MaxCDN Review – Does NOT Improve Site Speed

I had the opportunity to try out MaxCDN which is a consumer CDN (content delivery network) service that is run by NetDNA.  To help others I thought I would post this MaxCDN Review for those who are thinking about signing up.

First off I should disclose that I utilized a Black Friday MaxCDN deal where all plans were 50% off.  (It extended for several days.)  I choose the 1.2 Terabytes of bandwidth starter plan for 1 year which is normally $90 dollars.  Since it was 50% off though I paid $45 dollars for the 1 year plan.

Since site speed is a ranking factor Google takes into account now, be it a small one, and improving your websites speed makes it more likely for users to stay on your site longer I wanted to try it out for Adam Yamada and Singing Dogs.  If MaxCDN worked well I thought I'd also pay the extra money to use it for my auto blog and CarNewsCafe.

For those that don't know what a CDN does it basically takes static parts of a website, like images, and stores those on several servers.  Let's say a visitor from Maryland wants to visit your website and you using a CDN.  The CDN will show images from the nearest server location they have available resulting in a better experience for that user.

Ideally a CDN should improve site speed but using MaxCDN for a few weeks I found it didn't.  Checkout screenshots I took of the many speed tests I ran using

maxcdn review maxcdn review

If you notice the first column “Load Time” is a measurement of how long it takes to load all the elements on a given page.  My times are quite slow and I was expecting that MaxCDN would cut a lot of these times in half.   These metrics are not much different to the performance and Load Times I was experiencing before implementing MaxCDN on my websites.  Also if you notice on the right it says “Effective use of CDN” and there is an X.  I should make it clear despite the “X” I spent about 2+ hours with tech support getting the MaxCDN configured.  The tech support rep said it was configured properly and what I saw in the MaxCDN backend reflected my sites were using their servers.  Sooo… not sure what I was paying for as it was setup and cofingured properly but didn't improve speed.

In addition to WebPageTest I used Google's Developer testing tool as well.  I didn't see that much of a noticeably difference in page loading speeds either.

Along with the speed tests I also pay for a service called StatusCake, an uptime monitoring service.  (FYI there is also Uptime Robot which is free but  does send false postives.  I haven't had that issue with the StatusCake paid account.)  StatusCake pings my sites and will report how long it took to get a signal back from the server.  Did I see a noticeably improvement in site speed when I was using MaxCDN?  No, I did not.

At least the backend MaxCDN dashboard is fairly straightforward and the layout is nice.

maxcdn dashboard

Some of the support documentation could be alot easier and simpler to understand in my opinion.  Surprisingly they don't have good WordPress documentation which I always view as vitally important for any service or plugin nowadays.  A lot of is confusing and was clearly written by engineers with negative writing skills.

MaxCDN is a service that a lot of people that run WordPress and other websites use due to it's low cost and aggressive marketing.  I just did not feel it was worth even the $45 dollars.  If all the tests and data I ran were not improving the site speed noticeably, what was I paying for?  What can I say, this isn't a good MaxCDN Review, I'm especially pissed since I spent a significant amount of time configuring MaxCDN with the tech representative and all that was for nothing.  MaxCDN  wasn't useful to me as it didn't improve site speed and the whole point of the service it to speed up your site, a lot.

If you got value out of my MaxCDN review or have an opinion about using CDN's feel free to leave a comment below.

Should I Switch from Blogger to WordPress?

I recently got asked, “Should I switch from Blogger to WordPress?”  The short answer to this often asked question I get is, “Yes” you definitely should.  WordPress is a superior and much better blogging platform and content management system than Blogger.  There are a lot more features and 3rd party supported plugins which make the functionality of WordPress 1000 times better than Blogger probably ever will be.  Honestly I could go on for a long time listing reasons why you should switch from Blogger to WordPress.

Even if WordPress is a better blog software to use I don't' necessarily see a reason for everyone to make the migration over to WordPress.  It sort of depends on your needs and goals with your blog.

