4 Reasons to Use a CDN for WordPress

The Internet and any client has a need for speed; that much everyone already knows. But why is this so important for your WordPress site, and why should you use a CDN for WordPress to help with your site’s loading times?

You’ve probably seen the 3 second loading time chart many times. It, and countless charts just like it, are everywhere.

There’s a reason for that though – page loading time can massively affect conversions; it’s as simple as that. And what are most WordPress sites aimed at, ultimately? I know that my sites are all focused on somehow making money. Whether they’re affiliate sites or service-based websites, they’re all aimed at converting!

If loading times affect conversions, then fixing issues with speed is a good thing to do.

Here are four reasons that you may want to use a CDN for WordPress sites that you build or manage.

1. Your Site Will Load Faster with a CDN

This is one of the strongest selling points of setting up a CDN for WordPress.

One of the biggest speed killers for your website is distance. Specifically, the distance between your hosting server and the visitor’s browser. Whilst the size of your page makes a real difference, the distance the content has to travel can definitely be the largest bottleneck in website loading speeds.

Ideally, your visitor needs to be as physically close to the hosting server as possible.

Unfortunately, setting up a hosting server at a location which is physically close to any one particular visitor is all but impossible — unless you are setting up a CDN, that is.

The very idea of a Content Delivery Network (CDN) is exactly that. A CDN’s primary purpose is to set up as many servers as possible in different geographical locations, such that anybody who hits the service is as physically close as possible to one of the locations.

Have a look at the following image from CloudFlare which explains the concept perfectly, this shows the Cloudflare network powered by 165 data centers around the world:-

You can see that there are many CDN server points. In this manner, all visitors, in any location in the world, are always served content from a location which is (relatively speaking) near to them.

Hosting static content on a CDN network is the closest you can get to creating a global hosting setup for your website.

2. Your Website Will be Safer with a CDN

The next reason why a CDN is essential for your website is security.

Did you know that more than 51% of the web’s traffic actually comes from bots rather than humans?

The worst thing about it is that above 29% of web traffic comes from malicious bots.

That means your website is constantly under a deluge of bad bot traffic. If you’ve ever taken a look at analytics data, or used a security plugin like WordFence, you’re already aware of this fact.

These bots are constantly probing your site for vulnerabilities. If you slip slightly in your security efforts, if you have not chosen a good WordPress host, or if you miss a WordPress security update or a plugin update, rest assured your site will soon be suffering the consequences.

Most CDNs are able to identify and block bad bots rapidly, making your site safer when plugged into a CDN. The collective knowledge gained by the network can be used to prevent attacks on your own sites.

3. Your Site is Protected Against Traffic Based Attacks with a CDN

I’m sure you’ve been stuck in traffic at least a few times in your life. I know I have. Getting stuck in traffic is a waste of productive time and money.

The same concept applies to your website.

However, it’s even worse when somebody purposely sends an overwhelming amount of traffic to your website.

In a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, an army of compromised web servers or computers (or even IoT devices) are recruited to send so much traffic to your website, that your legitimate users unable to access it.

If your website is the lifeline of your business, a DDoS attack can literally bring your business to a standstill. Regardless of whether you’re on a shared hosting server or a dedicated server, your website won’t be able to keep up with the flood of traffic.

The same concept used by a CDN to make your website fast, can also work in your favour by absorbing malicious traffic over a global network of servers fronting your website.

Most CDN implementations use the concept of reverse proxy to serve your website. The reverse proxy will be the CDN server network.

This means that your website’s visitors will hit the CDN server closest to them before they hit your site’s actual server.

In this manner, any malicious traffic is intercepted before it actually gets to your server. CDNs have intelligent algorithms which are able to identify malicious DDoS traffic and kill it.

Incapsula, MaxCDN, KeyCDN, CloudFlare and most of the top players all have support for mitigating traffic-based attacks.

4. Faster Web Design and Development

When you’re creating a WordPress site which is meant to be fully optimised for performance, you’re going to have to perform a number of additional implementation steps.

You’ll be looking for an image optimisation plugin, a content minification and combination plugin, a static and dynamic content caching plugin, and other tools to fully optimise the WordPress website. While it may be possible that one or two plugins are able to actually serve most of your optimisation needs, you’ll still need to perform additional testing to ensure the plugins are able to operate correctly.

Personally, I’ve found that optimising with various plugins is a nightmare of epic proportions.

CDNs are actually able to perform all of the above mentioned optimisations in one fell swoop. Image optimisation, dynamic file compression, static and dynamic content caching are all built-in into the CDN.

Coupled with that, there are other optimisations such as Custom Content caching rules to fix any problems with specific plugins on your site.

Most of these performance optimisations are going to be hard to achieve with your typical WordPress plugin.

Such stuff as session reuse optimisation (particularly for HTTPS websites), TCP Connection pre-pooling and rapid purging all improve the optimisation.

Other improvements such as improving the SSL/TLS handshake process would not be something which the typical developer would be capable of optimising by themselves. Having this completely handled by the CDN gives a significant boost, particularly to HTTPS websites, which unfortunately take a hit in performance when enabling HTTPS.

All of these above optimisations decrease the design and development time with the website whilst pushing the performance envelope as far as it can get.

A CDN catering for all of the above will drastically reduce the time spent on optimisation.

Conclusion

Speed is typically the most obvious benefit of using a CDN that people will mention over and over again.

While the website loading speed is a critical component, and an essential justification for setting up a CDN, this should not be the only selling point.

The other points mentioned, particularly performance, security, protection and better optimisation are just as important as website loading speed.

