Almost everyone has heard of the importance of site speed, even the average blogger with lackluster technical skills. In a previous article we did a comparison between two domains and found speed was the likely signal pushing one site above another in mobile searches.
Google wants to provide sites that users will actually use. You may have the absolute best content but if it takes over 3 seconds to load your page its a big problem for ranking.
- Each 1 second delay reduces page views by 11%
- Each 1 second delay decreases customer satisfaction by 16%
- Each 1 second delay decreases 7% of conversion rate
- For a store doing $100,000 a day a 1 second delay means $2.5 million in lost sales.
- Google uses page load speed to help determine your sites rank.
CDNs are great resources to speed up your page speed load times. Think of it like this … if you’re a pharmacy and you have one location for the whole world people are going to have to travel great distances for your products. But if you open a pharmacy in every state people can just go to the nearest location to get all of your webpages and no one has to travel that far. This is a CDN a Content Delivery Network.
The expense of having 50 servers in 50 states is likely too much for most websites. A CDN steps in and provides the infrastructure for us to share with others.
Here are a few common questions site owners ask in regard to CDNs:
- “What is a CDN?”
- “What are the benefits of a CDN?”
- “Do I still need to purchase hosting if I have a CDN?”
- “Does my site need a CDN?”
We’re going to go over what a CDN is and thoroughly explain the important role this technology plays in the modern web.
We’ll also briefly touch base on the differences between your web server and a CDN before placing our focus on who does and does not need this technology implemented on their website.
What is a CDN?
Here’s the technical definition of a CDN, or at least a paraphrased version of it. A CDN, which stands for Content Delivery Network, is a global network of servers that deliver content to visitors of a website based on where that visitor is located.
You need to understand how regular web hosting works in order to understand this definition as well as the importance of it. In a typical web hosting environment, all of the traffic running to your website gets sent to your host’s web server, the one you installed your site on and the one that holds its data.
This often results in a slower website for all visitors as that single server struggles to stay afloat among the surge of traffic it receives on a regular basis. It can even leave your site vulnerable to DDoS attacks. Why is this bad? Here are a few quick facts to help you understand the importance of having your site run as quickly and reliably as possible:
- Google made site speed a ranking factor in as early as 2010. [Source: Search Engine Land]
- 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. [Source: Kissmetrics via Akamai and Gomez.com]
- 40% of consumers abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. [Source: Kissmetrics via Akamai and Gomez.com]
- 79% of shoppers who are dissatisfied with website performance are less likely to buy from the same site again. [Source: Kissmetrics via Akamai and Gomez.com]
- 52% of online shoppers state quick page loading is important to their site loyalty. [Source: Kissmetrics via Akamai and Gomez.com]
- A 1-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. [Source: Kissmetrics via Akamai and Gomez.com]
This, obviously, leads us to our next question.
What are the benefits of a CDN?
The most obvious and most important benefit of a CDN is an increase in site speed for all users of your website no matter where they’re located in the world. When you implement a CDN on your website, you’re distributing access to it to what are known as “proxy servers” located all around the world.
If you use a CDN, your Australian user would be able to load that static content from a server that’s closest to them, maybe even in the same country depending on the CDN service you decide to go with. This will allow them to load the page in a much quicker manner.
The origin server is located toward the south of North America in the illustration above while the replicated web-server clusters are located in six continents around the world. You can see how the “user” icons demonstrate how users are served static content from the replicated web servers closest to them instead.
The impact? Some sites report seeing a decrease of more than 50% in the amount of time it takes for their site to load after implementing a CDN. [Source: KeyCDN]
If you’re still having a tough time figuring out how this technology makes your website faster, think of it like a highway:
- The main lane is your origin server.
- The additional lanes are your replicated web servers.
- The cars are the users visiting your website.
Without those additional lanes, all of the cars on the road need to use the main lane. This will eventually result in a traffic jam as more and more cars fill the lane. Traffic will start to slow before the flow stops altogether after the lane becomes too congested.
If you open those additional lanes, cars will be able to distribute themselves among them rather than relying on a single lane. This will allow them to move at a much quicker pace, and they’ll get to their destination a lot faster than they would have if they were all using the same lane.
In other words, having your users load static content from a server that’s closest to where they’re located will allow each and every one of them to load your website much quicker than they’d be able to if they were all loading that content from the same server.
I’ve seen this site swing 20 to 30 places in it rankings…and you can over take better content with a faster site if the other site is slow.
Check out some CDNs for your site…
- Jetpack – Not recommended
- Cloudflare – not exactly a CDN but similar
- AWS Cloudfront
- CDN Enabler
We can review some of these in another post soon.