CDN, SEO & Page Speed
Recently, while setting up a client’s WP Engine account, I was given the option to boost the site’s page speed using CDN.
In explaining this to a client, it got me thinking about all the aspects of page speed that are less understood and how important they can be in improving your SEO and user experience.
What is CDN?
If you immediately think “Oh I’ve got that one, it’s Canadian dollars” you’d be forgiven. (This client does some work in Canada, so for a moment I thought that too.)
CDN stands for Content Delivery Network.
A content delivery network is a network of servers that temporarily host your page when a web user calls upon it. Instead of loading your page from one location, a CDN allows you to temporarily load your page from multiple locations in order to optimize speed.
Why would you need to host your page in across multiple servers? Because with web servers, distance matters.
Imagine that your page is hosted on a server in Arizona. For users in the region, it will load quickly and easily. But imagine someone is trying to load it in Philadelphia. Electricity travels fast, but all the nodes and routers along the way will add microseconds or even seconds to your load time. For users in, say, Germany, it will take even more time. And it will be even slower for those clients you are trying to court in Australia.
CDNs allow you to store a copy of your site on local servers around the world so that when someone tries to load your page in Australia it loads from a server nearby, rather than halfway around the world.
The effect is that your page loads dramatically faster for all users, no matter their location.
You don’t have a lot of extra time to waste. Industry standard load times for a well-ranking website are between .5 seconds and 2 seconds. Longer than that and you will see decreases in traffic, rankings, and conversions.
But CDNs provide other bonuses too. In particular, they help when traffic spikes: instead of having hundreds (or thousands) of requests hitting a single server which can cause dramatic slowdowns or even a crash, CDNs will distribute the traffic among multiple servers and provide reliability in these special circumstances. And when thousands of people are visiting your site at the same time, you’ll want it to load!
In addition to helping with page speed and providing a defense against server crashes, CDNs do something else too: they help with SEO.
Page speed is a major component in Google’s algorithms for search result rankings. A page that consistently loads slowly will appear lower in the search results for relevant searches and will ultimately lead to lower traffic for that site. Google crawls these sites regionally, so if a site only loads quickly in the eastern US, then it may rank higher there, but lower in Europe where it might load slowly, due to the distance from the server. In this way, CDNs will help with SEO even if by your accounts you are already dominating the market. Without a CDN you might be ranking badly in places you have never visited, but that could potentially provide you with lucrative traffic.
The real point: User Experience
But the real point is this: webpages that load slowly are a drag. We navigate away from them in favor of pages that are quick and responsive. Even if you end up ranking well and getting the traffic, users will be less likely to stay, to think highly of your site, and to convert into customers.
Think of page speed as a service to your customers. If there is a long line up at your store, you would attempt to add another cashier to make the line move faster. If you are backed up in providing service to customers, you might work longer hours to reduce the wait time. It’s the same with page speed. Using CDNs helps to give customers around the world a better experience with your business. The results are impressive, and lasting.
Want to learn more about what you can do to speed up your page and rank higher on search results? Get in touch and we’ll get started right away.