Most people use Blogger for their blogs since they just wanted something quick and easy.  Since Blogger integrates with Google and all of their products it definitely is simple to use.  A lot of Blogger blogs are mainly for sharing family photos, updates, and happenings privately with a family and friends.  Or it was something that was just needed for a short time period of time and it wasn't worth it to register a domain name to use and buy web hosting.  Other examples would be classes, soccer teams, school projects community bulletins, etc.  In my opinion if this is what you are using Blogger for you may not want to hassle with switching from Blogger to WordPress.

Blogger also runs in a cloud environment which makes it a stable software and secure blog platform.  ( does as but self hosted WordPress blogs depend on what host you are using.)  While it definitely doesn't have as much functionality and there are not as much 3rd party development going on with Blogger it is still a great platform for those that want something simple.

If you've landed on this article I am going to assume you are considering switching from Blogger to WordPress and you've probably read about Google's changed Terms of Service.  Google's changed ToS basically states you may not own the content you make, which some people don't really like.  Even Matt Cutts, Google's head of WebSpam, uses WordPress over Blogger.  I wouldn't be surprised if Google's ToS was one of the reasons.

Also if keeping up a blog and your website is taking up more of your time and you looking for ways to monetize it, than you definitely are going to have to switch.  WordPress has a lot of plugin options and greater flexibility for you to try different ways to make money blogging.  Blogger has Google AdSense for monetizing a blog and that's about it except for getting private banner ads.  Keep in mind your theme would need to be able to handle placing them.

If you do want to switch from Blogger to WordPress Automattic, the company that developed and maintains WordPress, makes the process pretty straightforward and easy.  There is a Blogger Importer plugin which should work without a hitch (most of the time.)  There are a few issues I've had when helping clients switch over to WordPress to be aware of though.  For instance high quality images can be a bit of a pain especially if the person is picked a bad web host.  (Most of the time HostGator or an EIG company.)  Usually even with a lot of images and posts there are a few plugins for grabbing images and pulling them which make the process easier.

If you are happy with Blogger and it fits your needs for a personal or family blog and you are happy with it I don't see a reason to spend time switching to WordPress.  If you want greater functionality and flexibility a switch from Blogger to WordPress is probably in the cards for you.

I'd love to hear from my audience. Have any of my readers made the switch?  Was it hard or easy for you?  Have you switched a blog or website over from other CMS platforms?  Let me know in the comments below.

Switched to Feedly

switched to feedly

Since Google Reader is going to be shutting down on July 1st I've officially switched to Feedly.  While nobody is happy about Google Reader shutting down it is pretty inevitable at this point and it doesn't seem like Google is changing their mind even with petitions to keep the RSS service open.

Switching to Feedly was pretty painless as you just your own Google account to login and Feedly will pull your RSS feeds in.  Using Feedly for awhile I think it is a good RSS alternative to Google Reader.  Feedly is fast, the design is nice, and you can change the layout to your personal preference.   Feedly also features a nice app which works on both iOS and Android mobile phones.

Feedly used to run on Google Reader's backend but now Feedly has built their own API (application programming interface).  This was launched on June 19th and the API was nicknamed Normandy.  The Normandy initiative was built so that Feedly could run in a cloud environment while supporting several different apps that used to run on Google Reader.

While I don't think Feedly is a bad I don't like it nearly as much as Google Reader and still prefer it.  One RSS alternative you could consider is The Old Reader which has got more of a Google Reader feel.  I like The Old Reader for it's simplicity ease-of-use.  However, it is not nearly as fast and snappy as Feedly.  Also importing your Google Reader RSS feeds is not quite as straightforward.  You will have to go to Google Takeout, download the XML file, and then upload it to the Old Reader.  This was easy for me to do but might be hard for those that are not tech-savy.  Of course if you use RSS feeds I assume you probably are tech-savy.

Since the developers behind The Old Reader work on it in their spare time it is understandable the product is not quite as refined as Feedly.  I will probably play around with it more and see how I like it.  Since I've switched to Feedly I've been using that mostly.  Not sure I will be using the Old Reader because of the faults mentioned above.  It still does have a loyal following and user base and I recommend you at least give it a shot.

Anyway I've switched to Feedly and think it is a good alternative for Google Reader refugees.  (First world problems?)  Still it will take getting used to and I'd prefer it if Google wasn't shutting down it's RSS offering.

