It happens every day: you access a website, but it takes too long to load. After a few seconds, you exit the page and look for another option in the search engine results pages. High bounce rates and poor SEO don’t have to be your fate as a website owner. Nip slow speed in the bud by using a content delivery network (or CDN).
Key CDN Features for WordPress
A free CDN should offer essential functionalities that speed up your WordPress site — without requiring you to upgrade to a paid package. Look out for the following features:
- A global server network: The principal benefit of a content delivery network is that it saves your static website files in a server that’s closer to the end user. If its server network isn’t global, then it isn’t fulfilling this purpose.
- Caching capabilities: Most CDN services will offer automatic website caching. This means that a copy of your website will be temporarily stored in the end user’s browser. That way, your site loads more quickly every time they visit it. If you’re looking for a dedicated plugin for this, take a look at our roundup of WordPress cache plugins.
- Image and video optimization: Your CDN service should include image and video optimization capabilities that decrease your website’s load time, and deliver the embedded content more quickly to end users.
Paid CDN services offer more functionalities, including accelerated mobile page speed and advanced analytics. But buying a paid CDN service may not be possible, especially if you’re a new blogger trying to keep costs low.
Fortunately, there are a number of free CDN services that can help you speed up your WordPress site.
Best Free CDN Services for Wordpress
- Cloudflare CDN
- Jetpack Site Accelerator
- W3 Total Cache
- LiteSpeed Cache
- Shift8 CDN
- Amazon AWS CDN
- Google Cloud CDN
Cloudflare is a free CDN service that you can easily use for your WordPress site. When you use its automatic platform optimization (APO) feature, your website will be delivered to end users through its global server network, speeding up load times for visitors.
Cloudflare automatically caches your website, then purges the cached versions once you update the images, text, or other content on the site. This easy-to-use WordPress plugin can be managed straight from your WordPress dashboard, and if you’d prefer to easily activate it without further customizations, you can apply default settings with one click and let the plugin do the rest.
You can also view performance metrics that show you how many users have visited your site, how much bandwidth you’ve saved, and how many threats have been blocked by the service.
This CDN service is a good fit for: Long-time website owners with an established online store or blog that could benefit from a Cloudflare paid plan later on. If you accept users’ private information, you’ll also want to consider this CDN because of its emphasis on mitigating security attacks.
Jetpack is a WordPress plugin that offers security, backup, and speed functionalities. It also comes with a CDN service (called “Site Accelerator”) that decreases your website’s load time.
Aside from allowing you to regularly back up, clone, and migrate your site, Jetpack automatically optimizes your images, saves your CSS and JS files in its global server network, and hosts your video content on their servers for free. That way, YouTube’s recommendations and ads don’t eclipse your video content.
The one drawback of this plugin is that it doesn’t offer built-in caching capabilities. Jetpack specifically recommends the WP Super Cache plugin to cache your website files.
Overall, this service is extremely easy to use. To enable it, visit your Jetpack dashboard, click Settings, go to Performance, and toggle the “Enable site accelerator” option.
This CDN service is a good fit for: New site owners with a small or growing website. JetPack automatically comes with several WordPress hosting providers, making it an easy-to-use option for those who’ve just started a new site.
Created by Swarmify, SmartVideo is a free CDN service that allows you to embed videos on your site without needing to rely on YouTube’s embed code. This CDN is unique in that it specifically focuses on video — so if you’re a content creator, an educator, or a vlogger, you’ll want to put this CDN at the top of your list.
With this CDN, you can deliver buffer-free playback to users, convert YouTube and Vimeo embed codes into a SmartVideo video, and add your colors and branding to the video player. It’s compatible with various WordPress page builders, including Divi, Elementor, Beaver Builder, and WordPress’ native Gutenberg block editor.
This plugin’s focus on video content means that you won’t enjoy a lot of additional features. Caching, image optimization, and JS and CSS minification will all need to be done with an additional plugin.
This CDN service is a good fit for: New or established website owners who primarily publish video content (tutorials, courses, travelogues, vlogs, and more). Video content can significantly slow down your site, but this CDN’s lightweight video player will ensure that doesn’t happen. The player also conveniently excludes distracting content such as ads and recommendations.
W3 Total Cache is a cache plugin that also offers a CDN service. This plugin integrates with your Media Library and theme files, allowing them to load from one of its global servers.
This plugin supports Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) and Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encrypted sites. It offers a wide variety of caching methods, including “local Disk, Redis, Memcached, APC, APCu, eAccelerator, XCache, and WinCache” methods. Its support team is also active, so if you have any new features to suggest or issues to solve, you’ll get a response within one to three days.
