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What Is Content Delivery Network (CDN) and How Does It Work?

Content Delivery Network CDN

With the Google Page Experiment just around the corner (scheduled to begin rolling out in June), site developers and business owners around the world are devoting more time and resources to improving the user experience Since the upcoming update focuses on loading, interactivity, and visual stability, it is an opportune time for website owners to audit their performance.

You may have heard that an important facet of this should be a re-evaluation of the site’s web hosting and content delivery network (CDN) setup. In this article, you’ll learn what a CDN is, how it works, and why CDNs are important for SEO.

Why do you need a CDN?

The average Internet user doesn’t care how web pages work or what web hosting provider a company uses. The only thing they care about is their own user experience, mainly fast loading speed, content quality and intuitive navigation.

Speed ​​equals money, and this is especially true for eCommerce sites. In fact, pages that load within 0 to 2 seconds have the highest conversion rates in eCommerce. Furthermore, conversion rates decrease by an average of 4.42% with each additional second of loading time between 0 and 5 seconds.

Even for non-commerce sites, page loading speed influences the final results, as those that load in 1 second have an average bounce rate of 7%, 11% for pages with a 3 second latency and 38% bounce for pages that take 5 seconds to load.

Across industries, using CDNs is a standard strategy to achieve optimal page loading speeds for both desktop and mobile. Cisco studies show that global CDNs are expected to carry 71% of all Internet traffic by 2023. It is now almost impossible to meet user expectations and compete with competing sites without using CDNs.

Also Read: Web crawlers and Google spiders

What is a CDN and how does it work?

Websites that do not use CDN rely on a single server to distribute content to all site visitors, whether they are a mile away or around the world.

On the other hand, a content distribution network is made up of multiple geographically distributed servers . CDN providers typically place servers at Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), the physical location where Internet service providers connect and exchange traffic. Site owners pay for CDN services, which allows them to distribute website content, such as images, videos, audio, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files, to every server on the network.

These servers store cached versions of the website content, making it easily available for user requests. When a user requests a page, the content is delivered through the geographically closest server. In turn, CDNs reduce page latency by minimizing the distance a site’s content must travel when requested by an end user.

CDNs also improve loading speed and user experience by optimizing delivery based on the type of content requested, such as standard web content, dynamic content, streaming video, or large file downloads. In addition to improving loading speeds, using CDNs increases bandwidth and reduces overall server costs.

Why CDNs are important for SEO

User experience metrics

It’s time to make loading speed a top priority. User experience and SEO are innately intertwined , and Google has long taken UX elements into account when determining search rankings. For example, the 2015 Google Mobile-Friendly update transformed the SEO space by introducing mobile-friendliness as an “on/off” algorithm.

In July 2018, Google confirmed that landing page loading speed is a ranking factor in searches, even for mobile searches. According to Google’s algorithm announcement, the May 2021 update makes user experience even more important. Many previous algorithm updates have caught website owners by surprise and forced SEO professionals to conduct extensive research to locate and analyze the changes.

But this time, Google is telling website owners exactly what metrics they should monitor and improve. The website.dev provides an overview of all Core Web Vitals and has a tool to test your site. As for loading speed, the site provides concrete figures for the ideal speed of LCP and FID and the visual stability of CLS. The optimal performance metrics are less than 2.5 seconds, less than 100 milliseconds, and less than 0.1, respectively.

Also Read: 10 Smart Ways to Earn or Build Backlinks for Your Website

Advanced analytics

Premium CDN providers also include analytics and insight reports as part of the package. CDNs can collect and report critical information, such as audience analytics, geographic and query-based traffic data, quality of service data, security event analysis, and viewer diagnostics. CDN packages typically offer customizable dashboards that make monitoring these performance indicators easy and automatic.

Site Security

Using a CDN also protects sites against denial of service (DDoS) attacks . Because CDNs distribute content to numerous servers, it prevents DDoS attacks from affecting the original server. Additionally, if a server on the network is attacked or experiences more traffic than it can handle, the request will be redirected to another server. Website security indirectly affects SEO by improving user experience and building trust in the site or brand.

Possible problems with CDNs for SEO

Image Hosting

While the SEO advantages of using CDNs are clear, the potential disadvantages are a little murkier. The impact of using CDNs on image classifications can be questioned. A 2019 article by Barry Schwartz looks at interactions on Twitter between notable SEO Lily Ray and Google’s senior webmaster trends analyst John Mueller. When Ray asked how to preserve the SEO value of images hosted on a CDN subdomain, Mueller responded: “No matter how you host the images, there is no SEO bonus for having them on the same host/domain.”

This statement from Mueller contradicts a widely held belief in the SEO industry that hosting images on a CDN domain – even a subdomain of your website – can hurt an image’s performance. This point of view is captured in the popular article Content Delivery Networks (CDNs): Good or Bad for SEO? by William Sen, CEO and founder of blue media.

In the article, Sen argues that using CDNs counteracts image optimization efforts, even if you host them on a subdomain:

“… it is never certain that Google will recognize your subdomain as part of your website. Especially in this case, since only the images would live under that subdomain, Google will most likely only see that subdomain as an archive of files, and an entity unrelated to your website may or may not decide. , based on its own algorithm, whether it will consider your subdomain as part of your Site or not; . Google Treats Subdomains Differently Depending on Each Website .

The article goes on to explain that Google uses focused crawlers to crawl and index high-profile gatekeeper sites , giving them “special treatment” and more detailed analysis than the average website. Whether you agree with Sen or take Mueller’s tweets at face value, the best thing you can do to take advantage of image SEO is still to set up your CDN with a custom subdomain that maps to our main domain. Ahrefs recommends setting up a CNAME record or alias to clear your CDN subdomain name.

Ahrefs also recommends regaining link equity by targeting sites that use your images but link to the image source (the CDN) or the image itself instead of your site. You can use Ahrefs’ Site Explorer tool to identify links pointing to images hosted on the CDN. Simply contact the publisher and ask them to change the image URL to your domain.

Also Read: Retargeting: How Does It Work And Why Is It Essential For Your Business

Duplicate content

Another pitfall to avoid when using a CDN is the possibility of duplicate content . However, if you configure your CDN correctly, you shouldn’t have any problems. KeyCDN’s Brian Jackson says you can avoid this problem by using a canonical header setting that tells Google crawlers that the CDN content is a copy of the original.

Preparing for the user experience update

If you are not currently using a CDN or are unhappy with your current provider, consider making the switch before the User Experience Update occurs. Every time Google releases a new core algorithm update, there are “winners” and “losers” among the most affected sites.

The dramatic traffic drops many sites faced following the Drug Update serve as an example of how an algorithm change can undo months of SEO efforts overnight.

Fortunately, Google decided to notify webmasters of the upcoming update. Google has never and probably never will make its exact search algorithms public.
However, the announcement of the user experience update, the identification of the web’s core values, and the resources provided on the website.dev show an unprecedented level of transparency for Google. Improving page loading speed by using a powerful CDN, among other UX and SEO strategies, should help prepare your site for algorithm updates.

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