Google celebrates 10 Years of Google Adsense with a Video

Google Adsense, Google's ad network, turned 10 years old this month.  It's hard to believe Google Adsense was launched 10 years ago as this helped Google's popular search engine turn a profit.  Well this didn't just make Google profitable but one of the most successful companies in the history of the world.

To celebrate this important milestone for Google and the Google Adsense program, what did Google decided to do?  Release a short video detailing the history of the Adsense on Youtube obviously.  Check it out.

Here is the timeline of the Adsense program from the video.  I've changed some of the milestones wording in the video slightly.

  • June 2004 – Introduces display ads (with pictures)
  • June 2005 – Placement targeting helps publishers and websites owners earn from ads that reach a specific audience
  • September 2005 – Adsense teams up with Blogger to help bloggers earn from their content.
  • November 2008 – Adsense welcomes its 1 millionth publisher
  • May 2007 – Site's videos, on YouTube, can incorporate Adsense for additional revenue.
  • September 2007 – A new revenue stream for publishers, ads on mobile content.
  • October 2008 – Adsense can now help you earn from games.  (I didn't even know that.)
  • March 2009 – Connect with more advertisers through expandable formats and internet based ads.  (Don't know what that means.)
  • November 2009 – Adsense gets a major makeover, offering new features to help publishers do more with their ads.
  • October 2010 – More display ads are now shown on AdSense than text ads.
  • January 2011 – Over 1 billion daily transactions between AdSense publishers and advertisers occur on mobile phones.
  • October 2011 – More transactions are made through AdSense, than all of the world's major stock exchanges.
  • January 2012 – Publisher toolbar offers greater efficiency and new controls.
  • May 2013 – 65% of the Top 200 ad supported sites in comScore use AdSense.

Advertising and specifically the Adsense program still accounts for about 90%+ of Google's income.  Well technically all that revenue comes from Google AdWords, the counterpart for advertiser's to AdSense.  (If you are a business looking to advertise across the AdSense network you would use AdWords to bid on keywords or display your graphic advertisements.)

Even though Google Adsense often unfairly shutdowns people's Adsense accounts wihtout explanation, like mine, there has been no Advertiser network that is so popular and has generated so much money in the last 10 years.   If you want contextual based advertising nobody else is going to beat AdSense.  (Contextual advertising means that you will only see ads that is relevant to your site visitors.)

Google Adsense now includes over 2 million publishers and sends out over 100,000 checks to people every month.  That's a lot of checks and a whole lot of money.

Interestingly WordPress celebrated it's 10th Anniversary recently as well.  Many people couldn't monetize their WordPress blogs without Adsense. For most web entities 10 years is like forever by the way.

What is in store for Google Adsense in the future?  I assume they will be focusing on more mobile, video, and even app advertising.   Whatever Google will do I am fairly sure Adsense will be around for another 10 years though.

Mozilla and 86 Groups want the NSA to Stop Watching US

stop watching us

Are you upset over the recent revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been running a wide scale domestic surveillance program on American citizens?  You are not alone as 86 groups, organizations, and websites recently launched StopWatching.US.  Quite simply put they want the NSA and the government to Stop Watching US.

The initiative is being spearheaded by Mozilla, along with support from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Reddit, FreedomWorks, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Internet Archive, NameCheap, 4Chan, and countless other well known web entities and groups.  The website aims to tell our elected members of Congress we don't like the fact the NSA has been monitoring every phone call placed in the United States.  Visitors of the site sign their name, email, address, and ZIP and an email is automatically sent to your two Senators and Congressman that represents your district.

The message seems to have resonated with many people since at the time I wrote this post Stop Watching US has 150,000 signatures.  (Yes, I was one of those signatures.)  That means there have been generated 450,000 emails to Congress from the petition.  Since the Stop Watching US initiative and website was only launched a few days ago on June 10th, that is pretty impressive.  I can only imagine that as more people start to learn about the initiative and petition it will rack up several million signatures and generate many more emails to Congress by the end of the month.  The Mozilla FireFox startpage now has a link to StopWatching.US  to encourage signatures.

What I find interesting is that the message is strong and clear across party lines.  It is not everyday that you see groups like the ACLU, MoveOn and numerous other liberal organizations backing something along with FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group.  It's clear a lot of people feel uneasy and they want their voice to be heard.

