Optimization glossary

Content delivery

What is content delivery?

Content delivery is the method of providing web-based media over a particular medium, such as the Internet or television broadcast channels. For any media consumed online, it must be delivered from a first server—the originating server—to a second server—the cache server. This includes music videos, webpages, television shows, videogames and all other online, web-based content. 

Online content delivery distributes information to duplicate servers to maintain web-based content. This is known as content caching. Content caching decreases loading time, enables efficient delivery and decentralizes data handling tasks. This prevents denial-of-service (DoS) attacks. 

Key takeaways

  • Content delivery works through three steps: web redirection, URL selection, and delivery.
  • Content can be delivered through downloading or streaming.
  • Different content types can be delivered in different ways to create a truly omnichannel experience. 
  • Content delivery networks (CDNs) can help decrease loading time, improve content availability and redundancy, enhance webpage security, and decrease bandwidth expenses.

How content delivery works

The acceleration and proliferation of Internet-based content have raised the importance of stable content delivery systems. This includes video-on-demand (VoD), downloadable content, streaming services and everything else provided online. To meet demand, ISPs have increased scalability, quality of services and network reliability.

Content delivery works through three steps. 

1. Web redirection

Cache servers are placed at major Internet access points worldwide. These secondary cache servers then use a special routing code to redirect the webpage request to the closest server. 

These special routing redirection codes include:

  • Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) redirection
  • IP redirection
  • Domain Name System (DNS) redirection

2. URL selection

The web user then selects a given Uniform Resource Locator (URL) that reroutes the request away from the website’s originating server and directs it instead to a secondary cache server closer to the user. 

3. Delivery

The secondary cache server then establishes which content is held in the cache, delivers that content and then obtains any non-cached content from the originating server. 


Types of content delivery 

In line with these steps, content is delivered in one of two ways: downloading or streaming.

Downloadable content

Downloads require the entire content to be delivered to the end user before they can play it back. Downloadable content (DLC) is less restrictive and easier to use than streamed content and typically provides better content quality. 

Popular peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing sites include Gnutella and BitTorrent. These and other similar content-sharing sites divide the content into bite-sized chunks. The downloading is not sequential, so the user must download the entire content before consuming it.

Streamable content 

On the other hand, streaming has largely replaced DLC for media like music and videos. When streaming, content is played at the end user’s side while being transported. A buffer on the end user’s side preloads certain segments. The playback rate depends on the network capacity and available bandwidth. 

The streamable content is also divided into delay-bounded and nondelay-restricted classes. For example, delay-bounded content includes gaming and teleconferencing. Delay-bounded content requires an upper bound on the maximum delay, while nondelay-restricted applications (e.g., Internet TV) reduce that upper bound. 

Streaming is also either live or on-demand. 

Types of digital content and where to use them

Certain types of content will appeal to different prospects at various points in their customer journeys. Below we outline the most common— and effective—types of digital content to deliver across channels to provide the best user experience. 


You're reading a hybrid blog right now. (Officially, this is a glossary item, but it reads similarly.) 

You can embed useful, customer-pertinent information inside of blog posts. Use search engine optimization (SEO) research to increase your blog's page rank on Google based on keywords. Blogs act as company billboards, constantly attracting new audience members and current customers alike to your brand, raising awareness and trust. 


People love video streaming! 

Create information-rich, brand-focused videos to educate and provide value-added content to prospects and current customers. These videos can be created and advertised on social media to increase customer awareness and engagement for your product or service. 


Ebooks add legitimacy and trust to your brand. Their purpose is the same as blogs -- value-added information that passersby and customers find enticing. Ebooks are exceptional for generating in-flow leads. The best practice is to deliver ebooks as gated content -- request contact information before allowing people to download them. 


Podcasts don't always make sense for customers, but they are popular and can be built into a formidable marketing strategy depending on production and format. Have your podcasts add value to a product via interviews, case studies or discussions on future developments to keep customers engaged. 


Infographics catch customers' attention and appeal to visual learners. They make great eye candy on social media. They can also entice customers to provide contact information before downloading -- like ebooks. 

Case Studies and whitepapers

If your strategy is to build trust, consider leveraging case studies and whitepapers. Case studies can highlight your company's success in helping customers overcome pain points. Whitepapers highlight your company as an authority in a particular market segment.


