How To Reduce Your Website TTFB

How To Reduce Your Website Ttfb 1 2022
How To Reduce Your Website Ttfb 5 2022

There are many different aspects of hosting a website. There are the hosting service providers themselves, the plugins that you’re using, how well the theme interacts with your site, and many other different elements that you always need to pay attention to.

One of these elements is the TTFB. As with almost everything, there has been a lot of debate on the subject of the importance of this element to the site itself.

For our money, every element of a website, regardless of how seemingly unimportant, should always be improved and made to run as quickly and efficiently as it can.

The TTFB is initially one of the more confusing elements of hosting a website, but hopefully, this article can help you understand what TTFB is and how to reduce it as much as you can.

TTFB – Time To First Byte

Right off the bat, we should emphasize that the TTFB is not your actual page loading time. While the TTFB plays a part in your overall site speed, there are many moving parts that are responsible for the overall performance.

As the name implies, the TTFB is the interval between when the first segment of site data is sent from the web host servers and when it’s received by the site visitor. There are a few different factors that actually come into play from when the data is sent to when it’s received, and all 3 can significantly impact the total TTFB.

  • The first thing that happens as soon as a visitor tries to access your site is that a request is sent out to the server of the web host provider that you’re using;
  • Next, the server will process the request and generate a response;
  • The response, in the form of bytes of information, will then be sent back to the site visitor.

The time between the start of this process till the end of it is how the TTFB is calculated.

What Causes a Slowdown in The TTFB?

There are quite a few reasons as to why the request and the response steps of the TTFB process can be marred with incredibly bad slowdown. One of the major ones is a bad internet connection on the side of either the web host provider or the site visitor. While there are measures that can be taken in order to improve the speed of the web host and the site itself, naturally, there’s nothing that can be done if the problem lies with the visitor’s slow internet.

There is also the possibility that geographic location is causing your site to have a slower TTFB speed for certain visitors. A response to a request from a different continent will arrive a lot slower than a response to a request that was sent from the same country. This will depend on the location of the web host servers, as well as whether or not you’re using a DNS.

As for the second step, the speed at which the request is processed is mostly going to be influenced by the CPU capabilities of the host server. However, the compatibility of the site theme with the type of website that you have, the number of background applications that you have running at any one time, and badly optimized site code can all have a negative impact on the request processing.

TTFB Speeds

Knowing the reasons as to why your page loads slow is all fine and good, but we really haven’t explained what good request and response times are supposed to look like. Before we go on to the next section where we provide you with examples of how to reduce your TTFB speed, we’d like to explain what sort of benchmarks you’re going to be looking to reach first.

Measuring Your TTFB

Before making any modifications, you’re going to need to get a measurement of what your current site speeds are like. This can be done by going to any site testing speed website that is available online.

One such reliable site that you can consult for this sort of information is SiteSpeedBot. The main reason why you might want to use SiteSpeedBot over certain other similar tools is that it actually measures and provides you with a detailed list of your site statistics.

This may sound like the most basic requirement for a speed testing tool, but you’d be surprised how many similar tools actually don’t run any sort of tests but rather simply tell you that your site is lacking in certain areas without providing any more detailed or useful information on the actual issues.

SiteSpeedBot on the other hand can give you surprisingly accurate readings on elements like your page size, your FCP timing, your fully loaded time, your total blocking time, your time to download on different internet speeds, and much more.

What You Should Be Looking For

After you’ve got a decently accurate measurement of your site statistics, you’re going to go item by item and compare your readings with the numbers that we’re going to outline below.

TTFB

Ideally, you’re going to want your TTFB to be somewhere between 100 – 200 milliseconds. Keep in mind that this is for requests made from within the country where the web host server is located. International requests are generally going to take around 200 – 500 milliseconds. 

FCP and LCP Timing

The FCP (First Contentful Paint) is the first visual segment of a page that will load, while the LCP (Largest Contentful Paint) is the largest segment. Simply put, when you open a page, you’ll often see that the text will load in before an image will appear on the screen. This happens because the FCP is a smaller segment of information, and it has different timing than the LCP, which are the more robust clusters of data.

You’ll want your FCP to stay close to or under 1 second, while your LCP should come in at under 4 seconds. Ideally, your LCP should be as close to your FCP as possible. While the times are never going to be identical, an LCP that comes in at just a second slower than the FCP is considered to be very quick.

Load Time

This one is nice and simple. You’ll want to keep your site load times between 1.5 and 2.5 seconds.

Fully Loaded Time

The fully loaded time will vary depending on the third-party code being used, however, as a basic rule of thumb, you should always measure it against the load time of your site. For example, if we set your load time at 2 seconds flat, the fully loaded time should generally come in at somewhere between 3 to 4 seconds.

Keep in mind that this isn’t always the case. While the fully loaded times of most general WordPress sites will usually come at 1 or 2 seconds slower than the load times, eCommerce-focused sites can be 3 to 5 seconds slower due to the large amount of additional information that needs to be fully processed.

