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The speed with which a website loads and presents content to users has become a crucial and central element in defining the quality of the user experience and, equally significantly, in determining the positioning of the site itself on search engines. This element has been further accentuated with the introduction of Google Core Web Vitals, a series of advanced metrics used by Google to evaluate the quality and user experience of a web page.
These metrics were introduced with the aim of evaluating the speed, visual response and layout stability of a web page. In particular, page loading speed has become increasingly important because it has a direct impact on Google's overall rating of page quality. This rating, in turn, has a substantial effect on the page's visibility in search results and, therefore, on its ability to attract and retain users.
To measure the speed of a website, there are several metrics that can be used. However, among all these parameters, one in particular stands out for its impact and relevance: the TTFB, or Time To First Byte. This indicator measures the time from the moment a user starts requesting a web page until the moment he receives the first byte of data from it. A short TTFB indicates that the web page responds quickly to user requests, which can help improve both user experience and search engine rankings.
In the continuation of this article, we will further explore the concept of TTFB. We will explore in detail what it means, how it is measured, and most importantly, its direct impact on the speed of a website and the experience users have while browsing and interacting with it. We will also discuss how to optimize TTFB to improve site performance and user satisfaction.
What is TTFB Time To First Byte?
TTFB, an acronym that stands for Time To First Byte, is an essential parameter when it comes to website performance. It represents the amount of time that elapses from the moment a client sends an HTTP request, to when it receives the first byte of data in response from the web server. This metric assumes crucial importance in optimizing websites. In fact, the shorter the TTFB, the faster the requested resource can be delivered to the user's browser, thus offering a more responsive and pleasant browsing experience.
The process leading to the determination of the TTFB is divided into three separate components, each of which deserves further study.
- The time it takes to send the HTTP request: This aspect concerns the time it takes for the client (which could be a web browser or another application) to formulate and send the HTTP request to the server. This may include resolving the DNS, opening the TCP connection, and actually sending the request. This phase can be influenced by various factors, including the speed of the user's internet connection and its geographical position with respect to the server.
- The time it takes for the server to process the request: this phase concerns the time that the server takes to receive, interpret and process the HTTP request it has received. This can include things like interpreting the requested URL, accessing the database or a file system, running any server-side scripts, and preparing the response. This time can be influenced by a number of factors, such as the complexity of the request, the processing capacity of the server, and the quality of the website's code.
- The time it takes for the server to send the first byte of the response to the client: This is the last stage of the process, where the server has processed the request and starts sending the response back to the client. This includes the time it takes to start sending response data (which could be, for example, the HTML code of a web page) to the client. Again, various factors can affect this time, including the speed of your internet connection, the size of the response, and the distance between the server and the client.
Definition of TTFB
Time to First Byte (TTFB) is a key metric in analyzing web server performance. This indicator was specifically designed to measure and evaluate the responsiveness of a web server, i.e. its ability to respond quickly to requests from clients.
In simpler terms, TTFB measures the time interval between the creation of a connection to the server by a client, such as a web browser, and the actual start of downloading the contents of the requested web page. Therefore, it represents the wait that the user experiences from the moment he sends the request to view a web page, up to the moment he starts receiving the first data from the page itself.
Connecting to a web server is a complex process, made up of several phases, each of which has the potential to cause delays. From the initial HTTP request by the client, to the receipt of the first byte of data by the server, every step is essential to ensure a smooth and responsive interaction with the website. When a website is slow or unresponsive, the user experience suffers greatly, often leading to frustration and potential page abandonment. Therefore, being able to pinpoint the source of these slowdowns is vital to improve the user experience and increase overall satisfaction.
In this context, the value of the TTFB, or the Time to First Byte, proves to be an indispensable tool. This metric helps companies identify critical points in the connection process and understand where delays occur. Through an accurate analysis of the TTFB, companies can identify if delays are due to network problems, server overload, or inefficient resource management.
Once the problems have been identified, companies can take targeted action to modify and optimize their services. This could involve a series of interventions, from the enhancement of server hardware resources, to the optimization of the site code, up to the implementation of caching strategies or the adoption of content delivery networks (CDNs).
Not only does TTFB affect the quality of the user experience, it can also have a significant impact on your website's ranking in search engine results. In fact, Google and other search engines take into account the speed of a website as one of the factors in determining its ranking in search results. Therefore, an optimized TTFB can help improve site visibility, attract more traffic, and ultimately boost conversions and business success.
In conclusion, TTFB has become a fundamental element in optimizing the performance of a website. Through its careful analysis, companies have the opportunity to significantly improve the speed of their sites, offering a higher quality user experience and increasing their online visibility.
Benefits of Optimizing Time To First Byte
The Time To First Byte (TTFB) represents a fundamental metric in analyzing the performance of a website and optimizing this value can lead to a number of significant benefits both for users and for the companies that manage the site.
