A while ago I experimented with using CloudFlare on a few of my sites.
CloudFlare is designed to improve user experience by speeding up how fast your website loads. The company says “give us five minutes and we’ll supercharge your website.”
Essentially what these services do is step in-between where your site is hosted and the public viewing your site. So they cache some of your content, minimize your CSS, compress your images and serve it up locally from their much more distributed local network…as far as I understand it anyway.
The setup was easy and the interface is very slick, the cost is low as well…remember you can save a lot of bandwidth with these services as content is not being served regularly from your own servers.
With CloudFlare there were a few problems, one being we had a big drop in direct traffic. Turned out this was because we were no longer getting our image search traffic. The other issue was that CloudFlare asks you to change your name servers and the sites had a lot of stuff running on subdomains, on different servers, that we did not want served via CloudFlare. Now you can remove sub domains and generally set it all up how you like but it just did not seem worth the bother at the time…
However, the other day I got an email from Google saying our sites were accepted for Page Speed and we could give it a go.
Setting up was simple, just edit the DNS to add an entry that they provide…something you can do yourself or ask your hosting provider to do. We did not have the same setup issues with CloudFlare as it was just the www. that we pointed at Google.
However, I was reading in the small print when I noticed it says that your image search traffic may be impacted as the images are served from a new location…. something I had not thought about. If you have a fairly big site you will eventually get a lot of image traffic, indeed you can put some frame breaking code on the site to ensure you get the people on the page. So anything that messes with that in not ideal…it was enough of a concern for me to put this experiment on ice under the New Year.
Though I am going ahead with some of our smaller arcade sites.
Site-loading speed is a factor in search results positioning and it certainly impacts users experience. Other benefits can be increased revenue as people will perhaps view more pages or actually see the ad instead of leaving before it loads. As I mentioned early you can also save a huge amount of bandwidth, Cloud Flare does not charge for bandwidth in their free or monthly payment plans. You can also see less security issues as you are not in the front line anymore and their firewalls will block a lot of malicious activity.
One other issue is that the caching can mean pages not refreshing as often as you might like or appearing refreshed to some and not to others. I don’t think they cache your HTML but certain index pages were not refreshing when new articles were published, that happened with both services.
Google’s Page Speed is free for the moment and the company says it will be reasonably priced.
Anyway, like I say something I will look at again in 2013. I’d say file it under something worth giving a go but probably better to optimise your site first to see where you can do some of these things yourself.
Does anyone have experience of using these services for a long period? Did you see a big improvement in site speed or your search results?