When you are trying to make visitors stay who have attention spans less than that of a squirrel, time is of essence. No one likes to wait and watch as your slow webpages unfold tediously in front of your visitors. Sites that load in less than 5 seconds see 70% longer average sessions. This does not mean you cannot make your websites faster than that, but if your site comes under 5 seconds then you can cash in on those extra minutes.
If you have already tried front-end performance fixes and you further want to tweak your site for better load speed then you should consider optimising your TTFB (Time to First Byte).
TTFB is the amount of time your webpage takes to receive its first byte from the server. Another-words it’s the amount of time your browser takes to establish a connection with the server and start downloading the contents of your webpage.
How does it work?
Before looking at some simple ways of optimizing your TTFB, let’s look at how it works. It is a simple three step process.
- The time needed to send a HTTP request
- Connection time
- The time needed to get the first byte of a web page
It’s the users network speed, DNS lookup time and distance to the server that determines the time it takes for the server to receive a request from the website. So the quicker the server receives the request the sooner it can process and generate a response.
By no means it is implied that TTFB is solely accountable or can be synonymised with a page’s overall loading speed. TTFB is just one metric out of many which is responsible for a page’s loading speed.
It is an important contributor and must be dealt with properly. However, a constant debate is ongoing considering the importance of TTFB as a significant metric. Google web performance engineer Ilya Grigorik says, that we need not worry about TTFB as it is not as significant, however contradictory research suggests a direct correlation between a faster TTFB and higher search engine rankings. TTFB can be tweaked very easily thus it takes very less effort to cover this base. A 100-millisecond delay in load time can cause conversion rates to drop by 7% thus it makes it all the more important to optimise your TTFB.
It’s better to have a TTFB of at least 100ms if your website is static like a professional blogging website. However, for dynamic websites like WordPress then 200-500 ms is the recommended TTFB. It’s basically a metric that gives you an idea of the responsiveness of your site.
1. Update your WordPress themes and plugins regularly
A lot of times when developers update a certain theme or a plugin, they also add performance optimisations to it. These updates can contain optimised queries and code efficiency.
Thus, you must always keep your themes and plugins updated. Do not use plugins and themes that do not provide any updates at all. Also, it is a good practice to keep your website organised and clean. Delete the plugins that you do not require anymore, to shed extra weight from your servers.
Be wary of plugins that directly impact your sites performance.
2. Reduce Queries for lower TTFB
If your websites run a lot of queries to access information from the database, then it will negatively impact your TTFB. This will create multiple bottlenecks. However, these bottlenecks can be easily be removed by using a diagnostic plugin. Some tools will help you find the slowest query time and lets you identify which themes, plugins or setting is affecting the speed.
3. Use faster and better web hosting
The most common and important way to reduce your TTFB is by relying on a fast web hosting service. Using a faster host can provide a 20% reduction in your TTFB globally. However, it is equally important to keep the servers as close to your customers as possible.
If your target audience is in the United states, then try to avoid hosting your server in Europe. A CDN can negate a lot of these problems but still it is best to keep the servers closest to your audience as possible.
When sites experience a surge in inbound traffic, then their TTFB also tends to increase dramatically. A good and carefully architected host will be able to quickly scale up your website as per the inbound traffic which in turn will bring down your TTFB.
4. Consider using a CDN
CDN stands for content delivery network. It is used to deliver your static images and scripts faster to users globally, via a network of servers worldwide. As we just discussed, the geographical limitation that comes with different locations of servers and users, can be easily negated using a good quality CDN.
If you are in fact using a good quality CDN, it can scale down your TTFB by 70%. By rerouting your data to a server closest to the user, you will see a huge positive difference in your load time.
Services like Cloudflare are a whole proxy service running package. Though, you can see a tiny bit of increased TTFB with Cloudflare. It is because of all the overhead that comes with Cloudflare services. It has its own unique firewall features that other CDN providers don’t have. Thus depending upon the structure and nature of your website and your needs, you can decide what suits you best.
5. Implement Caching
This might not even be a surprise to you. This is the most obvious and effective way of optimising your TTFB. Yet, a lot of people miss it. By caching you decrease your TTFB by reducing your sever processing time. Caching can be easily enabled via your hosting provider. Some sites have seen a whooping 90% decrease in TTFB.
In this guide, we have only tried to explore the simplest of ways which anyone can use to decrease their TTFB and increase page loading speed as a whole. There are more advance techniques to improve you TTFB.
A study has suggested that 79% of web shoppers who have trouble with web site performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again. Pages that take more than 5 seconds to load have a bounce rate of 38% while pages with load speed of 2 seconds have a bounce rate of 9%. These statistics are only to suggest the importance of faster loading websites. Boosting your TTFB can be an effective way of decreasing your page’s loading time.
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