Turbocharge Your Website Speed With Cloudflare

Boost your Website Speed with Cloudflare

In this article, I’m going to tell you how to make your website load in record time. In the digital world, every little bit extra you can put into your website matters. You’re going to want to start with setting up a Cloudflare Account at Cloudflare.com

Why bother speeding up my website if it already loads quickly?

People are going to leave your website if it doesn’t load fully within 2.5 seconds. Some even argue 2 seconds is too much, but realistically with all your content, and flashy design, 2.5 seconds is the cut-off. We see a significant drop in statistics when websites load slower than 2.5 seconds.

website load time vs traffic
Credit: CDNLion.com

You’re going to want to maintain a fast load time so you don’t lose customers. Coupling a fast load time with proper User Experience Optimization and User Intent Optimization will get you the leads you want, right now as opposed to later. Page speed load time is probably the easiest and quickest way to get people to visit your website and stay there.

Getting Started with Cloudflare

In this article, I’m going to demo setting up a client of mine with Cloudflare, and how easy it is. First thing is first if you’re doing work for a client, or for yourself, set up a new email account for all business-related content. I personally use Gmail and set up a Google account for my customers, so I can link Analytics, Search Console, AdWords and more to an account that isn’t personally affiliated with them.

The quickest way to create a Google Account is to visit their Mobile Account Creation Page. Plus, this allows you to create multiple accounts without getting penalized by Google for making too many Google accounts.

google account creation
Google’s Mobile Account Creation Page

Once you have your new Google account up and running, it’s time to setup your Cloudflare account. For the purpose of this example, I’ll be using a client of mine for setting everything up.

cloudflare account creation
Cloudflare Account Creation

Next, you’ll be prompted to enter your domain name so Cloudflare can scan your DNS settings. Simply input your domain, hit “Scan DNS Records” and wait for it to scan.

Cloudflare DNS Scan
Cloudflare DNS Scan

Once that’s done, hit “Continue”. You’ll be taken to a page that looks like this:

Cloudflare DNS Settings
Cloudflare DNS Settings

Now the next part relies somewhat on your ability to navigate through your Domain’s Registrar and verify the settings that way. For this example, I’m migrating this domain away from an existing Cloudflare account, so I’ll need to get into the other account and verify the settings are the same. For security purposes, I can’t really give you a good example of how to do this. Cloudflare usually does an amazing job of duplicating your DNS Records, so rest assured it should work for you with no problems. However, do NOT SKIP THE VERIFICATION STEP. This can lead to things like Email outages, Website Downtime, etc. Make sure your DNS records match before completing the next steps!

How to verify your DNS records:

  1. Login to your Domain Registrar, IE: GoDaddy.com.
  2. Once logged in, navigate to your selected domain, and select a setting such as “DNS” or “Manage”.
  3. Look for “Manage DNS”
  4. You should end up on a page listing a bunch of DNS Records, for example:
    GoDaddy DNS Records
    GoDaddy DNS Records
  5. Once you have this screen, verify the DNS settings are ***EXACTLY*** the same in Cloudflare’s settings. If they aren’t, simply add them in, or modify them so that they are.

Finishing up with Cloudflare

Once you have your settings verified, hit Continue. You’ll be prompted to select your plan. For now, we’re just going to use their Free Website plan. I go into greater detail for paid plans in my other tutorials.

Cloudflare Website Plans
Pick the “Free Website” option.

Now it’s time to go back to your domain name Registrar and update your Name Servers. This process is fairly easy once you find the settings. For this example, we’ll use GoDaddy. On your “DNS Settings” page, simply scroll down to the Nameservers section, and update them with the ones Cloudflare give you.

nameserver settings on godaddy
GoDaddy’s Nameserver Settings

Update those Nameservers with the ones Cloudflare gave you. Here is mine for example:

Cloudflare's Nameservers
Cloudflare’s Nameservers

Once you have your name servers updated, simply hit “Continue” and you’ll be brought to the next page where you’ll have to play the waiting game. You can hit “Recheck Nameservers” every hour or so until the new Nameservers are propagated to your area. A neat tool to use to see the progress of the change in nameservers is whatsmydns.net. Using this tool you can see how quickly your DNS is Propagating globally and can help you gauge how long it will take.

Now you may be asking me “but wait a moment, won’t my website go down while this happens?” No, it won’t! Because you haven’t changed your web hosting information, the handover is instant and clean. Once the new nameservers take over, it simply just re-uses the same DNS information that we copied over earlier.

This is when you can tell whether you copied your DNS settings over properly or not!

Cloudflare Settings to use for Lightning Fast Load Times

On the free version, we’re fairly limited to what we can do, but we definitely want to do a few things right off the bat!

First, enable HTTPS! What is HTTPS you may ask? It’s a secure way of transporting your website’s data from your web server to people who use your website. HTTP is the regular system, and HTTPS is the newer, quicker, and more secure version. HTTPS allows multiple connections from the web server to your users, which gives your website multiple pipelines to download content to the user. HTTP only has one pipeline, therefore it is slower and just all around insecure and so 1996.

Steps on how to increase your Website Speed:

  1. Navigate to the “Crypto” tab.
    1. Make sure your “SSL” setting is set to Full.
    2. Find the “Always use HTTPS” setting and enable it.
    3. YES this CAN mess with your SEO if done incorrectly. SearchEngineLand.com has an excellent and detailed write up about switching to HTTPS.
    4. In the “Crypto” tab, scroll down even further to “Automatic HTTPS rewrites” and enable this as well. This will allow your content to switch over to the new, secure version of your domain.
  2. Navigate to the “Speed” tab.
    1. Check the boxes in the “Auto Minify” section labelled JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. What this does is combines pertinent HTML files and gets rid of empty spaces/commented out code and other unnecessary content in your website’s code.
    2. Scroll down to “Rocket Loader”, select the “Automatic” setting. This will drastically help increase your JavaScript-based portions of your website to load faster.
  3. Keep the generic settings, sit back and relax while your website loads faster, is more secure, and now has a very useful upgrade for your Website’s needs.

Cloudflare is a remarkable tool. I personally think you’re crazy if you don’t use it, there is so much value acquired from using it even in its free version.

The Proof is in the Putting(Pudding? Mmmmm. Pudding.)

Let’s do a quick Website Speed test on my example website.

Before the Cloudflare Upgrade, my website was loading in 3.7 seconds. With the upgrade, I’m loading in just shy of 1s faster at 2.8 seconds. Still not as fast as I’d like, but that’s where the rest of the SEO expertise comes into play in another tutorial I have.

Before the Cloudflare Upgrade:

slow load speed

After the Cloudflare Upgrade:

So as you can see, we’re already loading a heck of a lot quicker just from doing the small, 10 minute long Cloudflare upgrade. Pretty cool hey!?

Hope you all found this tutorial handy, be sure to like my Facebook page, and follow me on other Social Media platforms like Twitter!

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