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Search engines are continually improving their methods for determining which websites and advertisements gets ranked and placed higher than others. We know now that Google has added new ranking factors in both their search results and AdWords quality scores for page load times. While not (yet) a major factor, it is essential that your website teams make every effort to give your site every edge it needs to succeed.

In this segment of “Page Speed Tips”, part one focuses on the use of content delivery networks (CDN) for serving various data, script and/or visual elements from somewhere other than your own web server.

What is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?

Simply put, it is a large network of servers, located in various geographical locations (generally worldwide) that contain copies of any files that you store with them.  In turn, any user that visits your site will receive this content from the closest instance of a CDN server.

This is an example of how Akamai’s CDN is configured (image source:

How does this benefit (and speed up) my site?

The primary benefit is that by serving files, such as images, javascript and css from an external source, your server will have less load against it which leads to an overall improvement in site performance.  Secondly, the content being delivered by the closest CDN is likely to arrive quicker than if were to come directly from your (most likely) single location site.  Lastly, search engines who crawl your site are still able to index your content for search results.

Can I trust my data to a CDN?

There are many CDN providers that exist today and more are continuing to enter the market.  The simple answer is: Maybe.  You need to find the right CDN for your site and weigh the pros and cons of cost versus service.  A good CDN provider will have an impressive network of highly-optimized and highly available servers that provide solid, uninterrupted service and reliability.  Bottom line is that if you choose a reputable CDN provider, you can count on them to make your data and files available.

How much is this going to cost me?

There are two costs at play here: The actual monetary cost of the service and the opportunity cost of missing out on the benefits of using a CDN.  This market is becoming more and more competitive, so costs are beginning to fall and setup, management and rich features are constantly improving. While you can expect prices to start at just a few hundred dollars each month, consider the opportunity costs and understand the rich benefits you are gaining when making this decision.

Additional concerns?

One concern with having content spread across the internet is getting dinged for having duplicate content.  In the case of a CDN, these are not configured as domains and are therefore not visible to search bots, such as “Googlebot”.  The relationship between your site and the closest CDN remains transparent to human users as well as bots.

Which CDN provider should I choose?

We’re not going to promote any specific provider here, so you need to do your homework.  Your particular situation is going to be unique, make sure the provider you select satisfies all of your


How can I learn more about improving my page speed?

Google Web Page Performance Best Practices

Yahoo! Website Exceptional Performance Best Practices

Recommended Firefox Plug-ins

Google Page Speed

Yahoo! YSlow


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