How To Quickly Set Up the Free CloudFlare CDN Solution
CloudFlare is easy to implement and helps you distribute your website content faster.
Written by Edna Davidsen ∴ Friday, July 7, 2017, updated February 6, 2018
When we implement a content delivery network like CloudFlare on our website we experience a domino effect. When I enabled CloudFlare on www.OurChristianBook.com speed went up, and users worldwide got a better experience. At the end of this blog post, I’ll mention some plugins I use in combination with CloudFlare. If you want to improve your website speed with these plugins, you may want to read blog post number 28, 6+ WordPress Plugins to Fire Up Your Website Speed. The goal is to eliminate bad apples on the technical site, so our users get the best experience possible. When it comes to a content delivery network as CloudFlare, we want to pull our socks up and implement it. Jumping the sharks and getting the technical side right will give us the speed we need to improve the web and help a bigger Christian audience. So let’s get on with it and take the first step towards a faster loading website.
Why Should Websites Load Fast?
The short answer is: Better user experience and ranking in search engines. Let’s take a closer look at what that means. First, we’ll look at two studies on customer-behaviour. I encourage you to read my blog post Beginners Guide: 10 Search Engines (blog post number 14) if you’re new in Christian online business. It shows the market share, Alexa rank and the differences between these ten search engines. The reason I wrote blog post number 14 about the search engine topic is because Christians use a variety of search engines. I believe the Christian entrepreneurs can help more web-users better when we understand how the search engines work. But first the two customer studies.
The Akamai- and The Mozilla Studies
The Akamai- and the Mozilla studies prove that fast-loading websites provide better user-experience than slow-loading sites. On www.OurChristianBook.com I share what faiths mean to me. I share how I pushed the boat out and became a Christian affiliate marketer. By sharing how I use faith as a Christian in online business, I set an example of how to produce user-friendly content. BUT to help as many Christians as possible, I need two elements: 1) A fast-loading website. 2) Appealing content. That's the takeaway from the Akamai- and the Mozilla studies.
The Akamai Study
Akamai Technologies, Inc. is an American content delivery network.In 2009 they published a study where they examined eCommerce websites performance and the correlation with online shoppers behaviour. The conclusion is interesting. It shows that: The average online shopper is willing to wait two seconds for a page to load. 40% of the visitors leave if a page uses more than three seconds to load. When visitors leave is valuable information for Christian affiliate marketers. It says, our goal is to design websites that load within two seconds. Perhaps we’ll end up with a higher load-time, but the numbers from the Akamai study should be the ideal load time.
The Mozilla Study
Mozilla Firefox published the next study in 2010. Mozilla Firefox is a free open-source web browser developed by the Mozilla Foundation. Their study examined the relation between site-complexity and user-behavior. The Mozilla Firefox study shot down the idea about the need of having complex web sites. The overall conclusion was: Simplified websites drive conversions up 2.3%. Complicated websites may look nice as they display an infinite spectrum of possibilities, but they’re likely to convert worse than clean and minimalistic internet sites. The reason for this is likely that the latter is more user-friendly. With this clear conclusion, the Mozilla team continued with another question. They asked: “How much does the conversion rate improve if a website loads one second faster?” They found the answer to be 2,7%. Both the Akamai Technologies, Inc.- and the Mozilla Firefox study agreed on one important aspect for us who work on improving the web by creating good content for Christian users. User satisfaction is highly correlated to site speed.
Page Speed is the Dark Horse
Page speed is the dark horse in regards to user-satisfactions, also for Christians in online business. I’ve now used CloudFlare for some time on https://OurChristianBook.com and here’s the result: • Users stay longer on OurChristianBook.com. • Users visit more pages. • The website is shown for more words people type into the search engine. If you read my blog post about search engines, you saw how different they were. But all search engines use speed as a ranking factor. When we learn how to create high-quality content + obtain a good website speed, we’ll swim like a fish. Finding the balance between speed and functionality becomes second nature.
