If you're looking for ways to reduce server response times (TTFB), you'll be relieved to learn that there are several strategies to help you do so.
What is TTFB?
TTFB is shorthand for Time to First Byte. This metric determines how long it takes from the instant a visitor navigates to your site to when it begins rendering. In other words, you can use TTFB to assess your website server's responsiveness. And as you may have guessed, your server's responsiveness seriously impacts your site's overall success.
Because TTFB refers to the waiting period for an initial response, sometimes people use this term and 'page load time' interchangeably. While these two phrases are connected, they're not synonymous. (Page load time, however, is important too — if you need proof, check out these statistics.)
Three variables impact your website's Time to First Byte. These include:
How long it takes for an HTTP request to be sent
How long it takes for your server to process a request
How long it takes for your server to reply the first byte to the web browser
Your website's Time to First Byte starts with an HTTP request. The length of time that it takes your server to receive the request varies, depending on how long it takes for a DNS lookup, server distance, how fast the visitor's network is, and interruptions in the connection.
After your server receives the request, it will process and generate a response. Then, the server will send the response to the site visitor. How fast this occurs depends on the server and user network speed, so it's multi-pronged.
How to Measure TTFB
To know if you'll need to reduce TTFB, you must measure it. There are several ways that you can check your website's TTFB. First, you can opt to use a third-party website. This is an excellent idea to gain additional insights into your website's performance. Alternatively, you can learn more about your website's TTFB by visiting the Network tab in Chrome's Console. However, you can use CURL if you want to access it with Linux or Mac.
Why is TTFB important?
The primary reason TTFB is essential is that it makes significant contributions to your overall page speed. And we know what slow page load speed usually results in: A higher bounce rate.
In addition, the faster a page loads, the more pleasant the user experience is for site visitors. Therefore, if you want to keep visitors delighted, you should work to ensure your TTFB is optimized.
That's one of many reasons why learning to reduce TTFB is a must. Your TTFB also impacts Core Web Vitals scores, so by working to improve TTFB, you might see a positive impact on that, too.
As you can tell, when you improve your Time to First Byte, you're helping several facets of your website and creating a more pleasant experience for visitors. That's what we call a major win!
What is a good TTFB?
According to Google, your Time to First Byte must be less than 600 ms. If your TTFB exceeds this, it will result in a failed audit, which you want to avoid. It's best to keep your server response time under 200 ms.
Say you run some website analytics and notice that your site has a slower TTFB. That indicates that there might be a hiccup along the way. By figuring out the problem and implementing a fix, you can rest assured that your site visitors will have a manageable experience when they visit your page that leads them to bounce.
What causes slow TTFB?
So, what's responsible for slow TTFB? We're glad you asked. If you're experiencing a bottleneck, you should consider looking into these different facets of your website to ensure they're performing up to standard:
Bad network connection to server
High website traffic
Poor database connection
Server configuration issues
Poor DNS response time
How to Reduce Server Response Times (TTFB)
Now that you know what causes slow TTFB, let's dive into how to reduce it. Here are six tangible ways you can give your TTFB a well-deserved boost.
By implementing caching, you can decrease your site's TTFB. This is because no cache can lead to higher overall load times. Keep in mind that some web hosting providers already have built-in caching tools.
Reduce your number of page redirects.
It's no secret that the fewer page redirects, the better. If you have a lot of page redirects, that means your browser makes more HTTP requests. And that can result in an increased server response time, which your site visitors won't enjoy.
Be mindful of your web host.
Choosing the right web hosting provider can be tricky, but you must select the right one. Why? Your website hosting provider impacts various factors for your website, including TTFB. The faster your host is, the better.
Additionally, be mindful of where the web hosting provider's servers are. For instance, if most of your site visitors originate from the United States, it makes sense to host your site within the States.
Keep everything up to date.
Anything outdated is the enemy of fast TTFB. Therefore, you must ensure your PHP and HTTP are up to date. By choosing a 7+ PHP, you can see better TFFB. We also recommend you use HHTP/3 or /2.
Consider if a content delivery network is suitable for your website.
But what if your website's audience is geographically distributed? Don't worry: There's a solution. If this applies to you, consider working with a content delivery network, or CDN.
A content delivery network differs from traditional website hosting because it doesn't rely on just one server but an international network. Therefore, regardless of where your visitors are located, they'll enjoy a pleasant user experience.
Invest in DNS.
You'll usually have to upgrade if you want premium DNS, but trust us, it's worth it! Basic DNS servers may not render requests quickly enough, which — you guessed it — could spell trouble for your DNS lookup times and, therefore, TTFB.
By investing in DNS, queries will be answered with low latency. This is possible thanks to an international network of DNS servers, and yes, it could improve TTFB.
WordPress TTFB Tips
It can be tricky to increase WordPress TTFB, but it's possible. Here are some of the best strategies to use for WordPress TTFB optimization.
Use plugins wisely.
Remember how we mentioned earlier that using caching helps improve TTFB? The good news is that many caching plugins are available for WordPress sites. Using these plugins allows you to speed up your Time to First Byte.
Consider managed hosting.
Because hosting is a significant reason why websites struggle with TTFB, switching to a managed hosting provider for your WordPress site could be beneficial. This is because many managed hosting providers won't share resources across sites, resulting in a much faster site on your end.
Consider optimizing your database.
Your database could be another contributing factor to a less-than-favorable TTFB. If yours has a ton of outdated or extra information (Think: old comments, files made by plugins), your server response time could suffer. Therefore, by running a cleanup and optimizing your database, you could see significant improvements in your TTFB.
Start working to reduce Time to First Byte today.
Now that you have a better understanding of the steps you need to take to reduce TTFB, you can get started today. By implementing these tangible fixes, your visitors could have a far more seamless and delightful experience on your site — so they'll come back for more.