As more businesses and bloggers crave improved site performance on a global scale, Content Delivery Networks have emerged as a useful tool. But just what is a CDN, and is it worth shelling out for?
How does it work?
A CDN is a network of servers that, importantly, are spread all over the world. This means that when you use a CDN, your static content is cached and stored on all of these servers. So when a user visits your site, via the original server, the CDN tech redirects them to the closest server to their location.
The result is a far speedier service for the end user. Pages load faster, which is great news for improving the customer experience.
Another helpful aspect of CDNs is that webs addresses are usually based on geographical location. For example, if your hosting servers are in the US, they’ll likely have US IP addresses. CDNs use an IP Anycast, which means that they don’t have a set location. Because search engines like Google use IP locations to filter user search results by proximity to their location, CDNs can help give you site a rankings boost in terms of international SEO.
Why use a CDN?
• Improve your site’s loading time – as well as giving your users a better experience online, loading times are critical ranking factors for search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo – the faster your site performs the better in terms of SEO
• Better performance in local search – a CDN allows your site to rank in local search results all over the globe, allowing you to extend your site’s global reach
• Maximising your site’s uptime – with a CDN, you have the added assurance that if one server goes down, your site is still being served elsewhere on a regionally based server
However, all this being said, CDN still isn’t the right choice for everyone.
First things first, using a CDN is costly, and for some businesses it simply isn’t worth the outlay. CDN is only really useful if you’re looking to optimise SERP internationally. This means it’s really a tool more suited towards bigger, more established sites than small sites and businesses.
If you’re a small site or business, there are other far cheaper alternatives to helping your sites load faster, and hence improving their ranking performance. Ensuring you’re using compressed image files will help, as will handy cache plugins like W3 Total Cache.
It’s not uncommon for organizations or whole countries to block the domains or IP address of popular free CDN services, more so in the Far East, so this is something to watch for too.