At the moment, we use CloudFlare CDN for our web sites. We customise the settings for our clients to give their web sites the best possible results in terms on SEO and Site Speed.

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Our top 10 used plugins for WordPress – 2019 Edition

Every WordPress developer has a bunch of plugins they tend to install on pretty much every WordPress site they develop, and we are also those kind of people. These plugins give great solutions for caching, security and adding other improvements that build on WordPress core.

That’s the beauty of WordPress – there are loads of plugins to choose from and they are so quick and easy to implement. Some plugins are just a case of downloading and activating, others provide a shortcode which you can copy and paste within your pages and others is a simple as dragging and dropping a widget where ever you wish to display it.

With so many free and premium plugins available, how do you distinguish from the good and bad plugins out there?

Do note, overloading your web site with too many plugins can cause plugin conflict and reduce the speed of your web site, so if you can avoid a plugin and just code it in, that’s even better!

Below you will find our selection of essential plugins, all chosen based on their usefulness, quality and popularity.


1.) WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a great plugin and is really quick and easy to install. It turns your standard WordPress website into a an eCommerce store and creates all the necessary pages for you (My Account, Checkout, Cart etc). It allows intergration with secure payment methods such as Bank Transfer, PayPal, SagePay and many more. With a huge range of features that can be quickly changed in the Control Panel, this is definitely one of my favorites because of the speed you can set up a fantastic eCommerce website.


2.) Advanced Custom Fields

Advanced Custom Fields is an amazing plugin and without a shadow of a doubt, it’s installed on every project I build. I would definitely recommend getting a licence for the Pro version which you can find out more information about here. You can use the Advanced Custom Fields plugin to take full control of your WordPress edit screens & custom field data. It makes it super easy for clients to change text / images any many other things within your WordPress site without any risk of breaking the site.


3.) Contact Form 7

Contact Form 7 is another plugin I use on pretty much every WordPress site I develop. You can manage multiple contact forms, customise the form and the mail contents and again, it’s really easy to use. The form supports Ajax-powered submitting, CAPTCHA, Akismet spam filtering and many more. All the form elements are generated for you so you don’t even have to know any PHP code. If your not already using this plugin for your forms, I suggest giving it a try now!


4.) Yoast SEO

SEO Yoast is a fantastic platform for SEO. I have used this plugin on 100% of the WordPress sites I have developed and it is the only plugin I use in terms of SEO. If set up correctly, it will improve your site’s SEO on all needed aspects. WordPress SEO forces you to choose a focus keyword when you’re writing your articles, and then makes sure you use that focus keyword everywhere, it also ranks the SEO of all your pages and posts from ‘Bad’, ‘OK’ to ‘Good’ so you know if your content is going to have any chance of ranking on search engines. The best feature about this plugin is that it even tells you how you can improve the performance of each and every page on your site. It may say things such as, you need to include

tags or include an outbound link on your page/post. You will learn a lot about SEO if you run this plugin on your websites. We actually use the SEO Yoast Premium version which allows up to 5 keywords on each page/post/CPT including many other great features which you can read about or purchase here.


5.) Hummingbird Page Speed Optimization

The next 3 set of plugins I’m going to be talking about are plugins offered by WPMU DEV which you can read about more here. There are free versions of these plugins but they also have premium versions which offer a lot more features which I would highly recommend. Hummingbird PRO is an awesome caching plugin. It zips through your site and finds new ways to boost page speed with fine-tuned controls over file compression, minification and full-page, browser and Gravatar caching. Load your pages quicker and score higher on Google PageSpeed Insights with Hummingbird site optimization.


6.) Smush Image Compression and Optimization

This plugin is one of my favourites; it will resize, optimise and compress all of your images with the incredibly powerful and 100% free WordPress image smusher. This uses Lossly compression which will significantly reduce the file sizes of all images on your web site which will definitely increase your sites speed. Again, the premium version of this plugin is 100% recommended as it will allow you to SUPER-Smush all your images along with a few other great features which will allow you to further optimise your site. Need a high Google Speed Test score? This plugin combined with Hummingbird will make the job a piece of cake 😉


7.) Defender Security, Monitoring, and Hack Protection

Security is definitely important when it comes to WordPress, the amount of sites I’ve had to restore/repair and remove Malware from is crazy. So make sure you have fully configured a great security plugin to prevent your web site from these kind of attacks. Defender is layered security for WordPress made easy. And by easy, I mean amazingly easy! No longer do you have to go through hideously complex settings and get a virtual PhD in security. Defender adds all the hardening and security tweaks you need, in just minutes!


8.) Akismet Anti-Spam

Sick and tired of spam comments and junk email from your WordPress site? Akismet has you covered! Akismet checks your comments and contact form submissions against their global database of spam to prevent your site from publishing malicious content. You can review the comment spam it catches on your blog’s “Comments” admin screen.


9.) MailChimp for WordPress

MailChimp for WordPress allows your visitors to subscribe to your newsletter very easily. This plugin helps you grow your MailChimp lists and write better newsletters through various methods. You can create good looking opt-in forms or integrate with any existing form on your site, like your comment, contact or checkout form.


10.) Classic Editor

Finally, our last plugin which we have made a lot of use from since WordPress 5 is classic editor! Classic Editor is an official plugin maintained by the WordPress team that restores the previous (“classic”) WordPress editor and the “Edit Post” screen. It makes it possible to use plugins that extend that screen, add old-style meta boxes, or otherwise depend on the previous editor. By default, this plugin hides all functionality available in the new Block Editor (“Gutenberg”). Since a lot of people are finding it difficult to get their heads around Gutenberg, this is a great quick fix plugin which will restore the editor back to the way you’ve known and loved for a long time.

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