Improving site load times and SEO with Cloudflare’s Signed Exchanges on Google Search Results.
Cloudflare has announced, on Sept 14th, that Cloudflare customers will be able to generate Signed Exchanges (SXG) for Google Search within its platform. This means the ability of third parties such as Google from its search results page or news aggregators linking out can deliver webpages even faster by verifying them through an open web platform specification developed by Googles called SXGs, which stands for signed exchanges protocol.
Cloudflare states in their blog post, “We are excited about this new functionality: it’s a great way make sure your users always have fast access content.”
The website owner will be able to enjoy a faster and better load time when linked with SXG. With this in mind, many search engines use page speeds for their ranking calculations which means you’ll also see an improvement on SERPs!
This SEO bump will be a direct result of implementing SXGs can improve a site’s Largest Contentful Paint (LCP).
For those unfamiliar with Cloudflare
Cloudflare, Inc. is an American web infrastructure and website security company that provides global content delivery network services and DDoS mitigation services. Using a reverse proxy, Cloudflare serves its customer’s websites faster for the client and safer for the hosting provider.
SXG vs AMP Signed Exchanges
AMP provides significant speed benefits above and beyond the format through techniques like caching. Preloading your content will help you load faster in Google search engine results pages (SERPs). These AMP benefits can have downsides, like additional URLs being displayed or a different user experience between the amp and non-amp pages. By serving content using Cloudflare’s signed exchanges, you can use this new platform feature to overcome all of these.
A Signed Exchange enables the ability to authenticate the origin of a resource, independent of how it was delivered according to Cloudflare. Through this decoupling various use cases such as offline internet experiences and prefetching are advanced in an arguably more secure manner while still protecting user privacy.
One of the best features of Signed Exchanges is that they make content portable as delivery via an SXG can easily be distributed to third parties without sacrificing originality.
With SXGs, web browsers can benefit from a new open standard for caching and prefetching content. This will create faster user experiences by delivering the cached files directly from Google.
“Signed Exchanges make the web faster and a better user experience for users, by enabling cross-site prefetching. Site owners have seen clear improvement to Largest Contentful Paint, one of the Core Web Vitals, as well as increased user stickiness. Cloudflare now makes it simple for sites to implement Signed Exchanges and derive these benefits.”Jeff Jose, Product Manager, Google
How the SXG Process Works
Cloudflare uses the following process to generate Signed Exchanges:
Original Content Fetching
Cloudflare fetches the original content
Adding Additional Headers
An additional Digest header is added that uses Merkle Integrity Content Encoding to support the progressive detection of data modification/corruption.
Removing Specific Headers
Cloudflare strips out the headers that don’t make sense within the context of Signed Exchanges (like Connection, Keep-Alive, etc.) as well as security sensitive headers (Set-Cookie, Authentication-Info, etc.).
Adding Required Metadata
Then these headers, including the digest, along with additional metadata, like request URL, URL of the certificate, hash of the certificate, expiration time, etc., are all chained together into a stream that is used to calculate the final signature.
The original content, along with the headers, signature, and a fallback URL are then packed into a final binary for delivery.
Delivering to Google
The Signed Exchange is then cached and sent to the crawler, which also stores the Signed Exchange. After indexing the content, it can now show up in searches.
Cloudflare’s Automatic Signed Exchanges will be free for all Pro, Business, and Enterprise customers. If you are interested, users can sign up to join the Automatic Exchange beta waitlist. Once they are approved, activating SXGs requires flipping a single switch once ready with their settings.