I asked Vernessa Taylor to share with us how a CDN (content delivery network) would benefit bloggers. I suspect some of us really need one, but am unclear on what is involved or when we should start using one. Here is what Vernessa has discovered so far:
Content Delivery Network: Faster Than A Speeding Plane . . .
If you’re like me you may have heard the phrase content delivery network (CDN) bandied about more and more over the last couple of years.
The first 50 times I came across it, I didn’t stop to find out what it meant, and didn’t take the time to see if it held any benefits for my blogs or clients’ websites. In fact, my attention only settled upon CDN when I got an email from well-known CDN provider, MaxCDN.
To be honest, my website is not the fastest group of pixels on the planet. Unlike those six red planes doing acrobats, swooping and whirling and wowing the audience gazing up at them, I don’t believe my visitors are experiencing breath-taking speediness. (Are yours?)
Just like you, I read all the missives about the need for page speed, how to do website optimization, why you should have faster loading images, and the benefits to be had for SEO purposes. Yep, I occasionally visit those tools that help make these things a reality. BUT (and that’s a BIG but!) … Either I find them too technically challenging to implement or they seem really labor-intensive or they cost too much money or . . .
See, I have the same reasons you have for waiting, holding out or simply ignoring the whole optimization process. Add to that the enigma of content distribution networks (another name for CDN) and we’re peering into a soup most of us don’t want to wade through.
How CDN Got My Attention
Back to that email.
I love free stuff, when it’s worth having. Not knowing what to expect from BlogDash, imagine my surprise when I was contacted by one of their publishers, informing me that my blog, CoachNotes Blog, had been selected for sponsorship.
To my delight (and chagrin), the email was from MaxCDN, a company I was only vaguely familiar with. After an exchange of emails, we had a Skype conversation during which their Marketing Associate, Eric Myers, explained what the sponsorship entailed — boiling down to free, powerful access to their premier CDN platform in exchange for very little from me (just a banner acknowledging their generosity). Notice above how I said “to my chagrin?” That was because of the whole haze surrounding what is a CDN, how to implement it, etc.
Now what? Most of the bloggers I know, when they don’t have a firm grasp on a concept, head off to do the big “R”: RESEARCH! And so do I . . .
Not Exactly on Bloggers’ Radar
The first stop on my research path was straight into my shiny new MaxCDN Control Panel. (I soooo love control panels! It must be my controlling nature! :))
No, your eyes are NOT deceiving you! Those reports in my control panel have nothing, zero, nada … No data. No files uploaded, no pull or push zones, no caching results, no speed savings. Not one blessed thing.
Guess what I found out immediately? I didn’t know enough to even know where to begin.
That part of my education complete, I ventured further down the road and began to do research in earnest.
It was time to find out how other bloggers, regular bloggers, are using the power of CDN to help them serve up pages faster, delight their visitors, and find out what they can tell me about how to do the same.
You want to know a secret? CDN is not exactly on the wider blogging community’s radar.
Now, this is not a joke. It is what I’ve been hearing whenever I ask the folk I know about CDN. It is also the result of my immediate findings after doing some cursory “googling.” Most of them knew about as much as I did. And that’s not saying a lot. (I even searched this blog, GrowMap, and a few other popular blogs to find out what had been written about content delivery networks and came up almost empty-handed.)
So, now we know what we don’t know . . . But what is available out there that will help us gain a better understanding of CDN and how (and why) we should be using it for ourselves?
Glad you asked!
CDN: Prevailing Wisdom
Here’s the thing: almost all of the blog posts or articles I came across about CDN say the same thing. So you can search for yourself and see what’s been said. What I want to do is point out to you (and me) what really applies for bloggers to gain a clearer understanding of why we should possibly take the time to add (or not add) our sites to a content distribution platform.
First, watch this 1 minute video so you will have a clear idea in mind of what a CDN is and does.
Really cool video, eh?
Ok, here are the usual suspects promulgated.
- page speed loading
- serving static content
- no waiting on images
- higher SEO rankings in Google
In general, the articles I came across touted those benefits for “really big” blogs and websites without delineating any clear benefits for small- to medium- blogs. Below are some things that seemingly matter to non-geeky blog owners a bit more than the pure “page speed” reasonings continually encountered.
What kinds of everyday problems do content delivery networks solve for the average blogger?
From decreased latency to scalability, CDNs provide an ease of use for many companies, allowing them to reach a global market with relatively little fuss. — Content Delivery Networks (CDNs): Trends & Benefits
- Not having to change hosts, have site shut down, or asked to move to a more expensive hosting plan when resource use spikes due to increased blog popularity
- Avoiding the dreaded shopping cart abandonment on ecommerce sites because of image-laden product pages
- Over-extending server resources requiring host to throttle sites during times of viral video streaming or increased downloads of your free report or white paper
- Extreme bandwidth use, site slow-downs and out-of-memory errors caused by many (many!) plugins that have been added for greater functionality, interactivity and enhanced blogging experience
- Better global reach — a truly desirable goal — which can be had when sites are served closer to the visitors from another part of the world
No matter how many pages our blogs have, the benefits above appear to matter more and resonate louder with “average” bloggers and their clients. Ask anyone who has a popular site on shared hosting what kinds of problems they encountered with their host bullying them into moving up or switching to a dedicated server. Looking at some of the benefits above, we can see a more practical (and less expensive) solution would have been to advise them to select a CDN option!
Do Me A Favor?
This is not the final word on why blogs should consider adding content delivery networks (CDN) to their online strategies. I’d like to find more use cases, some empirical and anecdotal evidence, then share them with you.
In the meantime, kindly take the survey below. Check as many boxes as apply but please don’t check both the first and last items as they sorta cancel each other out!
Thanks for reading today. Let’s continue the conversation. Are CDNs a worthwhile solution for bloggers or are they just another buzz phrase and alphabet soup time waster? Please share your thoughts, experiences and questions in the comments below.
(And if you’ve decided to give a cdn a go, use this MaxCDN coupon while they’re still offering it.)
Resources: Videos and Further Reading
Articles: Content Delivery Networks (CDNs): Trends & Benefits, 9 August 2013 (quoted above) and How to Setup MaxCDN with WP-Super Cache Plugin by Shoutme Loud
Videos: Making a blog faster with MaxCDN by David Higgins; How to Setup MaxCDN to Help with SEO Part 1 and Part 2 by That Training Guide
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