6 Steps to Improve WordPress TTFB in 2022

Are you seeing the “Reduce initial server response time” warning whenever you test your WordPress site on Google PageSpeed Insights? You tried all the possible things you could, and still, your initial server response time is too high?

Maybe as a next step, you will subscribe to one of the expensive cache plugins or upgrade your VPS server to eliminate this optimization challenge.

If you are in this situation, STOP. Do not pour more money. Instead, please read this blog post and try the 6 tips I mention to reduce your TTFB.

Today let us discuss what TTFB is, how it will impact your website, and how to reduce it effectively and quickly. Unfortunately, not everyone is giving enough importance to TTFB as the performance measurement metric. But it is a crucial performance indicator that you need to consider and optimize.

When optimizing our WordPress website, we often focus on front-end performance. Yeah, it is effortless to achieve. You just install some caching and performance plugins and tweak some settings, and you are done. But metrics like TTFB are not so easy to achieve. There is no one-click button to have a lower TTFB and thus a better WordPress speed experience.

To achieve a better TTFB score, we need to examine it from the server-side and the back end of the WordPress application. Because that’s where the WordPress web page comes from.

What Is Time to First Byte (TTFB)?

TTFB or Time to First Byte is the time taken before the browser receives its first byte of data from the webserver. The longer the browser takes to receive this data from the server, the longer it takes to display your web page.

Imagine you are trying to access your website using your web browser. Your web browser’s first effort is to look up the DNS records. DNS lookup will resolve the browser’s initial query. Once it is finished, the browser will identify your server and get the requested files. The browser can then approach the hosting server.

Sometimes some people and tools will calculate TTFB after reducing the time for DNS lookup. I would say that’s not the correct method to measure the TTFB. To measure the correct TTFB and its impact, we also need to count the DNS lookup time. This network latency is always included in the original network TTFB calculation.

It Involves Three Steps to Get the First Byte

There are 3 steps involved in the TTFB process. I will brief them in the below section.

Step 1: The Client Sends a Request to the Webserver

When you or someone else visit your website, the first thing is sending an HTTP request from the client to the webserver. Usually, the client will be your web browsers like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

This is the first step, and many factors will affect and delay this step. Your Internet speed, the distance of the DNS server location, etc., are a few reasons. That means the origin server may be located geographically far away, so the distance between you and the server will definitely introduce a delayed latency. Because the data packet must travel between you and a far distant server.

If there is any network level or server level firewall with complicated rules, the routing time will probably increase.

You see, many factors are even beyond your control to determine the performance of the TTFB.

Step 2: The Server Processes the Request

So the origin web server has now received your request. The server will now process the request and generate an appropriate response.

Here is the step where server infrastructure will introduce many more delays because many processes will be running behind the scenes within the web server infrastructure. Slow database query, too many 3rd party scripts, poorly optimized codebase, and many more factors will affect the performance delay here. If your WordPress theme isn’t responsive or bloated or your plugin is poorly coded, it will delay the response further.

And also, weak server resources like disk, I/O, and memory operations will stretch the delay further.

Step 3: Server Sends the Response Back to the Client

Once your request is processed, the server will send the response back to the client. Or perhaps I must say the server will return the first byte to the browser.

Let me tell you once again both the client and server will have a significant influence on this process. If your Internet connection is slow, it will definitely reflect in the TTFB.

So this is the 3 step process that involves getting a TTFB or getting the first byte from the server to the client.

How Critical Is TTFB?

You need to understand that Time to First Byte (TTFB) and website speed are different. With TTFB, we measure the responsiveness of the network and web server.

There are so many discussions happening on the Internet about whether TTFB is really matters or not. Some experts consider TTFB irrelevant, and others think it is a significant ranking factor.

Both sides bring up valid arguments why TTFB is essential and why it is not influential. How TTFB is calculated still is a matter of debate.

I believe TTFB is a measurement to analyze the responsiveness of your web server, and it will influence how fast your website will load.

If your website has a lower TTFB, the user experience will be higher. Otherwise, your user will only see a blank page unless the server responds with its first byte. So, with the lower TTFB, the user will start seeing the page loading much faster.

Anyway, instead of discussing whether TTFB is vital or not, let’s go ahead and find some ways to optimize TTFB. Because every single step you take will impact the overall speed of your website. And this will indeed affect the TTFB.

