The Effect Cloudflare Has On SEO

Cloudflare is a global proxy service and tool set for websites that includes free SSL certificates, caching, a wealth of security features, web application firewall and much more. Just from the list above, you can see the massive benefits that a website would gain in the search engines from Cloudflare’s basic free tool set.

But the exact effect that Cloudflare has on SEO, or search engine optimization, goes much deeper.

If Google has made one thing abundantly clear, they like speed! Page load times, especially the initial DOM load speed and first to paint bytes, are HUGE factors in Google’s 200+ items for its ranking algorithm. In fact, Google has lovingly added a tool into Chrome for this purpose called Lighthouse that anyone can use to see the speed factors of any website. Whenever I build or optimize a website for speed factors, this is my first go to. If the website is WordPress based, I usually start off with two plugins; Fast Velocity for combining css and js files, and WP Supercache to deliver static html file versions. Then it is just a matter of running the website through Cloudflare to cache the static content globally.

How Cloudflare Caches Globally

I will try to explain in the most simplest of terms how Cloudflare caches static content globally. Please keep in mind that Cloudflare is currently caching content for over 19,000,000 internet properties in over 180 cities around the world.

In this example, we will assume for the sake of conversation that our webserver/host is in Chicago, and the visitor is in Los Angeles.

  1. Visitor requests website in his browser
  2. The request checks the closest Cloudflare data center to see if there is a copy of the requested sources (images, css, javascript, ect)
  3. If so, those assets are sent to the visitors browser from that local data center
  4. If not, the request goes to the webserver/host in Chicago, saves a copy into the Cloudflare data center in Los Angeles, and delivers those assets to the visitor.
  5. A copy of those assets remain in that Los Angeles data center for future visits by any visitor, for whatever duration the website owner specifies (I usually use 2 months)

This process takes place in a matter of milliseconds with thousands of Cloudflare data centers and has the following benefits for the website owner:

  1. Reduced latency (website is just as fast from anywhere in the world)
  2. Reduces bandwidth load from the server (sometimes as much as 90%)
  3. Provides a reliable always-on DNS solution
Cloudflare SEO Bandwidth Savings
Actual bandwidth savings using Cloudflare as a proxy cdn and cache

In fact, where speed is concerned, Cloudflare can also use built-in tools like Argo for smarter routing to your web server host, and RocketLoader that determines what is needed in your javascript files for ‘first paint’, and delivers that code to the browser first, and also built-in tools to compress and optimize your images on the fly.

There are many more vast benefits for using Cloudflare on your website that go beyond just speed and caching. Their WAF (Web Application Firewall) is second to none in stopping hackers and nefarious traffic from even reaching your webserver/host.

I trust Cloudflare with my websites and evidently so do 19 million other website owners. Knowing that one of my websites is just as fast in Udon Thani, Thailand as it is in Chicago or Los Angeles, gives me massive peace of mind.

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