A CDN, which stands for Content Delivery Network, is essentially a network of servers spread across the globe. These CDN servers locally cache content from a website. When visitors access a website, they can receive a portion of the website’s content from a nearby CDN server. This process significantly speeds up page loading times.
Adding a CDN service to your website or blog can reduce page loading times which is important for your readers and SEO.
Let’s dive into the topic of CDN’s and the benefits you receive as a website owner or blogger.
Table of Contents
What is a CDN?
A CDN is a Content Delivery Network.
It delivers content (images, fonts and other static files) using a network of servers distributed globally.
When a request for a web page is received, the website server responds with an HTML file, which is essentially the web page itself. Embedded within this page are links to other files necessary for the page to display and function correctly.
Typically, a web page will require the loading of these types of files:
- Style sheets (CSS Files) – responsible for the page’s appearance
These files are static – that is they don’t change often. This static nature makes them ideal for “caching” or storing in various locations across the network for easier access.
And that’s precisely what a CDN does – it “caches” or stores these static files in convenient locations close to website visitors.
The Benefits of Using a CDN
Now you know what a CDN is let’s look at some of the benefits of adding a CDN service to your website.
Speed Matters: The Need for Faster Websites
Website visitors are not known for their patience. Ideally, you want your web page to load in 2 seconds or less. Any additional time it takes to load can result in lost visitors.
Google also pays close attention to your web page loading times – it’s a crucial ranking factor for your website.
Furthermore, Google needs to crawl your website before it can index it. Slow-loading pages reduce the number of pages that Google can crawl during each visit to your website.
By using a network of tens or hundreds of servers distributed around the world your website can serve content more quickly to visitors. The result? Reduced load times and happier visitors.
Prioritize a fast loading website
Improved User Engagement
Happy website visitors are good for business. A fast, responsive website that loads quickly will provide a good experience for users.
Ideally, a website visitor will stay on your website and go from one page to another and then another… This is more likely to happen when your website is fast with minimal page loading times.
A good way to measure user engagement is tracking the bounce rate metric for your site. This measures how often a user will “bounce” or leave your website after viewing only one page.
Increased website speed, one of the key benefits from using a CDN, can have a big impact on your search engine ranking potential.
Google, like readers, values fast loading websites. Speed is a ranking factor for Google (Source: Using site speed in web search ranking).
This emphasis on speed makes perfect sense because Google aims to deliver the best content to searchers. Visitors tend to spend less time on slow-loading websites, reducing their chances of finding what they’re searching for.
Google, from 2018, includes page speed as a ranking factor on mobile sites.
Lower Network Usage
Your hosting plan typically imposes limits on the amount of bandwidth and network resources your server can consume. If you exceed these limits, your website’s performance may be restricted or degraded. The usual remedy would be to upgrade your hosting plan to accommodate more bandwidth.
Hosting plans can be one of the most substantial expenses when operating a website, especially for freelancers or small businesses.
24/7 Content Availability
Some CDN’s will serve content even when your website is down.
You might be wondering how this is possible. The reason is that, in addition to caching images and other files, some CDNs can also cache entire web pages.
So, if a web page is requested while your website is down, and the CDN has a copy of that web page, it can serve that copy. This is how 24/7 content availability is achieved.
Just picture this scenario: one of your web pages goes viral. Instead of receiving just a few requests per minute, it’s suddenly bombarded with hundreds or even thousands of requests every minute. For many websites, this would spell disaster, leading to crashes and downtime.
However, with a CDN in place, most of the incoming traffic is efficiently handled by the CDN, alleviating the strain on your server’s bandwidth.
Even if your website experiences difficulties under this sudden surge of traffic, the CDN can still deliver the web page to visitors from its cached version.
The moment when your content goes viral can be a game-changer for your business. A CDN ensures that your website doesn’t crash, allowing you to seize this opportunity without interruption.
How to add a CDN to your website
Setting up a Content Delivery Network (CDN) for your website can be a straightforward process. You have two options: you can use a standalone CDN service and integrate it with your existing website, or, alternatively, your hosting provider may offer its own CDN service, which is often a more seamless and simpler option.
For this website, I use the CDN provided by SiteGround, my hosting provider. I’ll use this CDN as an example, but other CDNs work in a similar manner.
Here’s how to set up a CDN with your hosting provider:
- Access Your Hosting Account Dashboard: Log in to your hosting account and navigate to the CDN service section.
- Activate the CDN Service: Typically, activating the CDN for your domain is as simple as clicking a button.
- You’re Done! Once you activate the CDN, it’s ready to use. It’s as simple as that.
Keep in mind that your hosting provider may offer multiple tiers of CDN service, including a free tier. With SiteGround, the CDN service is free, but premium features like “Always Online” require a separate payment.
You can start with the free service and upgrade later if necessary.
Integrating a standalone CDN service into your website can require a bit more effort. Many of these services offer WordPress plugins to simplify the integration process. However, for first-time CDN users, I recommend considering your hosting provider’s CDN service if available. It often offers a more straightforward and user-friendly integration.
Some of the better hosting providers will provide a free CDN service with your account. If that’s the case for your provider then there is no cost to using a CDN.
Some of the premium features (like “Always Online” may not available on the free tier). You will probably have smaller quotas on bandwidth but for small websites or blogs that shouldn’t be an issue.
If you don’t have a CDN as part of your hosting service you will need to use a standalone service.
I hope you found this article informative and useful. Here is a quick recap:
- CDN stands for Content Delivery Network
- a CDN is a global network of servers that cache static content
- a CDN speeds up your website
- increases user engagement (users stay on your website longer)
- reduces server load (your site doesn’t crash when traffic spikes occur)
- improves SEO (increased user engagement and faster loading times)
- lower network resources on your hosting plan
- 24/7 content availability (may need a premium CDN plan for this)
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