There's a secret weapon out there that can boost the reputation of your website to Google, and you may already have access to it.
You just haven't done anything about it.
Day to day, business owners and web marketers most often concern themselves with content production, the number of visitors being driven to their site, and sales. Those are certainly important, no doubt. But in early 2016 Google let the world know of a new thing that they started to check when determining rankings - site speed.
While it's just one of several hundred things they check, most SEO providers (including us) think its one of the more important ones you need to pay attention to.
In fact, all other things being equal, if you and a competitor produced content that was of equal quality, the website with faster loading pages would most likely outrank the loser with the slower pages and server.
If you don't take time to consider availability, speed and security of web the resources that we use to deliver a quality customer experience, our potential purchasers and subscribers just won't hang around.
And that's where a service like Cloudflare comes in.
The service, defined in simple terms, replicates your website on many servers across the country or globe. When someone types in your URL, instead of the data having to go seek out your one hosting server, the system seeks out the nearest copy of your site, thus decreasing the amount of time it takes to get that data back to your web browser.
If your server is in Tampa and a user is in Oregon, it'd be much faster for them to load your site from a server in Portland.
Yeah, we're talking seconds or even microseconds here, but in today's world those count.
Secret 1: Your Loading Time Will Dramatically Improve
Even if you're fairly new to digital marketing, content creation and website administration, you have still likely already heard that page load times are a big deal. Novices and experts alike understand that the amount of time it takes a page to load matters not only to the visitor, but also to the search engine algorithms.
It may have even affected elements on your site - do you really need that content slider? Will it provide value or just waste time and real estate?
As mentioned, speed is purportedly a ranking signal for the Google algorithm, meaning that faster page load times have a bearing on a website's overall ranking in the Google results.
Of course, we don't have a deep understanding of the weight of various ranking signals, but we should do our best to serve our customers their content as quickly as possible. Otherwise, they may bounce and go to a competing site.
CloudFlare claims that it can reduce page load times by 50%.
In some cases, I imagine that's true, but understand that this is the upper threshold of performance increases. Your mileage may most likely vary.
In fact, I think it's reasonable to expect a smaller increase in performance. Still, every little bit counts, and even if your site doesn't experience a 50% reduction in page load times, wouldn't a 15% reduction still be a significant advantage over your competition?
Secret 2: Visitor Security is Improved
Though it's necessary to worry about the security of your web server and hosting provider, you also need to consider the security of visitors. One of the best ways to secure your visitors data is to enable SSL (Secure Sockets Layer).
(If you're not using SSL yet or simply don't know what it is, I urge you to read this article and then get it implemented today. And if your hosting company doesn't provide it or wants you to pay a high fee for it, consider letting us host your site - we'll give it to you free.)
SSL creates an encrypted connection between the web server and the user's computer, which prevents third parties from intercepting communications and stealing the data. As such, SSL is a necessity for any website that conducts financial transactions, such as an ecommerce store.
Oh, and did I tell you that using SSL improves ranking signals to the Google ranking algorithm?
Again, all things being equal, if one page uses SSL and it's competition does not, the site using SSL will rank higher.
Google intentionally incentivized web administrators to use SSL by adding it as a ranking signal to make the web more secure. Ideally, every website on the Internet would use SSL, but unfortunately, that's still not the reality.
The good news, however, is that CloudFlare helps its users secure their websites. It actually has a free universal SSL certificate to provide at least some level of trust and protection. That said, if you need a custom certificate, you can still purchase one from common providers like Comodo or Symantec and upload it yourself.
Most small business "non-transactional" websites don't need this.
Secret 3: Tighter Web Server Security
CloudFlare also helps batten down the hatches on web security, which is a major concern these days. It seems that every day there's a new headline describing how hackers made off with thousands (or even millions) of sensitive customer records. Fortunately, CloudFlare will increase security and block your website from several categories of threats.
We're spending several hours a week now cleaning up hacked sites, and it's not fun for a website owner when a site is down. (By the way, if you're on WordPress and don't have something in place to keep this from happening, I recommend you check out our WP Care program immediately!)
First of which, it will help protect against DDoS attacks, which can completely disable your website for hours at a time.
Furthermore, it helps protect against data theft attempts to stymie the possibility of customer data breaches. On the surface, this feature may look like it's only applicable to ecommerce sites. In reality, however, it's a great security feature for any website that stores even the most rudimentary data about its users (even just basic username and password data to login to a forum).
Secret 4: Protection from Abusive Bots
CloudFlare also mitigates the risk of an attack or abusive endeavors of bots. Bots have been all the rage on the World Wide Web for the last few years, but realize that there are a wide variety of bots. Some crawl your web pages to rank websites for Google, and some even automatically respond to customer inquiries in chat windows. But other types of bots are malicious and will try to scrape data from your website, initiate checkout fraud schemes, and even try to steal account data.
Fortunately, CloudFlare adds an extra layer of security designed to mitigate DDoS attacks, lower the risk of SQL injection, prevent customer data breaches and stop malicious bots dead in their tracks.
Even if your hosting platform already offers some security tools, CloudFlare offers an invaluable additional layer of protection.
There's only one major downside to CloudFlare: most people don't know how to use it, or aren't using it even though they should!