Rule Number 2 for Good Web Design
CloudFlare is a Content Delivery Network, also called a CDN solution. With CloudFlare, websites load faster. CloudFlare is free to use although it comes with the possibility for paid upgrades. Let’s illustrate what happens when we use CloudFlare. We’ll use https://OurChristianBook.com as an example. CloudFlare stores a copy of www.OurChristianBook.com on several servers worldwide. Without a CDN system, the site would be kept on a few Hostgator’s servers in Provo, Utah or Houston, Texas. But here’s what happens with CloudFlare. If James in London visits www.OurChristianBook.com, the homepage loads from a web server close to London. If Jennifer in Los Angeles visits https://OurChristianBook.com the homepage loads from a web server close to Los Angeles. CloudFlare has more than 115 data centres (servers) worldwide. If https://OurChristianBook.com is modified CloudFlare automatically downloads a new version of the website to the 115+ data centres. The four top reasons companies use CDN solutions like CloudFlare are: 1. Quicker content delivery to the end-users worldwide. 2. Better content optimising. 3. Better page load time. 4. Stable performance since the website is stored on 115+ instead of 3 to 5 servers. When I implemented CloudFlare and combined it with the plugins, I write more about in blog post number 28 OurChristianBook.com’s page speed went up with 43%.
Google PageSpeed Tool
Before implementing CloudFlare, it’s a good idea to test the website with the Google PageSpeed Tool. It’ll show us where it’s possible to improve our website. For now, we’ll not bother if we don’t understand all the metrics on Google PageSpeed. Here’s what I suggest we do once we’re on the Google PageSpeed site. • Notice the numbers for mobile and desktop version.• Scroll to the bottom of the page and download the optimised files.
We want the numbers for mobile and the desktop version so that we can do this test again once we’ve implemented CloudFlare. It’ll show us how much the page speed has improved. Before we go onto the CloudFlare-part, we can enhance our website by uploading the optimised pictures that we’ve just downloaded from Google PageSpeed. We don’t want to anything else right now even if we see other optimised files in the download folder. WebPagetest.org is also a great place to measure website speed. It gives a visual representation of the website-requests.
CloudFlare: Manual installation
First, we’ll go to CloudFlare and sign up for a free account. Next, we add our website. The screen where we enter the URL looks like this:
CloudFlare is painless to set up because it has clear instructions ‘what to do next’ throughout the installation process. After we’ve add our site, CloudFlare scans our existing domain records. If we follow the suggestions during the process, we should be all good. Third, we’ll choose between the Free, Pro, Business, Enterprise plan. Then we’ll choose the security setting and the caching performance level. If in doubt visit CloudFlare's FAQ. The last step in the installation process is to take the two DNS nameservers CloudFlare gives us and add them to our domain. We do this in the dashboard from our hosting company. If we use Hostgator we can add the nameservers by following these steps: 1. Log on to the Hostgator Customer. 2. Go to Domains. 3. Click on your domain. 4. Go to the menu ‘Name servers’ and choose: ‘Manually set my name servers.’ It takes up to 24 hours for the changes to take effect. A CloudFlare plugin is available for WordPress. I’ve installed it on OurChristianBook.com just using standard settings. When we install this plugin, we need the API keys. We find them under ‘My account setting’ once logged into CloudFlare. We improve security when we use CloudFlare’s Two Factor Authentication. Before I mention the WordPress plugins, www.OurChristianBook.com uses to improve speed combined with the CDN solution we’ll go over a two handy CloudFlare features.
Handy CloudFlare Features
Here’s what we’ll do after we’ve optimised a page on your website. 1. Log into CloudFlare. 2. Go to ‘Caching’. 3. Choose ‘Purge Individual Files’.
We don’t need to purge the whole web site when we change one page. But if you wonder why your changes don't take effect, you could try to purge the whole site. I use this feature often when I’m testing and optimising a page via Google PageSpeed. The other feature is the ‘Development Mode’. It’s part of the ‘Caching’ and looks like this:
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