Content Delivery Networks to the Rescue
Hilton and Harrah’s still dominate the bottom rung of the Keynote Index for US Lodging sites but we did see Harrah’s get a little faster. The Harrah’s servers are handling requests more quickly. Optimizing back-end infrastructure like this can make a big difference for sites with a very high object count since a 50 millisecond server delay for each object can quickly multiply when the count is 140 or higher.
So while we don’t see any improvement to the structure of the site itself, the improvement to the backend servers almost doubled the performance speed. Sadly this performance gain lifted Harrah’s only one position in the Index.
We also noticed that Harrah’s is not using a CDN (Content Distribution Network or sometimes known as a Content Delivery Network). A CDN is a large distribution of servers deployed across multiple geographically dispersed data centers, designed to serve content to end-users with high availability and high performance. Essentially it helps even out performance, by caching parts of your site closer to your customers. Common providers are companies such as Akamai and Limelight. CDNs are very commonly used to support high-traffic ecommerce and news sites, and for good reason.
For example, on the Harrah’s site we see approximately 144 elements (such as images), which each have a network latency factor in the load time. With 144 objects this soon adds up to significant time affecting performance speeds. A CDN would help reduce that lag.
At one of our measurement agent locations, we see a Harrah’s page load time of 3.7 seconds but at another 6.9. Using a CDN would help reduce these slower load times, bringing them closer to that of the fastest location.
In contrast we see our top ranking companies – still Orbitz, Hyatt and Best Western – all using a CDN, in effect putting the content nearer the user.
If a site is not using a CDN – and for hospitality sites, the benefit can be great - then it really has to focus on optimizing its page construction. Keynote provides a number of page construction recommendations based on industry-standard practices proven to improve performance: http://www.keynote.com/docs/news/Keynote-Page-Construction-Guidlines.pdf.
Anyone can also sign up for a free weekly email delivery of the Index. Use it to track how your company’s performance is doing against the competition, or just to follow what some of the major names are setting as performance standards. Keynote runs a large number of US and global Indexes, across a range of industries and government, which many organizations use as the benchmark to achieve their own optimum Web performance.
The Keynote Lodging Performance Index measures and benchmarks the performance of the home pages of the major hotel and travel booking sites from the ten largest US metropolitan areas (Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, DC) on high-speed links attached to key points on the largest US Internet Service Provider (ISP) backbones. Sites are measured every fifteen minutes.