Bring backend back

If you’re a business dependent on ecommerce, page load speeds will either define your success or your failure. Now there are many known ways to optimize your site for better speeds. The big ones are of course implementing a CDN service, compressing your images, and limiting the amount of rich content per page. But there’s an even bigger factor that businesses fail to notice, which can make or break your site before a user even reaches your homepage. I’m talking about managed DNS.

50% of your 1-second page load time budget on mobile is taken up by network latency overhead (a portion of which is running a DNS lookup). [Source]

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Depending on the size of a company, an additional second of delay can cost thousands to even hundreds of thousands, depending on how long these network latencies occur. Users are becoming more impatient, putting even more demand on businesses. DNS gets puts on the back burner, because it’s not a client-facing feature. The only time a client will even even see the words “DNS” is if yours fails and they see the dreaded 404 error.

A 2-second delay in load time during a transaction results in abandonment rates of up to 87%. (Source)

What does this have to do with Conversions?

The other problem is backend services aren’t as sexy to potential ecommerce clients, and they often have a hard time seeing how our services will help them get a better ROI. It’s well known that managed DNS is a crucial part of any organization’s backend infrastructure, however it’s difficult to translate something as relatively invisible as DNS into dollar signs.

51% of online shoppers in the US say that site slowness is the top reason they’d abandon a purchase. (Source)

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What is DNS? (techies you can skip ahead)

DNS, or the Domain Name System, is basically like the phonebook for the Internet. When you type in www.dnsmadeeasy.com, you’re actually asking the Internet, “What is the IP address for www.dnsmadeeasy.com?” An IP address is like the phone number for the domain, it’s a series of numbers used to identify and connect to the domain like: 208.80.120.250. Long story short, computers can only communicate using numbers, so DNS was created to attribute domain names (like www.dnsmadeeasy.com) to their IP address (208.80.120.250), so you only have to remember domain names instead of long sequences of numbers. Watch this video to see it in action!

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So we experimented

We recently conducted a survey among a handful of our corporate clients who primarily use our services for ecommerce business. We asked them questions like:

  • Have you noticed that certain regions experience more latency than others? How do you resolve this?
  • How much of an impact do you think your site’s page load times have on end-user abandonment rates?
  • Do you feel like you have an accurate depiction of what your end-users are experiencing?

Survey participants were encouraged to use Real-User Monitoring (RUM) provided by Constellix Sonar to answer these questions. RUM monitors individual end-user connectivity from dozens of monitoring nodes around the world. This is different from traditional RUM, which monitors from the point of view of a data center. Sonar RUM uses a simple Java snippet to accurately capture unique end-user behavior, so the data you are seeing is from actual users, not a server.

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The results

We gave participants a month, which we felt was adequate time to install RUM onto their site, and experiment with changes to their network and website. We gave them the end-goal of: attempt to improve page load times, and then monitor and record these changes on a global scale. At the end of the month, we asked clients the same questions again and found that not only had they started taking a deeper look at their networks, but they were using RUM to identify ways to optimize their online presence.

For example, one client noticed that some users were experiencing significantly more latency. She took a closer look at her site traffic using RUM and found that the users with the most latency were using mobile devices. Her website wasn’t optimized for mobile browsers, so she invested in a responsive website design. Only week after implementation, she reported a 41% decrease in latency for mobile users. Mobile traffic had accounted for 34% of her traffic, and her changes resulted in a significant decrease in overall page load times on a global scale.

64% of smartphone users expect pages to load in less than 4 seconds. (Source)

 

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Another client found that his website was performing poorly in Asia-Pacific. He had just recently moved over to DNS Made Easy from an in-house Unicast implementation. The client had recently suffered a DNS outage and wanted to set-up DNS Failover services with the Global Traffic Director (GTD). He began using both services to manage his query traffic about a week into the experiment. He was able to use GTD to optimize query routing on a regional basis, something he was previously unable to do with a Unicast network. By the end of the second week he had already noticed decreased site load times in not just Asia-Pacific, but nearly all regions.

The big picture

While it is still too early to tell what these changes may spell for conversions, due to the strong correlation between site performance and successful conversions, we believe the results will undoubtedly be positive. Other participants reported decreased bounce rate and more pages viewed per session. Both are strong indicators of the likelihood for increased conversions.

One of the other benefits of DNS performance optimization is improved search engine rankings, or SEO (search engine optimization). Page load times are a major factor in SEO, and can cause site rankings to plummet overnight. While it’s too early to tell, we anticipate an increase search visibility for participants who were able to decrease site load speed.

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It’s easy to start

We just covered a lot, so where do you start if you’re new to DNS management? First things first, you need a provider that has a global network, and gives you the reigns when it comes to routing and managing your traffic. Second, unwavering reliability and guaranteed uptime. If you’re buying DNS services from a company that doesn’t specialize in DNS management, you won’t be getting any of these features (ie: your registrar or web hosting provider). Before you even begin making changes to your network try a network monitoring solution, like Sonar RUM, to analyze your network performance. And finally, setup your network configurations and continue monitoring your site traffic to see if your changes are improving individual end-user connectivity. Oh, and be sure to share with us your DNS management successes! We love your stories, so much you might even see it in a future blog.