Webinars are synchronous sales pitches offered under the guise of professional development or product education. Webinars typically run live with customer participation. They should always be recorded, and then reproduced and delivered as video or as repurposed podcast content for future marketing opportunities. 

Reuse and recycle your digital content to maximize delivery returns

When it comes to content, it always pays to go green. Fresh content is always a plus, but going green saves company resources by recycling and reusing existing content. You can spruce up existing content to make it appear "fresh" again: 

  • Many blogs -- particularly those on procedures -- can be turned into stimulating infographics. 
  • Refashion webinars into asynchronous videos. 
  • Podcasts can be outlined from previously covered blog topics. 
  • Revise a series of blogs about a particular topic into a long-form ebook.

Always find ways to reintroduce and redeliver your branded content across different channels to different types of customers. You don't have to create new content to get your message delivered -- simply change the packaging.

Omnichannel content delivery

As the multiple formats above demonstrate, you need to focus on creating omnichannel content that can be delivered to customers across numerous digital platforms simultaneously. Omnichannel delivery requires you to format your digital content for different screen and device compatibility. Consider the following examples:

  • Ebooks and PDFs can be web-optimized for functionality. 
  • Format all print and visual content as responsive design and ensure load times are efficient.
  • Distribute videos using adaptive bit-rate technology.
  • Design infographics with the most exciting content in the center of the image for optimal social media exposure. 
  • Podcasts can be repurposed for different devices and platforms, such as YouTube.
  • Use social media to notify customers about new content and deliver it across different channels. 

The goal is to use content to build engagement and drive sales. Content must lead customers and prospects to point-of-sale opportunities -- typically on your website or well-drafted landing pages -- or at a minimum, future engagement opportunities (e.g., follows, likes and email sign-ups). You can also increase engagement and sales by personalizing said content. 

What is a content delivery network?

A content delivery network (CDN) maintains connections among Internet service providers (ISPs), major website owners and network operators on local servers. These can also include P2P connections and private servers. 

Common CDN providers include Akamai Technologies, EdgeCast and Amazon CloudFront. These CDN providers make it easier to support high-traffic events such as live web broadcasts by distributing content from originating servers to secondary cache servers by satellite link. 

The CDN fast-tracks content delivery, providing quicker access to webpages, video, audio and other web-based content. CDNs use network employing technologies like caching, load balancing, scheduling and request routing to facilitate content replication. This reduces the price of content delivery and works well with either the personal or enterprise corporate level. 

How content delivery networks work 

A CDN works by locating secondary cache servers at established exchange points used by different networks. Specifically, Internet exchange points (IXPs) connect various ISPs. One provider then allows the other to use traffic originating there. 

CDNs also improve data transfers between the end user and service provider. For instance, CDNs place data centers throughout the world. This improves website security and ensures that the service provider overcomes hardware or software failures. 

Benefits of content delivery networks

A CDN provides four primary benefits:

  • Decreasing loading time: A CDN distributes content to webpage users by relying upon a geographically close CDN server. Implementing a CDN can also reduce bounce rates because webpage users are more likely to leave a site with a slow load time. 
  • Improving content availability and redundancy: High traffic or hardware issues can disrupt a website’s normal function. Because a CDN distributes data on a large scale, such a network can accommodate more users and survive hardware failures better than the original server. 
  • Enhancing webpage security: A CDN improves webpage security by providing distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) migration or protecting a vulnerable server or network from a DDoS attack. DDoS migration stops an attack through four steps: 
    • Detection – Differentiating an attack from normal traffic
    • Response – Reducing malicious bot traffic and absorbing remaining traffic
    • Routing – Divides the remaining webpage traffic into controllable pieces
    • Adaptation – Analyzes webpage traffic for repeat offenders from known IP addresses
  • Decreasing bandwidth expenses: When using a CDN, origin servers do not have to provide as much data. Instead, caching and other website optimizations reduce bandwidth consumption expenses for webpage hosting.

Content delivery from Optimizely 

Optimizely provides comprehensive content management services. This includes reliable and expedited content delivery capable of meeting your changing needs. If you want to reuse web-based content from various channels or a singular platform, Optimizely can help.

Contact us today to get started.