Do you want the government to Stop Watching US too?  Then I encourage you to sign the petition and please share with your friends, family, and anyone you know that cares about privacy and reining in government surveillance which has clearly gotten out of hand.

To keep updated with the Stop Watching US intitivat you can follow the Stop Watching US Twitter feed.  I would also encourage you to sign-up for updates from the EFF.

Here is the open letter to Congress;

Dear Members of Congress,

We write to express our concern about recent reports published in the Guardian and the Washington Post, and acknowledged by the Obama Administration, which reveal secret spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) on phone records and Internet activity of people in the United States.

The Washington Post and the Guardian recently published reports based on information provided by an intelligence contractor showing how the NSA and the FBI are gaining broad access to data collected by nine of the leading U.S. Internet companies and sharing this information with foreign governments. As reported, the U.S. government is extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person's movements and contacts over time. As a result, the contents of communications of people both abroad and in the U.S. can be swept in without any suspicion of crime or association with a terrorist organization.

Leaked reports also published by the Guardian and confirmed by the Administration reveal that the NSA is also abusing a controversial section of the PATRIOT Act to collect the call records of millions of Verizon customers. The data collected by the NSA includes every call made, the time of the call, the duration of the call, and other “identifying information” for millions of Verizon customers, including entirely domestic calls, regardless of whether those customers have ever been suspected of a crime. The Wall Street Journal has reported that other major carriers, including AT&T and Sprint, are subject to similar secret orders.

This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy. This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens' right to speak and associate anonymously, guard against unreasonable searches and seizures, and protect their right to privacy.

We are calling on Congress to take immediate action to halt this surveillance and provide a full public accounting of the NSA's and the FBI's data collection programs. We call on Congress to immediately and publicly:

  1. Enact reform this Congress to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity and phone records of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;
  2. Create a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying. This committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance;
  3. Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

[Source – Electronic Frontier Foundation DeepLinks Blog]

Why You Should and Shouldn’t Pay to Attention to Alexa Traffic Rank

alexa traffic rank

Today I posted about how Alexa wants people to pay for Alexa Pro Accounts to see backlinks.  I realized a lot of people probably are not aware of what Alexa is and why you should and shouldn't pay attention to your Alexa Traffic Rank and the data the company provides about your websites.

For those that don't know Alexa is a company that tracks data about websites all over the internet.  Alexa gives you information such as what keywords people are using to find a site, audience, and other information.  People can also leave reviews about what they think of websites and if they have good content or not.  The most widely known metric they use is Alexa Traffic Rank.

Alexa's Traffic Rank is supposed to show the traffic your sites generates against the millions of other websites out there.  There is usually a Global Rank and it will show you which country you get the most traffic from.

While this can be somewhat useful data, to be honest I try not to pay too much attention to the Alexa Traffic Rank of my own websites as it is a distracting and not useful metric to think about.  Why?  Alexa ranks can be widely inaccurate as it only counts visits from people that have the Alexa toolbar installed on their browser.  That means a lot of people without the Alexa toolbar could be visiting a site but overall that website might not be generating that much traffic.  I've actually seen this firsthand several times on other people's websites.

I've seen plenty of high traffic sites with a good following have a low Alexa rank.  Some sites which are getting traffic may not even have an Alexa traffic rank at all.  Alexa even has admitted that some of the data they provide may not be entirely accurate and a lot of webmasters do not pay attention to it.

Even though everyone pretty much agrees Alexa rank is not always accurate it is something you should be somewhat aware of.  The thing is potential advertisers will probably check your Alexa traffic rank before they decide to advertise on your blogs or websites.  They are other sites you can use such as Quantcast and Compete but both of these don't provide much data unless you pay for a subscription every month.  Up until now Alexa provide amount of their data for free.

So unfortunately Alexa rank is one of those Catch-22's.  You know it isn't something to worry about all the time but a lot of people will check it if they want to do business with you and your websites.  So it is something to be aware of even though I would definitely not think about it too much.

Something else to know Alexa is that they are owned by Amazon.  I assume Amazon likes having all that data to figure out what to sell to people.

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