Introduction to CDN and Image Optimization + Why You Should Care

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“CDN and image optimization sound like boring tech gibberish! Why would I care?!” – you.


This is part 1 of our 3-part series on speeding up your WordPress site trough the means of Content Delivery Networks (CDN) and image optimization. 

  1. Introduction to CDN and Image Optimization + Why You Should Care
  2. Top 3 CDN Services for Your WordPress Blog + How to Set One Up
  3. How to Optimize Images in WordPress the Quick and Easy Way

Okay … I hear your doubts … so let’s start like this:

Who doesn’t like a fast site?

Admit it, if you’re forced to wait more than 2 seconds for a YouTube video to load, it’s “goodbye video!”

Seems natural, right?

The bad news, however, is that the visitors to your WordPress site feel basically the same way. And I’m not exaggerating with the 2 seconds thing. In a study by Akamai, it’s reported that nearly 47% of visitors are not willing to wait longer than those 2 seconds.

That is one of the reasons why you should do whatever you can to make your WordPress site perform better!

But there’s more, and we’re talking all about it today.

Why you should care about performance

Okay, so “performance” is a big umbrella term for various things you can do with your WordPress site to make it more optimized and thus catering to your audience better.

This includes things like getting a fast web host, not using any sluggish WordPress plugins, as well as perhaps looking into some CDN services and optimizing your images – the topic of today.

But why bother?

As I said above, the first reason to care about such things is to make your visitors’ experience better overall. You need to keep in mind that no visitor will ever benefit from your great content if they simply not get to even see it due to the dreadful loading times.

And this is not only about slow loading times on a *single* page on your site. The troubles multiply on every consecutive page that the visitor tries to read. Just imagine having to wait 2+ seconds for one page to load, then another, then another. This cannot mean anything else than failure, and a potentially really irritated visitor who will never come back.

Then, there’s Google.

Google came out a while ago and basically said that site speed might start having an impact on your search rankings. What this means in plain English is that fast sites have a better chance of ranking high than their slow competition.

Why you should care about image optimization and CDN

As I said, there are many ways to improve your site’s performance, but two of the most effective ones turn out to be: (a) shortening the distance between your site and your audience, and (b) making your images load faster.

Here’s what I mean:

Re (a):

Every website sits on a server somewhere. Depending on where that “somewhere” is, it will take more or less time to get it displayed on your visitor’s screen. The equation is simple, the closer geographically the site’s server is to your audience, the faster it will load.

So the way you can optimize things for yourself is to hook up your site to a Content Delivery Network (CDN).

Basically, it’s a network of servers distributed all over the globe. Those servers all make a copy of your WordPress site. Then, when a visitor tries to access the site (by typing in the site’s URL into their browser window), the CDN that’s closest to that visitor jumps in and delivers the site to them.

It all happens much faster than it would have been possible through your default server. And the best thing is that it’s all done automatically. All you have to do is get yourself a CDN account with a trusted CDN company and provide all your site’s data and etc. From there, the CDN does all the work, and you can edit and manage your WordPress site normally.

Re (b):

Then, there’s the thing with images. Images are this quiet killer of your site’s bandwidth.

What I mean by this is that images can account for even 60% of your site’s whole bandwidth consumption.

Think of it this way:

If your whole site takes, say, 2 seconds to load, then 1.2 of those seconds are spent loading your images alone.

Now, what I mean by images:

  • all pictures that you’re using in your blog posts,
  • all visual elements that make up your design and layout,
  • all your branding – logo, header, footer graphics.

Basically, by images, I mean everything that’s saved as a JPG, PNG, or GIF file.

Since all of that accounts for 60% of your loading time, it’s quite a good idea to do something to optimize it.

The good news is that most images can be “tweaked” in a way that there’s no visual change in the image itself – it’s still the same quality, yet the disk size of the image gets reduced sometimes by even 80% (actually, 30-50% is more common in most scenarios).

So just to emphasize on this a bit more. Using some cool image optimization technology, you can make your images/graphics/visuals smaller in disk space, without reducing the image quality one bit.

That being said, those image optimization tools are a bit more hands-on than CDNs. I mean, you do have to optimize your images somewhat by hand before publishing a new piece of content, but it’s actually nowhere near hard. We’ll talk about this some more in a future post.

The bottom line

As you can see, just by using two specific methods – CDNs and image optimization – you can lower your site loading times very significantly, and thus make the experience much better for both Google and your visitors.

And the great news is that you don’t need to have any coding skills to take advantage of all that.

So where to start?

First, see what’s your site’s current performance. One of the ways to do that is with a free tool aptly called Pingdom Website Speed Test:

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Just input your site’s URL and see where you stand:

score

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Take note of your scores. This is going to be your starting point.

We’re going to cover specific image optimization tools as well as various CDNs in our next posts. In the meantime, I hope that by now you understand the value in both of these site optimization methods. Feel free to comment if you have any questions.

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