Many independent tests show that when a website has higher TTFB, the total loading time will also be higher. Various performance testing tools like Google PageSpeed Insights look at the TTFB as a scoring indicator.

It is best to have a TTFB under 100 milliseconds. Less than 200 milliseconds is the recommended TTFB score. 200-350 ms is considerably a good score. 350-500 ms is an average, and anything more than that is not an acceptable score.

Suppose you see your TTFB score is more than 500 milliseconds. In that case, you might have a performance issue and configuration problem within your server and network. In that case, I recommend you upgrade your web stack, or you can follow the tips that I will give you in the following section to reduce your TTFB.

How to Check Your TTFB

You can check Time to First Byte in many different ways. There are so many online tools that will help you measure your website’s Time to First Byte from various locations across the globe.

Below I am listing some of my favorite tools to test TTFB. Some of them are specifically designed to test TTFB using a global network of test servers. Some testing tools will give you more details, such as Core Web Vitals.

You need to understand that the above-listed tools are just tools, and some of them use a simulated network and device. The best and most reliable method to test the TTFB of any website is using your browser tool. These features are built into every browser, and you can quickly assess the TTFB of any website.

This will give an accurate result, and it is my favorite method to test TTFB.

How to Test Your TTFB Using Browser

I will use my Google Chrome browser to test the TTFB of Rovity’s website. You need to open the developer tools of your browser. If you use a Windows machine, you can use Ctrl + Shift + I as the short key.

Ensure that you’ve opened the Network tab and then reload the page again.

Once the page reloaded, hover over the Waterfall. And you will see the Waiting (TTFB) recorded there.

Rovity TTFB Chrome Browser

In this test result, I see the TTFB is 31.18 ms. This is the TTFB that I enjoy when I access the Rovity website. Once again, the lowest TTFB means the highest server responsiveness. And it will also affect the user experience of your visitors when they access your website.

6 Tips to Reduce Server Response Times (TTFB) In WordPress

I hope you now understand what TTFB is and how to measure it effectively. In the next section, I will tell you 6 easy to follow methods to reduce your WordPress website’s TTFB. This will help you get a faster WordPress website, thus a better user experience and more SEO benefits.

Tip 1: Choose a Fast WordPress Hosting Provider

The first step to reducing the Time to First Byte is to use the fastest WordPress hosting service provider available. You know TTFB is a direct measurement of the responsiveness of the server. So if your web server is not responsive and fast enough, there is not much you can do to lower your TTFB.

Selecting a WordPress hosting service provider with excellent hardware and network architecture is vital for delivering website content in the fastest way possible. Imagine hosting a service provider with poor hardware, an overworked CPU, and insufficient memory to handle the process. Then I can guarantee you that these weak resources will significantly impact delivering your web pages to your visitors.

When looking for a WordPress hosting service provider, you must consider the server location apart from this hardware and network quality. Your server location is also critical for lowering your WordPress website’s TTFB and overall performance.

You will need to select a host that has a location to the closest possible to most of your website visitors. Suppose most of your website visitors are within India. In that case, opting for a server located in the USA or Canada will be the wrong choice.

Suppose your server is far from most of your website’s actual visitors and customers. In that case, they will experience at least half a second delay in getting a response from your website server. You see, the network latency due to the distance between your customers and the web server will be a significant bottleneck for the success of your website.

I don’t recommend you to host with a managed VPS or managed WordPress service provider in most cases unless you absolutely need them to handle the load and traffic. In fact, premium shared hosting service providers like Rovity can help you with a website having the lowest TTFB possible, as seen in the above screenshot.

Suppose most of your website visitors are within/near India. In that case, I strongly recommend you choose a premium hosting company like Rovity. We have hosted our server on AWS’s robust cloud infrastructure network in their Mumbai region with cutting-edge software stacks like Nginx and the latest PHP.

Tip 2: Use a Content Delivery Network to Serve Static Files

Using a robust Content Delivery Network (CDN) is another effective method to reduce the TTFB of your website. A CDN will improve your origin server’s response time by delivering static assets like images, JavaScript, and CSS via a network of servers located globally.

CDN will have a delivery server geographically nearest to your visitor. And then, those closest servers will deliver the assets. This strategy will reduce the network latency between your website and your users.

There are so many free and paid CDNs available, and not all are equally good. The primary aspect you need to consider is whether they will have a Point of Presence (PoP) in your region where your visitors reside.

Rovity is India’s best and fastest WordPress hosting company. We are offering a free and robust CDN along with all of our subscription plans. Our CDN has a Point of Presence in almost all major cities across the globe.

We have delivery networks in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, and New Delhi in India. This will help you reduce your TTFB and improve the overall loading time of your WordPress website.

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Tip 3: Make WordPress Caching Work for You

Having a robust caching mechanism will be the most effective strategy to reduce the TTFB of your WordPress website. I believe a powerful cache will lower your TTFB up to 95%.

WordPress is a PHP-based dynamic application; whenever someone visits a WP website, it generates the HTML file per request on the fly. So a caching layer will cache the already generated HTML file for future use on the disk or memory, depending on the configuration.

Next time another visitor requests the same page, your WordPress server does not need to regenerate the already generated HTML file. So the server using the caching engine can directly deliver the HTML file. And this will significantly speed up your website delivery.

However, there are different levels of caching, and the standard method is using a caching plugin like WP Rocket. But that’s not much helpful and effective way of caching. Such application-level WordPress caching still requires PHP and database communication.

So the best way is to use such performance optimization plugins to fine-tune your WordPress website and implement server-level caching. Instead of caching at the application level, we need to cache the HTML files at the server level.

Rovity is a performance-optimized WordPress website hosting company. So unlike other hosting companies, we have a built-in server-level cache that will dramatically speed up the overall performance of your WordPress website.

Using our server-level cache, you can reduce your TTFB score up to 95%, and your WordPress website will load near instantly.

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Tip 4: Optimize Your Database

I recommend constantly updating your MySQL/MariaDB database software installed on your web server. An updated version of your MySQL/MariaDB database will usually have better performance and security improvements. So, the updated database software will have optimized database tables, and it will run faster and be typically secure.

Premium service providers like Rovity will always have an updated database and other dependencies software. So if your WordPress website is hosted with us, you will always enjoy the latest cutting-edge technologies to improve your TTFB score.

Your database will store stale junky content like post revisions, trashed comments and posts, and leftover data from uninstalled themes and plugins. You need to clear these unnecessary records from your database; otherwise, it will affect the processing speed. If you regularly delete this junk data, that will help you improve server response time.

Many performance optimization plugins like WP Rocket will help you clear these unnecessary data from your database. Or you can use stand-alone database optimization plugins such as Advanced Database Cleaner.

Tip 5: Use a Premium DNS Service

DNS lookup plays a vital role in the initial server response time. As I said earlier, when a visitor visits your website, your browser will perform a DNS lookup. This DNS lookup will help the browser determine the actual address and location where your website is hosted.

There are fast and slow DNS service providers. You should select a premium DNS service provider to reduce the DNS lookup time.

One of the free DNS providers is Cloudflare, and it performs impressively and runs on premium hardware. Amazon Route 53 is an excellent but paid DNS service.

Typically a paid premium DNS service provider will always perform better than a free DNS service provider. DNSPerf will help analyze the performance of so many DNS service providers in real-time.

DNS Performance Analytics Comparison

This is an optional method to apply, and I don’t recommend this to a shared hosting or low-cost VPS user. The remaining tips in this blog post will work best.

Tip 6: Update Your System Regularly

WordPress is a PHP-based Content Management System. When you make it your own website, you will add many more dependencies like plugins and external services on top of the core WordPress system.

So updating the WP Core, themes, and plugins will help you to have improved performance and security. It is also crucial to keep your server stacks up to date, including your operating system, web server, PHP version, database software, and everything else.

Usually, developers offer performance enhancements and security improvements when they release new versions. So it is always better to keep your systems and dependencies up to date.

If your WordPress website is hosted on Rovity’s cloud infrastructure, you can always enjoy the latest software and dependencies. We always keep our dependencies is up to date. And we offer the latest PHP version available to you to upgrade your PHP version and enjoy the performance enhancements instantly.

Summary

Understanding the reasons behind a slow server response time is necessary. That insight will help you improve the TTFB and gain a performance boost for your WordPress website.

The tips I mentioned above will help you to lower your TTFB. And the lower TTFB will positively impact the rest of the performance metrics like Core Web Vitals.

Suppose most of your website visitors are near/in India. In that case, I strongly encourage you to migrate your WordPress website to Rovity. We are hosted on AWS Mumbai, and your visitors will always enjoy a better and lower TTFB.

A short TTFB like <30ms and a fastest-loading WordPress site will help you raise your SERP position. We have all of them to help you at a very affordable price.