Why Digital Publishers Use Content Delivery Networks
June 8, 2016 | Alex Ivanovs
This post provides an overview of the challenges faced by companies that publish content online. It then shows how content delivery networks (CDNs) direct these challenges so digital publishers can responsibly deliver news stories, blog posts, images, and other content to their readers.
You would think that with the evolution of web technology, website performance would naturally improve. However, from November 2010 to May 2016, the average web page size has increased by a whopping 228%. That’s 700 kB back in 2010 and 2300 kB today.
What went wrong?
Well, scripts and videos are more frequently used, and the number of images used on a single web page has increased by 200%. All these statistics have detrimental effects on website performance, particularly for publishers who manage content-rich websites.
Source: HTTP Archive
Basic Optimizations Needed But Not Enough
There are some great web performance tools out there that help publishers decrease page weight and improve page load time.
But even after they do these things, publishers often find themselves with web pages that take more than 3 seconds to fully load. When the average consumer wants your website to load in 2 seconds or less, this doesn’t cut it. Even the slightest increase in page load time hurts conversion rates.
Adding CDN as an Optimization
A website without a CDN will serve content from a single static location, despite the country that the website visitor is from. For example, you might have a visitor coming to your website from India, but your servers are located in the US. Those requests that the visitor from India makes will need to travel across the world, then travel back to deliver the content.
Note: There are thousands of miles of cables under the ocean that your content travels through.
A website with a CDN will send content from a server closer to the website visitor. A CDN distributes your content from multiple locations across the world, each time delivering content from the location closest to the visitor. Because the content doesn’t have to traverse miles of underwater cabling, performance benchmarks improve instantly. There are also SEO benefits to using a CDN.
Publishers Using a CDN
To help you with your decision of trying out a CDN on your own publishing platform, we reached out to some of our most prominent customers to ask them for a comment on their experience with a CDN. Not only do these guys use a CDN; as marketing and coding specialists, they fully understand why CDNs are needed.
Brian Dean of Backlinko found that using a CDN improved his website speed drastically, which is also a well-known Google ranking factor. Brian’s insightful blog posts related to search engine optimization have been read by millions of Backlinko readers.
He told us: “The #1 reason I use a CDN is to improve my site loading speed. Site speed is HUGE for conversions and SEO. And using a CDN is one of the easiest ways to speed things up.”
Chris Coyier is one of the pioneers of CSS scripting for the web and runs CSS-Tricks, an award winning platform for frontend developers that offers tutorials, screencasts, and podcasts to educate developers about modern CSS capabilities.
He told us: “I use a CDN on CSS-Tricks first and foremost because I want the site to be fast. A CDN is one of those performance improvements you can do for any website that is easy to do and has a major impact. So it’s a no-brainer: definitely do it. But CSS-Tricks is also a website about building websites, so I always need to practice what I preach! People notice the speed on CSS-Tricks and a CDN is a big part of that.”
Jacob Gube runs SixRevisions, a very popular web designer resource that publishes tutorials, resources, and insightful case-studies for designers to improve their skills. SixRevisons serves more than 1.5 million pageviews each month.
He told us: “There are tons of reasons to use a CDN. But it all boils down to user experience. People hate waiting. We hate waiting in line to get our morning coffee. We hate waiting for the red light to turn green. And we hate waiting for slow websites and apps to load. Serving your content through a CDN will give you the biggest impact when you’re attempting to optimize frontend performance.”