It's been just over a month since I started using CloudFlare to boost blog page load speed.
One of the questions that readers asked was about the impact on blog traffic. I wanted to give the web app a longer trial before I commented, so that's what I'll do today. But first, let me tell you about a few setup changes since my original review.
Changes To My CloudFlare Setup
1. I reduced the security level to low, because I didn't have any major threats and I wanted to make sure that all my regular readers weren't affected. The result is a win-win. Spam is still down, and no readers have complained. Spammers now have to work harder to leave comments on the blog and since I moderate all new comments, that leaves them out in the cold. (I'm also using the GASP plugin as a backup.)
3. I turned off Rocket Loader. This might seem like a strange decision, since the speed of CloudFlare is one of its main assets. However, I had problems with my newsletter signup form and Facebook widget not loading properly. When I turned Rocket Loader off, the problem disappeared. This is a beta feature, so I plan to re-enable it when the CloudFlare admins issue the next update. Despite this, I am still benefiting from improvements in page load time. According to CloudFlare, my site is running about 33% faster.
4. One of the things that CloudFlare does is take all your traffic via its servers. A side effect of that is that your web host may see unusual amounts of traffic coming from CloudFlare's IP addresses. CloudFlare suggests that you whitelist these if possible. This was information I found out after the my host temporarily pulled my account for excess CPU load. (Don't worry, it was fixed within 15 minutes.) The solution was to change an advanced setting in WP Super Cache to use mod-rewrite to serve cached files.
Analyzing Blog Metrics After Installing CloudFlare
So, what difference has CloudFlare made to the traffic to my blog? Here's what the figures show.
1. Site traffic is down. According to Google Analytics, there have been about 1,100 fewer visitors in the period from 8 June onwards compared with the previous period. However, they have generated about 3,000 more page views than before. Clicky‘s figures show a 3% drop in visitors and a 6% drop in page views.
2. Bounce rate is way down. There's a 20 point+ drop in bounce rate between the periods. Clicky shows a 10% reduction in bounce rate.
3. The people who are visiting my site are visiting an extra page per session. They are also spending longer on pages. This also matches the stats on Clicky, where there have been significant percentage increases in the numbers of people staying more than a minute on the site.
What I've Learned with CloudFlare
So, what have I learned? Since enabling CloudFlare, I've discovered that there's an awful lot of bot traffic to my site. That's no surprise, given the number of sites that routinely scrape my content. Keeping those security threats at bay has reduced visitor numbers. I don't see that as a big loss, because since enabling CloudFlare engagement with my content is way up. The people who visit my site are sticking around, commenting, emailing me and subscribing to my newsletter. That's very good indeed and that's why I plan to stick with CloudFlare for the time being.