The Importance of TTFB

As you can see, the TTFB is only one part of your overall site performance numbers. This shouldn’t however understate the importance that it has when it comes to providing your visitors with more efficient site speeds.

The TTFB is the first domino that falls, and the rest of the chain is entirely dependent on that first piece doing its job properly.

How to Reduce Your TTFB

This isn’t a complete list, and there are dozens of other methods that you can use in order to improve your TTFB speed. However, the items that we’ve listed below are what we believe to be the best examples of how to reduce your TTFB in a few simple steps and in a few more advanced ones.

Simple Steps

While we say “simple”, what we mean is that these include the least amount of coding or modification knowledge from the user and they can simply be implemented by either subscribing to a certain service or changing a few things in how you manage your site.

CDN

A Content Delivery Network is meant to allow you to place your site on multiple servers in different locations throughout the globe. As we mentioned before, the request and response speeds are largely based on geographical location, so certain site visitors will receive their responses much slower proportionally to how far away they are from the web host server.

A CDN like Cloudflare circumvents this issue by allowing you to host and stream your site data from multiple locations. This way the visitor that sends a request will get a more immediate response because the data was processed in a server that’s close to their location.

Web Host

The most drastic way that you can improve your TTFB speed is to switch out your web hosting service provider. This is usually done as a last resort and shouldn’t be the first thing that you try if you want to slightly improve your page loading times.

However, if the web host can’t provide you with good speeds and is negatively affecting your site numbers by being unable to accommodate a larger amount of requests without having the CPU catch fire, then it might just be time to start looking into alternatives.

Caching Plugins

Caching is essentially the site pre-building portions of the website by compiling the data ahead of time so that the page loads faster for the visitors after they send in a request.

Adding a caching plugin like WP Rocket is one of the easiest ways that you can ensure that your visitors get a better response time and that your site seems as quick as possible to them. 

You can also use it in order to ensure that your site runs the highest version of PHP that it can support, since the optimization of this scripting language can also affect the TTFB.

HTTPS

The difference between an HTTP and an HTTPS connection is the S at the end that stands for secure. We won’t go into the difference between the two here, but we will mention that the way that your site interacts with both is very important.

In our opinion, there is no reason why your site shouldn’t use HTTPS. The transfer requests from both HTTP and HTTPS sites are processed more efficiently, your visitors will appreciate the extra layer of security that you provide, especially if you run an eCommerce site, and any HTTPS site will use the HTTP2 protocol, which provides a boost in speed.

Just make sure to check that your web host can support HTTPS since a lot of the more inexpensive services usually don’t.

Advanced Steps

You don’t need to be a qualified programmer in order to implement the changes that we’ve outlined in this section, but familiarity with the core concepts of coding and the inner working of your site is still required.

Caching

We covered caching plugins and their general use just a little while ago, but there are also a few more specialized caching options that you can enable in order to give your site a bit more of a boost in performance.

  • HTML caching – The HTML code is the first bundle of data that is processed by the browser after you open a page online. Setting up a rule that prioritizes HTML code caching can dramatically increase the TTFB speed by reducing the interval between when a response to a visitor request is sent and when it’s completed.
  • Object caching – This process involves the storage of database query results. This allows the site to more rapidly gain access to information that was repeatedly requested from several visitors without having to repeatedly query the database.
  • Cloudflare APO Edge Caching – Simply put, this is less a type of caching and more a method of enabling or disabling all of the previously mentioned caching methods on your site with nothing more than a press of a button in order to increase your TTFB.

Automatic Site Managers

Opting to use the Query monitor plugin and Cloudflare Argo service can help reduce your TTFB by simplifying some of the site management tasks and streamlyning some of the more essential performance optimization options.

Query monitor can handle debugging of database queries, PHP errors, hooks and actions, while Cloudflare Argo is simply a more hands-on CDN that can allow you to use a lot more convenient content delivery options in order to stream your data more efficiently.

Background Processes

Lastly, we have probably the simplest tip that we can give you on how to reduce your TTFB speed – deal with any and all unnecessary background plugins or applications.

Go into your settings and mark any processes that aren’t essential. You don’t have to remove them, but it’s advised that you turn off all of the features that don’t play any major role in improving your site performance.

You’re also going to want to check your htaccess file for duplicate rules and old rules and remove them. These aren’t usually significant, but they can sometimes lead to unexpected issues.

Smaller items that don’t use much CPU or bandwidth should be fine to keep active, even if they’re largely for cosmetic value, but the more costly plugins that can really cause your times to drop off drastically should be dealt with as soon as possible.

Conclusion

There is a definite connection between site responsiveness and user interest. They go up and down in response to one another. While this isn’t an exact science, it’s undeniable that there aren’t many people who are patient enough to wait through slow loading times. People make their minds up quickly about frustratingly slow speeds, and they tend to steer clear from repeat visits to those sites.

Improving your TTFB speeds is a reliable way to ensure that even if your site doesn’t load that quickly, enough data is still being displayed immediately that the visitor remains engaged and they will hold on a bit longer and give the data a chance to catch up.

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