Are you asking yourself, “What is a CDN?” or “How to use a CDN to improve SEO“?

Your website’s server location is critical to determining your site’s load speed. The closer the server is to your site visitor, the faster the page will load. Given that a page’s load speed affects your site’s SEO ranking in Google, selecting the right location for your server can make or break your business.

what is a cdn, should i use a cdn, how to use a cdn

The answer is simple for businesses whose customer base is based in a specific location: choose a server nearby. However, for businesses receiving website traffic from across the globe, selecting any particular server location will inevitably lead to drops in page load speed.

The result: visitors leave your site, frustrated by the slow loading time.

The answer for such globe-spanning businesses is a content delivery network (CDN). Unlike specific server locations, it can ensure page load times remain consistent no matter where your visitors are in the world.

In this article, we’re explaining what a CDN is, why you should use a CDN, and how to use a CDN to improve SEO.

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What is a CDN?

A content delivery network (CDN) is a collection of servers positioned in specific strategic geographical locations throughout the world. By reducing the physical distance between the server and visitor, page load speed can decrease substantially. It’ll also reduce bandwidth consumption regardless of the visitor’s location in relation to the main server

Think of a CDN like a cash machine. Instead of waiting to go to the bank – where you’ll face long lines – ATMs allow you to take money out from a more convenient location (and it’s faster).

In contrast to normal servers, CDN’s servers contain a cache of your website – a temporary copy of your website’s files. As such, when the CDN server needs to access your site, it won’t draw the information from the main server; rather, it’ll access the saved copy, thereby further speeding up the page load time.

CDNs were originally invented to solve network congestion coming from rich web content, like graphics and video. Similar to a traffic jam, the high bandwidth such content required was clogging the system.

CDNs were a simple, effective, and efficient method of reducing load times while delivering the same content.

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Should I use a CDN?

CDNs are a powerful tool to speed up page load times – but they’re not for everyone. For most small-scale, local sites, you’ll receive a far better service relying on specific servers to deliver your site to your nearby customers.

For example, a florist or baker won’t see any significant benefit from a CDN, as all their customers are based a few miles from their business premises.

Where CDNs do become necessary is for globe-spanning companies. Here are some examples:

  • Global news publications with readers across numerous countries
  • Ecommerce platforms with tens of thousands to millions of customers
  • Social media websites access across the world
  • Entertainment websites, e.g., Netflix or Amazon Prime that need to deliver HD content in real-time

Ask yourself: where are my customers based? A CDN may be your best option if the answer is more than one country. On the other hand, if your business is largely regional (or confined to a small country), using a local server is preferable.

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How to Use a CDN to Improve SEO

When adding a CDN to your website, you’ll need to evaluate your options based on how your website is hosted. Below we cover the most common methods for each hosting type.

Web hosting provider

For websites hosted by a provider, e.g., HostGator or 1&1, you may be able to access a CDN as part of their hosting service. Some providers include CDNs built-in and others as an additional service.

Even if your web hosting provider doesn’t include CDNs as part of their service, you may still be able to use one of the following options.

Content management system

Content management systems (CMS), such as WordPress or Squarespace, typically provide CDNs through a plug-in. Common examples include W3TC, WP Fastest Cache, and WP Super Cache. WordPress allows the use of Jetpack automatically.

Self-hosted

Self-hosted websites allow far greater flexibility when choosing a CDN; however, they require a more intensive setup.

Google Cloud CDN is a great option for a website hosted on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). You’ll need a GCP account, a domain registered with a registrar, and a website hosted in App Engine, Computer Engine, or an alternate GCP service.

Alternately, the two most popular CDN services are Amazon AWS and MaxCDN.

Follow these steps to get everything established:

  1. Select a CDN and register your site. First, you’ll need to choose the CDN and register for an account. There are several options: MaxCDN, AWS CloudFront, Cloudflare, Akamai, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. Each service has its own pros and cons.
  2. Create a CDN URL / Configure your DNS records. Under the conventional system, you had to change the resource URLs to point to URLs provided by the CDN. Newer systems manage your DNS records for you, so you won’t have to change your website to redirect users.
  3. Enable CDN. After configuring your DNS records, you’ll need to enable the CDN. Google’s Cloud CDN, for example, requires a load balancer as the origin. Refer to the specific CDN setup guide for further information. You’ll also need to use your site’s front-end IP address and point the system to your origin’s IP address.
  4. Upload content to CDN. You’ll want to ensure your web server can respond to the CDN’s server request correctly. After checking the requirements, the unit should automatically cache resources as people access your site.

Improve your SEO with more than a CDN

It takes so much more than a CDN to improve SEO on your website. Our SEO specialist will help you get set up to increase page speeds, click through rate, and so much more. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation!