One of the best ways to improve server response times on your WordPress site is to focus on reducing Time to First Byte (TTFB). This can help ensure that your site loads in visitors’ browsers as quickly as possible, making it less likely that they’ll abandon it.
In this post, we’ll explain what TTFB is, why it’s important, and how to run a TTFB test on your site. Then we’ll discuss six key tips you can use to reduce TTFB and improve server response times in WordPress. Let’s get started!
In This Article 👀
What Is TTFB? ⏱
TTFB, which as we mentioned earlier is short for ‘Time to First Byte’, refers to the amount of time it takes for a browser to receive the first byte of data from a website’s server. In other words, this measurement gauges the responsiveness of a web server after an HTTP request is made from a client’s browser.
The faster your website’s TTFB is, the better. This means that your site’s resources and data will be loaded in visitors’ browsers more quickly.
TTFB is made up of three major parts:
- The HTTP request is sent to the server, which can include a Domain Name System (DNS) lookup but varies based on the user’s network and connection.
- The server processes the request and generates a response by communicating with network systems, running scripts, making database calls, etc.
- The server transmits the first byte of the response to the client, which marks the TTFB.
Ultimately, the time it takes for all of these phases to complete makes up the TTFB. Later in this post, we’ll discuss how to run a TTFB test. However, as a general rule of thumb, a good TTFB is between 200 milliseconds (ms) and 500 ms, although ideally it will be below 100 ms.
The TTFB for a given site depends on a wide variety of factors. For example, if you have a large, complex website, you can expect a longer TTFB than you might see with a basic blog.
Why Does TTFB Matter for Your WordPress Site?⚡
When it comes to website optimization and providing a positive UX, site speed is of paramount importance. However, if you notice that your site’s performance is suffering, it might be due to an unnecessarily long TTFB.
The longer the TTFB is, the longer your site’s visitors will have to wait for their browsers to display your pages. This can lead to frustration, and even convince users to abandon your site and go to one of your competitors instead.
Additionally, a sluggish website can hamper your SEO. Google considers page speed to be a crucial ranking signal. So if your site takes too long to load, you risk seeing your position in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) slip.
It’s important to note that TTFB is not synonymous with website speed. Rather, it’s a measurement of responsiveness. However, all speed and performance metrics are relevant to your website. Although there are some debates about whether TTFB really matters – or to what degree it’s important – improving it can only help your site.
There are a handful of other benefits that come from reducing TTFB as well. Not only can it improve the browsing experience for your visitors, but it can also increase your engagement and retention rates.
How to Perform a TTFB Test on Your WordPress Site 🛠️
Before we discuss how to improve Time to First Byte, it’s important to first understand where it currently stands. This is why we recommend running a TTFB test on your WordPress site.
There are multiple tools you can use to measure TTFB. It’s worth noting that the results may vary slightly, depending on which service or tactic you use. In most cases, the best method simply comes down to personal preference. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common options.
WebPageTest is a popular online tool often used to test page speed. It’s free and easy to use, and provides a detailed report of your site’s performance. It even offers suggestions for how to improve page speeds:
To use this solution to measure TTFB, visit the website and enter your domain in the URL field. You can also select a Test Location and choose the browser you’re using from the Browser drop-down menu. When you’re done, click on the Start Test button:
On the results page, WebPageTest will provide you with a wide variety of analytics and details about your site, including a grade for your TTFB. In addition to the letter grade, you can find the exact TTFB in milliseconds under the Performance Results section:
The WebPageTest target time is based on the time needed for the socket connection and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) negotiations, DNS, and an additional 100 ms. For every extra 100 ms the TTFB spans beyond that target time, the test tool bumps the site down a letter grade.
Similar to WebPageTest, Pingdom Tools is another free online tool that is useful for testing your site’s speed and performance. To use it, just enter your URL into the text field and click on the Start Test button:
Note that as with WebPageTest, you can also specify a specific location to test from.
Once the tool is done analyzing your site, it will automatically display the test results. You will see an overall performance grade, as well as some key metrics such as page size, loading time, and requests:
Further down the results page, you will see more detailed information and charts under the File requests section. This is where you will find your TTFB results. However, it’s worth noting that Pingdom refers to this metric as ‘Wait time’ rather than as TTFB:
The advantage of this solution is that you can see which specific pages on your site are causing unnecessary wait times. By hovering over the yellow sections, you can see exactly how long it’s taking for TTFB to occur.
GTmetrix is another website testing tool you can use to measure TTFB. However, as with Pingdom, the metric is referred to as ‘wait time’ here:
To get started, enter your URL and click on the Test your site button. Unlike the other website speed test tools, this platform does not give you the option of specifying a location to test from.
It may take a minute or two for the tool to fetch and analyze your site, depending on how large or complex it is. Once it’s done, it will display your performance report:
Here you’ll notice a PageSpeed Score, metrics for load time and total page size, as well as requests. However, to get specific information about TTFB, or in this case wait time, you can navigate to the Waterfall tab:
In this section, there will be graphs similar to those displayed in Pingdom test results. It lists specific pages of your site that, when you hover over them, will show the wait time in milliseconds/seconds.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that this is the easiest way to access these metrics when using the free version of GTmetrix. However, if you register for an account or sign up for GTmetrix Pro, TTFB and other relevant information will be more readily available under the Timings tab.
KeyCDN Performance Test
A unique feature of KeyCDN is that it lets you measure TTFB from multiple locations at once. At this point, you probably know the drill. To get started, enter your URL and click on the Test button.
When the tool is done analyzing the site, it will display the performance test results. There you can find the TTFB for each location:
There are also other helpful metrics available, such as DNS and time to connect. For more information about each location’s test, you can click on the drop-down menu next to it.
Last but not least, if you’re a Google Chrome user, you can measure your TTFB directly from the browser. This method is recommended if you don’t want to use an online tool, or if you’re already at least somewhat familiar with DevTools.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that network latency and connection conditions influence TTFB. If you’re testing from your own browser and computer, you may not encounter the same TTFB as what your visitors experience on their end. Therefore, you might want to use one of the third-party tools mentioned above for a more accurate assessment (or at least a second opinion).
To launch and measure TTFB from Google Chrome, visit your WordPress site in a Chrome browser tab, and then click on the three vertical dots in the top right-hand corner to open the Chrome menu. Navigate to More tools > Developer tools:
You can click on any element on the page to inspect it further. Under the Network tab, you’ll find a variety of metrics. In the Waterfall column, click on the element you want to inspect and view the TTFB in the panel that opens:
On this platform, you’ll find the relevant metric listed as ‘Waiting (TTFB)’. If you want a more in-depth explanation of any of the terms in this window, or need more guidance on interpreting your results, you can click on Explanation for more information.
How to Improve TTFB and Reduce Server Response Times Using WordPress Plugins and Tools (6 Tips) 👏
Now that you understand what Time to First Byte is and why it’s important, we can get to the fun part: reducing TTFB to improve server response times. After you run a Time to First Byte test, depending on the tool you use, you may have a list of improvements and suggestions to start with.
However, no matter where you’re starting from, there are a handful of common and effective ways to reduce TTFB in WordPress. Let’s take a look at six key tips for reducing server response times via WordPress plugins and other tools.
1. Use Caching on Your WordPress Site
If you don’t already have a caching mechanism implemented on your WordPress site, we recommend getting one to reduce TTFB. Caching reduces the burden on your site’s server, ultimately allowing its data to be transmitted and displayed faster.
With WP Rocket, you get both page and browser caching to reduce server response times in WordPress. This solution also comes with a database optimization feature that can be useful for reducing TTFB. We’ll discuss more about that option in a moment.
WP Rocket is a premium plugin, with plans starting at $49. This includes a year of support and updates. Once you sign up for an account, you can install the WP Rocket WordPress plugin, activate your license, and then navigate to the settings to configure the cache.
2. Leverage a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
As we touched on earlier, a CDN can help improve site speed and reduce TTFB. It is a network of distributed servers located around the globe, which enables your site to be loaded from the data center closest to each visitor’s location. This minimizes the distance data needs to travel in order to fetch and display your WordPress site, ultimately leading to faster load times.
Your options for using a CDN on your WordPress site will vary depending on your web host. For example, some plans come with CDN features built in, while others have restrictions on which CDN plugins or services you can use.
If you want to know how to reduce server response times, one popular option worth checking out is the Cloudflare free CDN:
Cloudflare CDN can help reduce the stress put on your server by offloading bandwidth consumption to its own data centers. In turn, this can help you see better TTFB scores.
Another thing we like about this solution is that many popular WordPress caching plugins come with an option for you to set up Cloudflare CDN within their settings. This includes both WP Rocket and W3 Total Cache.
To learn more about Cloudflare CDN, you can visit the official website. You can also check out this post for other ways you can reduce server response times using WordPress plugins.
3. Optimize Your WordPress Database
Your WordPress pages are made up of dynamic files, which generally take longer to load than static text files. If the WordPress database that is housing those files is overly bloated, it can increase your site’s TTFB.
Fortunately, you can trim down some of this weight by optimizing your WordPress database. The quickest and easiest way to do that is by using a tool such as Autoptimize:
This is a free WordPress plugin that you can use to:
- Minify cache scripts and styles
- Optimize and lazy load images
- Defer scripts to the footer
- Minify HTML
If you’re using the WP Rocket plugin we mentioned in the last two sections, you can also leverage its database optimization feature. Within the plugin’s database settings, you’ll have the option to:
- Schedule automatic database cleanups
- Optimize tables and delete plugins that you no longer use
- Clean up post revisions and drafts
WP Rocket is a robust premium plugin that comes with a wide variety of features for boosting your site’s performance. However, if you’re looking for a free option, we recommend using Autoptimize.
4. Use a Premium Domain Name System (DNS) Provider
As we mentioned earlier, DNS lookup times play a role in TTFB. Therefore, if you’re trying to reduce TTFB and improve server response times, it may help to use a premium DNS provider such as Amazon Route 53, rather than a free solution.
For the uninitiated, a DNS is essentially like a phonebook for the internet. It is what translates your IP address into your website’s domain, making your site available for visitors to find.
As with many website maintenance and management tools, premium versions of a DNS often provide better performance than free options. Similar to CDNs, a DNS will have a variety of server locations located across the globe, and a premium solution will generally provide you with better access to a larger network.
5. Keep Your Site Lightweight by Deleting Any Unnecessary Plugins
Just as with optimizing your WordPress database, keeping your site as lightweight as possible can help reduce TTFB and improve overall performance. To eliminate unnecessary weight, you can delete any unused or unnecessary plugins installed on your website.
Too many plugins can slow your site down and increase server response times. Therefore, it’s best to be selective about which plugins you install on your website, and make sure you regularly update them. If you no longer need a specific plugin, deactivate and delete it from your site entirely. This will minimize unnecessary bloat and make for a leaner website.
If this is not something you have the time or energy to handle yourself, you can consider a WordPress maintenance package. For example, here at WP Buffs we offer plenty of plans and services that can help keep your site updated, lightweight, and performing at optimal levels.
6. Upgrade Your WordPress Hosting
Your hosting provider plays a pivotal role in your site’s speed and performance. So if you’re suffering from slow loading times and a problematic TTFB (and the aforementioned tips didn’t help), it might be time to consider switching to a different host, or at the very least upgrading your plan.
The WordPress host you choose will determine which and how many server locations you can leverage. It also affects site speed. After all, if you’re using a fast host, you can probably expect a fast TTFB.
If you’re currently on a shared hosting plan, this may be one reason you’re experiencing increased TTFB. Shared hosting plans often have insufficient resources for handling sites with heavy traffic, let alone the equipment and power required to make each site as fast as possible.
Therefore, we recommend upgrading from shared to managed WordPress hosting in order to reduce TTFB. There are plenty of cloud and managed WordPress hosting providers offering high-performance plans that won’t break the bank.
Frequently Asked Questions ☝️
TTFB is short for Time to First Byte. It measures how long the first piece of data on your site takes to display in a user’s browser.
There are three main components that make up the TTFB. The first is the time it takes for the browser to send the HTTP request to the server, which may include DNS lookup times and more. The second is the time it takes for the server to process that request and generate a response. The third and final factor is the time it takes for the server to transmit the first byte in response back to the browser.
If you want to measure the TTFB of your WordPress site, you have a few different options. As we discussed earlier, you can use online tools such as WebPageTest, Pingdom, or GTMetrix. All of these sites are free to use, and provide a host of information regarding your site’s speed and performance. Another option is to measure TTFB via Chrome DevTools.
There are a variety of methods you can use to reduce TTFB on your WordPress site, and in turn improve server response times. However, some techniques are quicker and easier than others.
For example, you might consider using a caching plugin or implementing a CDN on your WordPress site. You can do this with solutions such as WP Rocket and Cloudflare. If this doesn’t help, you might need to use a premium DNS provider or upgrade your WordPress hosting plan.
Measuring your WordPress site’s TTFB won’t mean much unless you have a general idea of what a good time is. The standard TTFB is anywhere between 200 ms to 600 ms, so if you’re in that range, you’re probably okay.
However, the lower this metric is the better. Ideally you’ll want it to be below 100 ms, although this is superior performance and can be difficult if you have a complex website. On the other hand, anything higher than 600 ms is a problem that you should address as soon as possible.
Wrapping Up 🎁
TTFB is an important metric that affects your site’s speed and overall performance. If your site’s TTFB is more than 600 ms, it can result in a poor UX and negatively impact your SEO.
In this post, we discussed how to reduce TTFB and improve the server response times for your website:
- Use caching with a plugin such as WP Rocket.
- Leverage a CDN, either through your WordPress hosting provider or a WordPress plugin like Cloudflare.
- Optimize your WordPress database using a plugin such as Autoptimize.
- Use a premium DNS provider.
- Keep your site lightweight by removing unnecessary plugins.
- Upgrade your WordPress hosting.
Knowing how to improve TTFB is just one way to bolster loading times on your WordPress site. If you need help optimizing your site’s speed, we’re here to help.