You may come across the recommendation “Reduce server response times (TTFB)” after running a PageSpeed Insights test. Reducing the initial server response time means that you have to lower your site’s time to the first byte (TTFB).
You might be wondering what TTFB is and why it matters. Well, TTFB is the amount of time it takes a browser to create a connection to the server and start downloading a web page’s contents. So, the more you can improve your site’s TTFB, the better performance your site can provide.
The good news is that there are few ways that you can apply to reduce this number and make sure that users have an awesome experience when they visit your site. Want to learn how to reduce time to first byte? Let’s dive in!
What is TTFB, and Why Is It Important?
First off, what exactly does “time-to-first-byte” mean? According to Google, “Time spent waiting for the initial response, also known as the Time To First Byte. This time captures the latency of a round trip to the server in addition to the time spent waiting for the server to deliver the response.”
This includes all steps involved in the time it takes to send the HTTP requests, process the requests, and the time it takes for the server to send back the first byte of the response to the browser.
Google breaks TTFB into 4 categories. Like-
- 100 – 200 milliseconds — Very good
- 300 – 500 milliseconds — Good
- 600 – 900 milliseconds — Average
- 1 second and above — Poor
TTFB is an important factor because it contributes to your overall page speed and optimizes your site to improve Core Web Vitals grades. Remember, if the numbers are high enough, users may perceive your websites as being slow. You should aim for 200 ms or less.
So, when you optimize your site to reduce TTFB, users don’t have to wait for longer to let your site load. Similarly, the bounce rate will also reduce and lead to higher engagement and retention.
How to Reduce Time to First Byte?
Before jumping into reducing the TTFB, let’s see what factors actually affect time to first byte. So, here they are-
- Network latency
- High web traffic
- Themes and plugins
- Server configuration and performance
- Dynamic content
- DNS response time
There’s nothing to do with high web traffic and network issues. Still, you can optimize the other factors. All you have to do is follow our step-by-step guide and watch the magic happen right before your eyes.
So, let’s see how to reduce time to first byte for your website.
1. Measure Time to First Byte
First, measure the reason why your TTFB time is high. There are several tools that can help you in this step. Here are some tools that you can use-
You should keep in mind that all these tools may output different TTFB. Therefore, you should use the one with which you are familiar and comfortable to use.
2. Use a Fast Web Host
Using a fast web host will help you a long way to reduce the TTFB. While choosing a web host, make sure to consider where your host’s servers are located. It should be physically closer to the area of you and your target audience.
As we mentioned earlier, that actually can’t do anything with your high traffic rate and network issues, you can at least manage the scalability of your site. In that case, make sure your host is able to scale your site faster to improve its TTFB.
If you’re using a managed host, then you don’t have to worry about dynamic content. Because managed WordPress hosts specifically configure their servers for WordPress sites.
3. Use Caching
The easiest way to reduce time to first byte of your site is by setting up caching. It helps in reducing the server processing time and thus can minimize the TTFB. To do this, first, check what your web host offers as far as object caching does. You can ask your web host to simply enable it.
Another easiest way is using caching plugins if you want to get this job done automatically without requiring any effort from your side. Here are some best caching plugins-
4. Use GZIP Compression
By reducing the size of your site’s resources like HTML, CSS, and JS you can ensure reducing TTFB and help your site to load all these resources faster. To do this, you can apply GZIP compression. Though some hosting providers enable GZIP compression by default, therefore check out your hosting provider first.
Other than that, you can use this free plugin called Enable GZIP Compression. If you’re wondering to know more about web compression, check out this comparison between Brotli vs GZIP Compression for WordPress
5. Optimize Your Database
Usually, the database of a site contains too much unnecessary data like posts, spam comments, trash, revisions, temporary files, etc. All these affect the server response time by making the site heavier. To fix this issue, you should optimize the size of your site’s database and clean them regularly.
Here, some WordPress plugins will work great to do this process. You can choose any one from the following options-
All these plugins work straightforward to clean the database and even compress images and cache your site.
6. Use a CDN
Generally, slow speed is something that you have no direct control over, but at least you can improve it by using a CDN (content delivery network). CDN helps to deliver static content like CSS, HTML, scripts, and images faster than regular servers.
For example, if your server is geographically located in the United States, and your users from other places will receive your site’s content from a server near to them with the help of a CDN. This way, it reduces the network latency between the site’s server and visitors.
Now, let’s see some of the most popular CDN services-
7. Keep WordPress, Plugins, and Themes Updated
It’s crucial to keep WordPress, plugins, and themes updated all the time. This will not only keep the TTFB lower but also ensure security by preventing hackers from taking advantage of exploits in old versions.
Often, developers add performance optimizations to their updates, which implies they have optimized their queries or made updates that affect the PHP codes efficiently. That’s why it’s considered the best SEO practice to keep the WordPress, plugins, and themes always updated.
8. Delete Unused Plugins and Themes
The quality of your plugins and themes also impact the TTFB of your site. Therefore, make sure to look out for those themes and plugins that are affecting your site’s performance.
Also, consider deleting all those plugins and themes that you are not using; it will free up the disk space, reduce the amount of data your server needs to send to new visitors.
9. Reduce Queries
To get the information from database sites runs queries, often these numbers of queries affect the TTFB. In that case, you can install a diagnostic plugin called Query Monitor or a heavy-duty tool like New Relic. Both these will help you to find database queries that take more time to load or have the slowest query time.
This way, you can identify the things that are affecting your site’s page speed and optimize your site according to that report.
10. Use a Premium DNS Service
Though some managed WordPress hosting packages do offer premium DNS, the typical ones don’t. Therefore, you should invest in a premium DNS provider to ensure your site’s DNS queries are answered with minimal time. Using a global network of DNS servers works best to reduce TTFB.
You may also consider enabling DNS prefetching on your site to take it a step further. This technique is best for telling the browsers to perform DNS lookups on a page in the background when users are browsing.
11.Don’t Forget the Latest Version of PHP.
It goes without saying that you should always prefer to use the latest PHP version. Upgrading PHP can be a tricky task for you, but you can ask your host to do it for you. Not using the recent version of PHP makes the site vulnerable to hackers, and keeps inefficient codes which makes the site slower.
PHP 7+ version can handle almost 50% more requests per second. Therefore, it’s essential to use a 7+ PHP version to improve your TTFB.
When it comes to web page speed, TTFB is one of the most important metrics. If your site takes too long to load, visitors will leave and never come back. You can increase conversions by making sure that people are getting what they need as quickly as possible. That means having a fast-loading site with low TTFB times.
And you can ensure this by applying the above techniques on your site. These steps are really simple and very easy to implement to improve your site speed. We hope you found this guide helpful and informative to learn how to reduce time to first byte. If so, don’t forget to share your thoughts with us by commenting below.