What You Need to Know to Improve SEO Using CDNs

Using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) can improve page load speed and bring more traffic through better search engine positions. But only if you use it correctly. Network Optimization firm Incapsula, a provider of cloud-based CDNs that aid in defending and optimizing webites, has shared their in-depth knowledge of this topic in multiple posts on their blog. In this post I will summarize the points they made.

Debunking CDN SEO Myths

Let’s start with eliminating some common SEO myths. None of these are true:
  • Many sites on a single IP are bad for SEO; in this Google Webmasters official forum discussion the official Google rep stated “We generally do not treat sites hosted on CDNs any differently”.
  • CDNs create duplicate content; each copy of your content has exactly the same URL, so Google’s crawlers will not see multiple copies regardless of which location presents the content when they crawl it.
  • Bot blocking will stop Google’s crawlers; bot blockers only block bad bots; they never block crawlers from recognized search engines.
  • CDNs will hurt my ability to rank for my geographic location; the IP address is not the primary signal Google users to determine the location of the server that hosts your site; Google first looks at your Webmasters Tools setting and TLD country code. CDNs also whitelist their server locations to prevent any localization errors.

CDN Affect on Page Speed

We all know the importance of reducing page load times and increasing page speed. Moz has been very clear about how webite speed impacts search ranking. What many do not realize is that what really matters is “Time to First Byte” (TTFB). CDNs impact on TTFB Using a CDN will not improve your SEO unless you optimize not only how long it takes to load the first byte, but also what you load. Ilya Grigorik, developer advocate on Google’s “Make the Web Fast” team rejected a study claiming TTFB does not matter, explaining:
“It’s not only the time that matters, but also what’s in those first few bytes… Of course it doesn’t matter if you flush your ‘200 OK’ after 1ms vs 1s…. But if you know what you’re doing and craft the response right, then it can make a huge difference”.
The primary cause of slow TTFB is processor time required to dynamically generate html pages. Sites using any database driven CMS (WordPress for example) dynamically generate your home page for every new visitor. Loadtime comparison of html, javascrips, images and CSS An excellent solution would be to classify the HTML components as static and have them delivered directly from a CDN, with no processing and from the nearest possible location. Some CDNs are using advanced caching algorithms to identify and cache more html to store statically, thereby reducing the time and amount of html that must be dynamically generated.For example, Incapsula wrote in CDN SEO Benefits and Advantages:
At Incapsula we see a double (and event triple) digit site speed improvement among the websites using our service. This improvement is achieved not only by CDN content Caching and Geo Distribution capabilities, but also by clever uses of existing assets. Namely, we will automatically Minify your source code, GZip your files and even Cache your “Un-Cacheable” dynamically generated content (especially useful for websites with dynamic catalogs, on-site search features and etc). As a result your website will load faster, achieve higher SERP rankings and provide better overall User Experience, thus also improving Bounce and Conversion rates.

More advanced CDNs use various methods of compression to automatically Minify your source code and GZip your files for additional reductions in load time. CDNs can be used to improve on-page SEO and search rankings, but only if you choose the right CDN and take advantage of faster TTFB, reduced dynamic html, and increased compression.

Are You Overlooking This Important SEO Factor?

No matter how brilliant an SEO you are, trying to SEO a poorly built website after the fact is a challenge. Wouldn’t it make more sense to make sure the web developer you use understands SEO? The most important SEO factor is to design a site correctly in the first place.

The advent of mobile has made it obvious that many sites are badly designed. Many site owners will have to have their sites redesigned to make them mobile friendly. When choosing a web developer, find one that knows both mobile and SEO.

Strong Demand for SEO Savvy Web Developers

According to this new Freelance Guide, web developers are among the best paid of all freelancers. That is not surprising given Google’s push to rank only mobile friendly sites. Anyone interested in freelancing or hiring a freelancer should check out that guide because it contains thorough advice.

Web developers who understand SEO, responsive design, and are wise enough not to want to custom code everything are worth their weight in gold and all too rare.

Developers who think of themselves as coders often build really awful blogs. Instead of using a quality, professional theme and plugins that already exist, they insist on their own coding – even when they have no eye for design. Avoid these developers or risk truly bad results.

Most ecommerce sites and almost all blogs are best built on existing platforms. Professional themes handle more than just appearance. They are built by teams who know SEO and handle the internal linking and navigation far better than a custom coded site (unless the coder is truly brilliant).

How to Evaluate Web Developers

Professional web designers should have an online portfolio of sites they have built. For example, look at the portfolio page for this major Sydney responsive web design company.

Click through to any of the sites they’ve built and view them on your portable devices. Or use a mobile test site to see how they appear on various size monitors.

Be sure to check multiple sites. Examine the navigation and the design. Do searches in Google and see if the site comes up for the company name and tagline.

Look at the descriptions. View source on the main pages of the site and look at the meta tags. Copy and paste the pages into an html validation service to check for errors.

If the sites in a company’s portfolio are not mobile response or SEO friendly, look for another company.

