CDN: Is Your Slow Website Losing You Sales?

As a business owner, you know that it is important to have a website, but have you ever thought about using the same technologies and techniques as the big boys?

What is a Content Distribution Network?

One tool that large e-commerce players use for site speed optimisation up and secure their sites is a CDN (Content Delivery Network). Only a few years ago, these were expensive, and only for enterprise customers. Fortunately for us, technology, and market forces have pushed the prices down to a point that even a Small Business can afford.More sophisticated CDNs can also optimise the underlying pages and images, as well as provide web site security, but more on this later.  So why would even a small web site need a basic CDN?Every web page is made up of a number elements, this includes things like text, images and often videos.  Now the further away geographically the user is to the website, the slower it is, right?So rather than bringing the user to the same country as the website (costly!), we bring as much of the website as possible to the same country as the user.  For the visually inclined, here's a diagram about CDNs from Wikipedia.[caption id="attachment_1552" align="alignnone" width="800"]

Content Distribution Network

A CDN is basically a collection of web servers in data centres around the globe. In its simplest form, each of these web servers keeps a local copy of pieces of your website, typically the parts that don’t change often, such as images.[/caption]This improves web site experience for the end user.  Why would we want to do this?  Well there are two main benefits.Firstly studies show that if websites run faster, end users are likely to spend more time on them, and it also increases their likelihood to buy online.  In fact, a study by U.S. Research Company Aberdeen Group found that a 1-second delay in page load time can result in:

  • 7% fewer conversions
  • 11% fewer page views
  • 16% decrease in customer satisfaction

Worst case, really slow web sites will frustrate users to the point where they will leave, with your competition only one click away.  However studies have shown that even improving site speed by a few seconds per page load can have a 5 to 10% increase in online sales.Secondly, the guys at Google are pretty smart.  In many ways, they have programmed their search algorithms to behave like users.  This means that if your website responds faster, your site will actually rank a bit higher in organic searches. While site speed is only a small factor in your overall rank, but every little bit helps.

Mike, That Sounds Too Good To Be True.

If all this sounds too good to be true, there are a few things to be aware of.  The first thing is that if it is not managed properly, web content can become ‘stale’.  By this we mean the CDN can display yesterday’s news, rather than up to the minute content.  The other thing is that your website reporting and analytics can also be affected.  However if you have the right team of web infrastructure specialists, all these issues can be easily overcome.Now CDNs won’t solve every website performance problem.  Over-crowded web hosts, cheap offshore web-hosting, and poorly written content management systems will still likely need to be addressed.However, you no longer need to spend thousands to get your website rebuilt and optimised.  Instead a CDN can be a very cost effective way to get some extra speed, especially for overseas visitors, and maybe even a boost to your sales.

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