Your website is the business center of your online world. Focusing on ways to make it pleasing to viewers, however, is only one part of the puzzle.
Features underlying the site to improve the customer experience are equally important, if not more so.
As a matter of fact, website speed and security are two of the most crucial factors for reaching higher status on search engine results pages.
Finding ways to improve that website speed and security, then, and create an even better experience for your visitors is an essential focus.
One solution to help you achieve that is Cloudflare. Not just simply a DNS management platform, Cloudflare runs behind the scenes to ensure the site is secure and fast.
Let it benefit your SEO strategy while also understanding the limited ways it can cause potential harm.
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What is Cloudflare?
Essentially, Cloudflare is a specialized content delivery network (CDN) that takes over your site’s DNS servers.
As such, it filters out the bad requests and only sends the good ones to your website content, therefore allowing a quicker response time for those potential customers.
This increase in speed can lead to a boost in Google rankings.
Cloudflare also offers more beneficial features, characterizing them as either security-related or performance-related. These can offer direct or non-direct SEO benefits.
Cloudflare excels in that it offers you highly useful features to benefit both the customer experience and your search engine optimization success.
These features can speed up your site, ensure it remains secure, and boost performance.
1. Security-Related Features
Consumers today want to know that cloud data security is foremost in the mind of online businesses.
Before entering a credit card number or phone number on a subscription or order page, they want some level of assurance that you are protecting what they provide.
Website security is also a search engine ranking factor.
To help with the security aspects of your website, then, the following features are available within Cloudflare.
In order to be PCI compliant and build trust with customers, your website needs to be secure and utilize SSL/TLS.
Cloudflare provides SSL for encryption of user data, free to you.
Its SSL/TLS feature can also benefit your SEO by creating faster load times and catering to Google’s preference for HTTPS sites.
With Cloudflare, you have access to several different configuration options, such as
- Custom certificates
- Automatic HTTPS rewrites
- Modern TLS only
To assist you in controlling traffic and the accessibility of your website, you can utilize firewalls.
These firewalls provide the potential for keeping your website secure and safe by using what’s referred to as precision rules.
Website developers can utilize HTML filtering and various controls within Cloudflare to establish rules, show captcha codes, control actions of bots, and more.
Bots are detrimental to your website and your overall SEO.
They can slow your website, leave behind spam, and steal your content.
Essentially, they can wreck your brand’s trustworthiness to both customers and search engine crawlers.
To deter a bot infestation of your site, Cloudflare offers real-time monitoring features, which include bot scoring, behavioral analysis, and machine learning.
Halts DDoS attacks
Cloudflare can also halt DDoS attacks where a bot sends numerous data requests to your website, creating a slowdown of your server.
Prevents content scraping
No matter how unique your content management strategy may be, bots can sweep in and steal that content and repost it elsewhere, thus lessening its positive impact on your SEO rankings.
The WAF (web application firewall) feature integrates with your website’s APIs and applications to provide help, including the following:
- OWASP rule adherence
- Managed rules
- Monitoring of stolen or exposed data
- Customer response options
This feature may not offer you direct search engine optimization benefits, but it will provide security and safety to those applications and APIs.
Captcha codes may not be your favorite to contend with; however, you know it’s an important task not to neglect.
Captcha, that challenge-response test to determine if visitors are real people or computer automation, such as bots, can be time-consuming.
Visitors to your website hate them and will sometimes bounce as a result.
With Cloudflare, you can forego the codes and instead add a security layer on your website. It offers an alternative by way of its Cryptographic Attestation of Personhood (CAP).
The website visitor proves legitimacy by touching a key instead of dealing with the CAPTCHA puzzle, saving them time.
2. Performance-Related Features
The performance of your website is crucial, so Cloudflare offers these beneficial features.
The Content delivery network (CDN) of Cloudflare allows you to:
- Reduce website load times
- Stay protected from DDoS attacks
- Reduce bandwidth costs
The CDN caches content at a nearby data center. This means that when more than one visitor from the same area or region chooses to visit your website, that second person will also experience fast results.
To further decrease load times, Cloudflare uses caching to control the length of time a file remains on the servers.
You still maintain control over this, choosing which files to cache and how long they remain.
Ultimately, this caching will increase website load speeds even more.
To further improve website speed, you can enable another setting called the auto-minify setting located on the speed tab.
By automatically removing these unnecessary characters, end users will be able to download files in less time.
Another way to boost performance and speed on your website is to utilize the image optimization feature.
Including high-resolution images on your website requires longer download time for the user.
The image optimization feature of Cloudflare can alleviate this by first effectively resizing those images.
The feature also offers image storage, optimization, and delivery.
By resizing and optimizing images, you can improve load speeds, which, in turn, can lead to a boost in your Google rankings.
Paying attention to any redirects on your site is crucial to your SEO strategy. With Cloudflare, those redirects can be located and eliminated.
Go to the Cloudflare dashboard and select rules to follow when it comes to these redirects.
You can set up how your redirects present themselves by adjusting the URL, Status Code, Destination URL, or Setting.
Does using Cloudflare hurt your SEO?
While Cloudflare features can directly help your SEO, there are certain circumstances and areas where it may also hurt it. Potential ways it can do so include the following.
Negatively impact your speed if you already have a fast server
Cloudflare is a sort of intermediary between your website and visitors.
When a person attempts to visit your website, they first go through the Cloudflare server. From there, they are referred to your site based on request filtering and data caching.
If you are already using a fast server, installing Cloudflare may cause an issue.
That extra step of filtering a request through Cloudflare can take longer, thus negating its use and potentially hurting your SEO.
Cloudflare is down, meaning your website appears down
If Cloudflare is down for some reason, which is beyond your control, searchers won’t be able to reach your website even if it is up and running.
As such, that illusionary downtime can cause customers to bounce and even bots to record your site being down. Both of these can negatively impact your site’s rankings.
Blocks Broken Link Checkers
Checking for broken links is an important part of your monitoring efforts since a linking strategy is a crucial component of SEO.
Broken link checkers are commonly an app or plugin helpful in identifying any links that are broken and need attention on your website.
Cloudflare will block these, as they are essentially a type of bot.
You can bypass this, however, by creating a Firewall Rule in Cloudflare that tells it to allow specific users with user agents matching the plugin or app.
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Cloudflare can be a beneficial addition to your website and help boost your SEO efforts. It can speed up load times and positively impact website performance.
There are, however, a few instances where it can potentially harm your SEO, including adding time to an already fast server, reporting your site as being down whenever Cloudflare is itself down, and interfering with link checkers.
The benefits Cloudflare can offer may far outweigh the negatives in many instances, so you may just want to give it a try.
Find out more ways to enhance your website and SEO by learning how to improve your website structure.