Web Developers Are Not Necessarily Web Designers

Many business owners do not realize the difference between a web designer and a web developer. A developer installs the framework and plugins. Developers may edit CSS and html. They set up email addresses, security, and how to backup the database.

Developers create excellent sites based on existing themes. Some of them can choose color schemes. They should all be able to adjust the width of the columns and the overall site. They know how to use WordPress and configure it properly.

Blog developers are not necessarily experienced at building ecommerce sites. Some are; some are not. Make sure you hire a developer with experience creating the type of site you want.

Most web developers are not web designers. A designer can create custom imagery. They are graphic artists. If you see a site with rounded corners or a unique header, those are created by web designers. Go to TeamThesis.com to see an example.

How to Find an SEO Savvy Web Developer

The preferred method of finding talent of any kind is to ask people you know if they can recommend anyone. Request an email or Skype introduction and ask for examples of their work and any contracts they use.

If you don’t find anyone directly, do some searches and look at sites. Find some you like that are ranking for keywords in their industry. Look in the footer for their developer’s name or the name of any theme they are using. (Not all sites provide either one.)

View source and search for the word WordPress. If it is an ecommerce site, look for an indication of what ecommerce platform is being used. Call the business and ask them directly. Most won’t mind telling you who built their site.

Remember that the developer may have only SEOed the main pages. If blog posts or product pages do not have SEO information on them, blame the site manager – not the developer. If the main pages are not SEOed, look for a different developer. The most important SEO factor is to design a site correctly in the first place.

How to Aggregate All Your Data into SEO Dashboards

Have you ever missed a client mention or let an SEO project fall through the cracks? We all have, but there are now solutions that make getting organized and staying on top of our complex work lives easier.

While we all know how to set up alerts, receiving them in emails doesn’t make it easy to organize them and share them with clients. Did you know you can pull them all into an All-in-one Cyfe dashboard and track your keyword rankings and backlinks in the same place?

Between that how-to post and the comprehensive instructions Kristi Hines wrote up in this Search Engine Watch managing your SEO clients with Cyfe post, it is possible to monitor everything, pull it into a dashboard, and even export it into good-looking reports for clients.

Monitor Client Brand Mentions

Kristi wrote that Google no longer allows us to monitor brand mentions using RSS. But she provided a process to do it using Cyfe:
  • Use Google blog search
  • Search for brand mentions minus the brand site URL. For example, brand name -brand.com
  • Scroll to the bottom of the search and copy the search result RSS link
  • Use the Cyfe RSS widget to create a latest blog post mentions dashboard

View All Client Gmail Addresses in Cyfe

Do your clients have multiple email addresses (such as info, sales, support, etc.) that you need to monitor? Set up a Cyfe gmail dashboard to review and preview them all in one place.

Running a big promotion? Use Cyfe to count the number of emails coming into an email address set up just for that promotion.

Client SEO Dashboards

Create a dashboard for every client and pull up to 60 metrics from Google Analytics showing traffic sources, audience, conversions, content, ecommerce and events.

Add a Google Webmaster widget and never miss an important notification again. See crawl errors, unread messages, top internal/external keywords and sitemap URLs.

Moz widgets can import a snapshot of domain authority, page authority, MozRank, external links and backlinks, external links for each client website.

Important keyword phrases and URLs can be added as widgets to monitor client SERPs.

Find the Alexa widget and add it, too.

The number of prebuilt widgets available continually grows. If what you want doesn’t already exist (and if it is a major solution it probably does), build a custom widget.

Import Backlinks

Export backlinks from your favorite backlink monitor program and import them into Cyfe.

Export One-Off or Regular Reports

Never manually create reports for clients again. Use Cyfe to export any dashboard as a CSV, PDF, JPG or PNG. Set up a regular schedule to automatically email reports, or send them individually at any time manually. Keep your clients, boss or yourself continually up-to-date.

Expand to Social Media Management

Once you’ve automated all your SEO work, why not expand into managing your client’s social media accounts, too. Cyfe makes it easy to stay on top of them.

They provide widgets for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn YouTube, Google+ Search, Pinterest, Instagram, Bit.ly, Klout, AddThis and much more.

Stay on Top of SEO News

Create RSS feeds right in Cyfe to aggregate all your favorite SEO blogs in one place. Here are some SEO blogs to add to your list:
  • SEOChat
  • Search Engine Watch (SEW)
  • Search Engine Land (SEL)
  • Search Engine Roundtable (SER)
  • Threadwatch.org

Competitor Dashboards

Once you optimize your client dashboards and have them just the way you want them, start adding dashboards for competitors, too. Track their stats, SERPs, and create graphs to compare them to your clients.

Zapier Widgets

Cyfe added 400+ more widgets when they integrated with Zapier. First check to see if there is a pre-built widget. If there isn’t, and you’re not sure how to build your own, it can be easier to “make a zap” than to create one custom.

We all have too much data to keep on top of so why not aggregate it in one place? While it may take some time to get it all pulling correctly, you will be glad when you’re done.