Forget about CWV. Have you done this?

by Jim September 13, 2021

The right CDN (Content Distribution Network) can have a huge impact on your eCommerce business. I have always favoured Cloudflare and for good reason. I’ve always encouraged you to increase your site speed, and Cloudflare offers it in spades. A faster site means more Google crawls, which in turn means your site is fresher and put in front of more customers.

  • The importance of the right CDN.
  • Speed wins you customers.
  • The benefits of not having sub-domains.
  • Use WebPageTest to test your speed.

Transcript

Hey, welcome back Rankers to the state formerly known as Victoria, in the country formerly known as Australia. 230-something days of lockdown, I guess, something like that, I don’t know. Has to be close. Anyway, what am I going to talk to you about today? CDN’s, content distribution networks. Many of you know that over the years I’ve been a big fan of Cloudflare, and I still am. And the reason for that is I have used other content distribution networks, other CDNs. And I just find that the things that Cloudflare does well, like DNS, does it really, really quickly. When you compare the Cloudflare DNS speed to even say a Telstra, Cloudflare is really good.

Cloudflare vs MaxCDN

But the caching stuff is what we really use it for. And just speed, speed, speed, speed, speed. And over the years, and this is going to be an unfair comparison with another CDN called MaxCDN, and I say unfair, because I think I’ve only ever configured it once in the last 20 years. And I think the ones that I’ve encountered since then, the developers that we were working with for the client developers, maybe they’d configured it badly. I don’t know, but none of them seem to get the same sort of result that we would get with Cloudflare.

I mean, we’d take someone off MaxCDN and put them on Cloudflare, and we’d get a greater benefit. Now that may have just been a symptom of the MaxCDN installs that I’ve come across, that haven’t been set up properly. I don’t know, because quite frankly, we didn’t get into it. One of the other reasons that we prefer MaxCDN, prefer Cloudflare I should say, over the MaxCDN, is the way that it’s configured. Now I don’t know whether MaxCDN allows you to have everything on your own domain, but the way that Cloudflare does it, it doesn’t have all your rich media files, so your images or whatever it may be, sitting on a different sub-domain. It’s all on the same domain. The way that MaxCDN does it, it will say CDN.stewartmedia.biz, whereas on Cloudflare everything would just be on the same domain, no new sub-domain.

The problem with having a new sub-domain is that you have to do a call for DNS, so that’s a couple of hundred milliseconds, depending on network traffic, depending on the server and everything else. And you also have to do a new SSL negotiation, because you’re going to a new server. And that happens every time someone loads, well every time the first time they load the page, the site has to go and do that and your browser has to go and call those things. Now once it’s done it once it doesn’t have to do it again. But with Cloudflare that doesn’t happen at all, so there’s that right? But then this client I did the other week, it’s one we’ve been working with, it’s been about just over a week now they’ve been on Cloudflare. This old CDN that you’re looking at it was actually MaxCDN, and those files, and you can see the difference in the waterfall graph there. And you can see a lot of them for some reason were being, they look like 301’s or 304’s, I’m not sure what they were, but they seem to have gone now.

But we’ve got this waterfall that keeps getting longer and longer and longer and longer and longer. And for some reason, and this could be the combination of the MaxCDN and the Microsoft IIS server that this site runs on. Yes, I know there are eCommerce sites that are still running on IIS. I know, I didn’t build it, don’t look at me like that. But every file was getting in this longer and longer and longer time to first bite. We swapped it over. Boom, and what happened? Well, as we’ve seen before with Google when you speed a site up, Googlebot will come in and crawl more. Now it’s important to remember with all these things like Core Web Vitals and Google page experience and all these things we’ve been talking about, a lot of people just look at one report, or maybe they do a report on the home page or something else. But it’s all your product pages, it’s your check-out pages. They’re the things that the customers are encountering, which usually will have the issues.

Google loves speed

But check this out. This client had actually done a Core Web Vitals project with their developer, and that happened months ago. But you can see there that orange line, or the burnt ochre I guess you’d call it or something like that, line is slowly climbing, indicating some sort of caching issue. Like when maybe we were getting with the longer waterfall over time, now we’re getting this graph over… And remember, these are all averages of the amount of pages that Google’s crawled. And I’m only looking at one bot here, but this one bot, I mean it’s quite extraordinary because we’ve gone from what’s that, an average of four seconds, down to under 800 milliseconds for response time for the bot. Now this bot is the… I think is it the smart bot, we’ll go to the smartphone bot, see what the smartphone bot says. And you see these big spikes here, this is actual crawl requests. And we saw this happen in the old Google crawl stats as well, and the old Google search console crawl stats.

And you can see here once again, we’ve gone from that, this is the mobile bot, we’ve gone from 5.5 seconds down to 670 milliseconds, right? So, and you can see it was getting worse here, but what happens after that? Every time we see this, and this has been happening the last, at least the last 10, 15 years, I reckon. As soon as the site gets faster overall, Google comes in and crawls more pages, and that’s exactly what’s happening here.

And that’s what you want, because you want Google crawling all over your site to keep things fresh, make sure it knows what you have so it can display it to its users. And when we go and have a look and see what the impact of that was, and I’m just looking at the device, I’m not looking at the different channels at the moment here. I’m just looking at the device category, because we all know that mobile suffers from, I mean we just saw it there with the bot, the bot was experiencing 5.5 seconds. The desktop bot was only doing about four seconds page load time, still horrible response time. Still horrible, but fixed. And the result of that is that for desktop, we’ve seen what’s that a 5%, nearly 6% increase in eCommerce, a little bit more revenue, which is good. But the real winner here, is of course mobile, with a 61% increase in the eCommerce conversion rate. And of course 45% increase in conversions, transactions, everything’s up. Traffic’s down, but revenue’s up 45%.

So, the other thing that I’ve learned this week, because I usually do these things to find out whether an individual file is actually being cached by Cloudflare. If you’re trying to work out something, trying to troubleshoot something, I would normally do that via Terminal and use curl to do that and make a request via Terminal. Problem with this site is that a lot of the URLs and all the images have parameters and curl doesn’t work for that. So what you can do and well I didn’t know, which was pretty cool, is that you can go to WebPageTest or GT metrics if you use those to test your speed. And you can have a look at the response that is sent by the server. And what this one says here is cf-cache-status: MISS. And what that means is, is this file is not being cached by Cloudflare. If it said HIT, it would.

So all these different things, and that can be different times of the day, depending on how long you’ve got your expiry set on your cache, and all those sorts of things. It may take time once you set up on Cloudflare for it to cache the entire site and all the files on all the pages. So there’s all those sorts of things, but it’s fascinating. And when you get it right, and this client was behind budget and it was driving me crazy. I’m happy to say today they’re back on target for revenue budget, but we’ve got losses to make up for the last two months now. So, now we’ve got to go full steam ahead and double down on these changes. But I just found that fascinating and I thought you might find it helpful, and hopefully you do and you share with your friends and you subscribe, and you like. Comment, leave a question, if you’ve got one, if you want me to cover something let me know. Speak soon. Thanks very much. Bye.

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