Let's face it: between juggling WordPress plugins, themes and comments, your time as a blog/site owner is very limited. You don't want to waste time and energy thinking about hosts, providers. But you do want to offer the best possible experience for your users. And a part of that is the speed of your website. With more and more blogs coming online everyday, you want to make a great first impression. Changing hosts is not always easy and now, it might not even be needed. Thanks to a little innovation called CDN.
The definition of a CDN
CDN stands for Content Delivery Network – although some also use Content Distribution Network. It's a collection of servers all around the world meant to accelerate your website – be it ecommerce, blog, news etc. To put it another way – do you remember switching from HDD to SDD? Great speed and no moving parts. That did come at a cost, which is continuing to drop over time – we'll talk about CDN costs a bit later in this article.
The big thing with a CDN is that once you set it up, it pretty much works beautifully on its own. If you have a WordPress blog that's being accessed all over the world, you want your content to be fast for all users, no matter where they are geographically. A Content Delivery Network handles that – your static resources (think images, videos, scripts etc.) are mirrored (or copied) onto multiple servers.
For example: if a user in Germany accesses your website, but your hosting is in the US, he won't have a great experience, speed-wise. A CDN will understand the needs of that user and serve the static resources from a closer server – say Hamburg.
One last thing to note in the first stage of understanding CDNs: they don't work like a host. You might be thinking to yourself: “If they're so fast, why don't I host my entire WordPress blog on a CDN?”. The difference is that only your static resources are cached to the CDN's servers. The rest are still loaded from your WordPress host. In this way your web host and the CDN work together to provide a great experience for the user, no matter where he is.
The advantages of using a CDN on your WordPress blog
We have to start with the biggest one:
1. Greater website load speed
It's going to be the easiest to understand and the one you'll notice first. Because of the way CDNs are created (SSD servers spread all over the world plus the advantage of very fast internet connections), you'll immediately feel your website getting faster.
2. Better rankings through SEO
A second advantage of using a CDN is all that performance boost helps your Search Engine Optimization. In an article going back to 2010, we learn that Google is using website speed as a ranking factor. Question is: “If the news is 4 years old, why are you still ignoring CDNs?” Can you even afford to? More speed = a better experience for the user = your WordPress blog/site will rank higher in Google. That in turn means more traffic and more leads to convert into customers.
I'm oversimplifying things a bit, just to give you an idea of how using a CDN for your WordPress blog has many implications – Search Engine Optimization being one of them.
3. Crash-free website during traffic spikes
If you run an ecommerce website or you post pictures of offers for the holidays (be it Black Friday, Christmas or whatever you can think of), you know that that's where the big traffic comes in. People search for deals, coupons and offers. But what do you do when hundreds or thousands of people try to view the same picture at the same time? Your regular host can't handle the load – it's not meant to, as it's (usually) not setup for that amount of traffic.
All those deal pictures and Black Friday catalog PDFs will be served to your users from multiple servers from your CDN provider, so your website will not be hurt by all this additional traffic coming your way.
4. Lower bounce rates
The bounce rate is the percent of visitors who leave your website after visiting only one page. This can be for a variety of reasons like bad User Experience, low speed or uninteresting content. Take Google for example – because everything loads so quickly, you tend to use it more often and more of its features. My search for “CDN” took 0.31 seconds and I visited the regular search results, the image section and the news section.
Users of your WordPress blog/site will therefore have a great experience and will enjoy using it, as they don't feel they're waiting for anything to load. They're just searching, reading and generally browsing your blog/site.
Implementing a CDN for your website can do wonders – that is, if it already is pretty popular or starting to become so. There isn't much that can be optimized on a website that handles a few hundred of users a month. So take that into account before you jump the gun.
Setting up a CDN
Depending on the provider, setting up your CDN is usually a pretty painless affair, but it is a bit more complicated than signing up for WordPress.com. We will go into the actual steps of setting up a CDN in another article, coming soon. We'll show you how we actually use one for WP Dev Shed and the results we've had from implementing one for ourselves.
The costs involved with a CDN
It really depends on what your WordPress blog/site is all about – does it have many small images? Do you use it for file transfers? Are there game or video/audio assets being streamed – for example hosting a podcast? Also, going further down the line – do you know where your users are located? In some instances a CDN is not the answer, a faster host is.
A good price comparison can be done through CNDCalc, where you input your monthly website bandwidth and it comes up with recommended CDN choices – usually the cheapest ones. Other options include the possibility to choose where you want most of your CDN bandwidth used (Europe, Asia, USA etc.).
3 seconds is the maximum amount of time users wait for content to load, before 40% of them abandon the website. Consider that, coupled with the fact that the CDN market is expected to triple by 2019 and you're looking at 0 reasons to not start using a CDN today.
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