website means more visitors will stay and stick around longer.
- Reducing bandwidth costs – Bandwidth consumption costs for website hosting is a primary expense for websites. Through caching and other optimizations, CDNs are able to reduce the amount of data an origin server must provide, thus reducing hosting costs for website owners.
- Increasing content availability and redundancy – Large amounts of traffic or hardware failures can interrupt normal website function. Thanks to their distributed nature, a CDN can handle more traffic and withstand hardware failure better than many origin servers.
- Improving website security – A CDN may improve security by providing DDoS mitigation, improvements to security certificates, and other optimizations.
CDNs use proximity to deliver your website content from an edge server to the user faster instead of having to travel all the way back to your websites origin server and then back again. Reducing the distance your content has to travel can drastically reduce latency and minimize packet loss, which will speed up the delivery of your content considerably and help maintain a good user experience.
How Do CDNs Help SEO?
The easy answer. CDNs allow for a better user experience, and that’s a big deal to Google. Things like site speed, performance and mobile-friendliness are major ranking factors for where Google puts you on top of the search list. In addition, a CDN regularly purges your site so that users are seeing the newest freshest version each time, which signals Google to take a look at your website more often and boost your ranking.
CDNs also allow you to secure your website over HTTPS with an SSL certificate, even if that’s not something your hosting provider offers. This is also something Google has openly stated they look for when ranking sites. Plus, with better security overall, your site is less likely to encounter a breach, which often interrupts normal business practices and can, in turn, negatively impact SEO.
The deep dive.
CDNs contribute to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in the following ways:
1. Site Performance
Speed is a ranking factor, thus, your website’s load times are very important. CDNs improve site speed and ensure the quality of the content being delivered to the user. Since we are dealing heavily with user experience, Google has placed a lot of weight on this factor. In 2010, Google announced that site speed is a ranking factor and there is no sign that this will lessen over time. In fact, it has been on the increase as mobile devices are accounting for more and more of website traffic.
2. Securing your website with HTTPS
Using a CDN allows you to serve your website over HTTPS, even if your main website is not secure. With the integration of the free ‘Lets Encrypt’ SSL Certificate allows your site to be served securely even if your hosting doesn’t offer Lets Encrypt certificates. Since Google has announce the use of HTTPS as a ranking signal t has been increasingly important to switch sites over to SSL/TLS to protect SERP ranking.
3. Enabling HTTP/2 Protocol
Since HTTP/2 has been released, Google has it listed on its ‘Best Practices’ audit along with HTTPS security. HTTP/2 can serve your page’s resources faster, and with less data moving over the wire. Many CDN’s, such as Cloudflare, have enabled support for HTTP/2 so even if your hosting does not this can be another option to improve website performance and SEO practices.
4. Process Of Content Invalidation
An additional advantage to using a CDN is the fact that they will regularly purge (remove and update) your content. In doing so, the CDN is ensuring the most relevant and current website content is being delivered to the user. Using specific caching algorithms and canonical headers actually improve SEO by impeding duplicate content creation problems. This process of content invalidation supports the reliability that the user receives the newest version at all times and increase crawl rates from Google which can speed up image indexing in SERPs.
5. Increased Website Security
Although this one doesn’t directly affect SEO, a compromised website will always negatively affect SEO. Using a CDN decreases the chance of an attack on your site since it’s being served from multiple servers located in several geographic locations. Having several CDNs to help protect your site from an attack also allows the mitigation of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS). DDoS attacks disrupted normal business operations by degrading website and application performance and availability (which sometimes shuts down sites completely). Attacks of this type can lead to degraded user experience, brand degradation, and potential loss of business.
The Benefits of Using A CDN
The bottom line? Using a content delivery network to load your website from multiple servers located at several geographic locations will not only improve the user experience of your site, but also the site performance, site security, and overall health. A CDN service is a strong tool for any company/website looking to build a stronger SEO presence and ultimately improve the user’s website experience.