This CDN service is a good fit for: New or established website owners who want an all-in-one solution with extensive customization. While its CDN isn’t its primary focus, it can help you speed up your site in tons of ways by offering code minification options and extensive caching.
LiteSpeed Cache is another free CDN service for your website. It provides an image optimization feature, automatically caches your pages, and minifies CSS, JS, and HTML code, improving your website’s load speed.
This CDN service is a good fit for: Established website owners who are running a WordPress multisite or an online store. This plugin is compatible with WooCommerce, a popular ecommerce plugin. Some cache plugins can interfere with other plugins’ functionality, which is why it’s important to be careful when installing this WordPress plugin.
6. Shift8 CDN
Shift8 CDN is a CDN plugin that delivers your website files using its global server network. While the setup process can be complicated (it needs you to both sign up on their website and install the plugin through WordPress), it’s one of the best options on this list because it publishes the location of their servers.
Shift8 CDN consistently adds new endpoints, expanding your site’s reach. All static assets — such as your website’s images, videos, font files, and code — are stored in their network of servers.
This CDN service is a good fit for: Established website owners who keep track of their WordPress traffic and know where most people are visiting from. Since this plugin publishes its server locations, you can take that into account and know that users near those locations will have a seamless experience.
Optimole is a plugin that easily delivers high quality images sized appropriately for all devices, designed to improve your site’s loading speed. Images and video can often slow down page load times if they’re not optimized. Optimole takes the guesswork out of this process by automating it entirely.
Although Optimole is not technically a CDN, they provide free access to AWS CloudFront CDN, allowing their users to get two solutions in one service. Both free and paid tiers can utilize CouldFront’s global server locations.
While this is a great tool for image optimization, it doesn’t prevent cyber and DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks. Those concerned with security may want to consider supplementing another service.
This CDN service is a good fit for: Websites that are image heavy and website owners looking for a one-stop-shop for CDN services and image optimization. Large images can really slow down your site’s load time. Optimole eliminates this hassle by automating this process.
With this plugin there are no settings for the user to configure, although developers can make some tweaks to suit their needs. Just install the plugin and it fills up its cache in the background once activated.
Since it uses JsDelivr, CommonWP users also benefit from not having bandwidth limits, added security, hundreds of points of presence globally, and a network with a valid ICP license — meaning sites will work in China.
This CDN service is a good fit for: New site owners with limited budgets who want a simple, but secure CDN service.
Built by WPAdmin, Amazon AWS CDN is a CDN plugin that stores your site’s files on Amazon’s AWS CloudFront network. Amazon has over 200 servers worldwide, ensuring that your static content is delivered quickly to end users no matter where they are.
The plugin is free to download, but charges apply for using AWS services. CloudFront has a generous, 12-month free tier for those looking to test it out. Users get up to 2,000,000 HTTP or HTTPS requests per month, plus 2,000,000 CloudFront function invocations each month.
With this plugin, you can seamlessly connect to this network — all you need to do is sign up for an AWS account. You can then manage your CloudFront activation using this plugin. The one drawback is that it’s less user-friendly. You’ll need to have some experience with AWS or be willing to read through both Amazon’s and the plugin’s CloudFront documentation.
This CDN service is a good fit for: Established website owners who have some experience with AWS, or who are comfortable learning about the platform.
10. Google Cloud CDN
Google’s Cloud CDN lets users harness the power of the tech giant’s vast infrastructure. It’s no surprise this Cloud CDN delivers speed, using its caching system and global network to quickly deliver content to users across various devices.
While this service isn’t completely free, Google does offer a 90 day free trial with $300 in free credits and use of 20 free products. Additionally there is a pay-as-you-go plan, but it could be expensive for sites that experience high traffic. There’s a handy calculator to help you estimate costs if you’re unsure which plan would be best. The CDN also comes with free SSL certificates built in.
The tradeoff with Google’s CDN is that it isn’t beginner-friendly. If you’re already using the Cloud platform, setting up the CDN is a much simpler process. If not, you’ll need to take a few more steps to get started, choosing from three WordPress hosting options. For blogs, the best and quickest set up option is Compute Engine.
This CDN service is a good fit for: Established website owners needing superior speed and owners already familiar with the Google Cloud platform. Additionally this is a great option for those with a dedicated budget looking to transition from a free to paid service.
Use a CDN to Speed Up Your Website
Site speed is extremely important. Search engines like Google use load time as a ranking factor — and if your site performs poorly and users bounce off, it can also signal a bad user experience. With a CDN, you can ensure your static site files are delivered more quickly, your page’s load time is low, and your site performs well in the SERPs.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in October 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Jan 10, 2022 7:00:00 AM, updated January 12 2022