Importantly, TTFB is not identical to the total loading time or speed of a website. Rather, it is a measure of a website's responsiveness to a user's request. This distinction assumes considerable importance, considering that studies show that a delay of just 2 seconds in the speed of loading a page can increase bounce rates by 103%. In other words, if your website starts loading and users get the first byte of data as quickly as possible, you'll be able to significantly reduce your bounce rate.
The essence of the TTFB concept is to provide users with an instant signal that the requested web page is “up and running and will load quickly”. This ensures users are on the correct website and that the server is actually processing their request.
Optimizing TTFB brings considerable benefits to both end users and content providers:
- Customer engagement and retention: Companies that optimize their website's TTFB are likely to see an increase in engagement and retention from their customers. This is because users are less likely to leave a website due to delays or slow loading times. This has a very positive impact on the business of companies, especially for e-commerce.
- Greater efficiency for search engines: Search engines like Google can fetch more information as their crawlers (GoogleBot) pass through. This translates into more pages scanned, more keywords that can be positioned and, consequently, a greater probability of being found in searches.
- Optimal score in Core Web Vitals: with the advent of Google Core Web Vitals, the optimization of TTFB becomes a determining factor also from an SEO point of view. In fact, i Core Web Vitals they represent an important factor (but not the only one) for positioning in search results.
It is therefore essential to remember that online presence, in an increasingly digital age, is an increasingly fierce field of competition. Working on optimizing the TTFB is one of the strategies to consider in order to obtain optimal positioning and manage a website that is profitable and profitable.
What is a good TTFB value?
Google, through its PageSpeed Insights tool, provides some important indications on the optimal threshold for the Time To First Byte (TTFB). As indicated in the tool interface, to offer a quality user experience, TTFB should ideally always be less than 200 milliseconds. This value is considered an optimal benchmark to ensure fast server response to user requests.
Google's advice to aim for a Time to First Byte (TTFB) of less than 200 milliseconds is not arbitrary, but is based on an accurate understanding of human perception of time and readiness. Indeed, the choice of this value is in line with the human tendency to perceive something as "immediate" when it happens within 200-250 milliseconds.
This time lag is surprisingly fast and can be put into perspective by considering, for example, the reaction times of Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt. His reaction to the starting blocks during a race is notoriously fast, however, even in his case, the average reaction time is about 155 milliseconds, demonstrating how short a time interval of less than 200 milliseconds is.
Google, in its user-focused approach, has adopted this time threshold to ensure that web pages load in a way that users perceive as "instantaneous". This is emphasized in its official documentation, available at link, in which he provides a series of recommendations and strategies to improve TTFB and optimize the user experience. These guidelines include server optimization, use of content delivery networks (CDN), minimization of HTTP requests, database optimization and effective use of caching.
Ultimately, Google's priority is to ensure that websites offer a smooth and responsive user experience, as a slow TTFB can frustrate users and lead them to leave the site. Therefore, adhering to these guidelines is essential to ensure the visibility and success of your website in the long term.
If your TTFB is in the 300 to 500 millisecond range, you're in the middle range. However, it is highly recommended that you make some changes to your system to try and reduce this time to less than 200 milliseconds. This, to ensure a faster and more responsive browsing experience for your users.
On the other hand, if the TTFB exceeds 600 milliseconds, Google considers it too much. In this case, you need to do a thorough analysis of your server to identify and fix the problems that could be causing such long delays.
TTFB is generally a metric that you can monitor and optimize for better results. You can act at both the application level and the server level, and preferably both, to ensure improvement of this metric.
However, it's important to remember that there are elements of the TTFB that are out of your control. One of them is the user's network speed. Even if for example you have optimized caching of your website on the server closest to the user's geolocation, TTFB will still depend on the speed of the user's Internet connection. This is particularly relevant if your website is hosted in a country like Italy and the user is making a request from a distant place like Hong Kong, perhaps from a mobile device like a smartphone connected to a not particularly fast 3G network .
For more information on how Google treats TTFB, you can consult the official Google documentation https://developers.google.com/web/tools/lighthouse/audits/ttfb e https://web.dev/time-to-first-byte/
How to measure the TTFB of a website?
One of the fundamental steps of any business is to "Measure to decide". To fully understand current conditions and evaluate the improvements achieved, it is necessary to have knowledge and awareness of the data measured before and after the implementation of any change.
The Time To First Byte (TTFB) represents a crucial parameter to evaluate the speed of a website and the user experience. Measuring TTFB allows you to evaluate how quickly a web server responds to client requests, thus representing a determining factor for the user's browsing experience.
There are several online tools that allow you to measure TTFB and get a detailed analysis of the results, providing suggestions to improve the overall performance of the site. Here is an overview of some of these tools:
- Speed Vitals: Speed Vitals is a free tool that offers the ability to test TTFB, page speed, server availability, and other key metrics. In addition to providing detailed results, it offers practical suggestions to improve site performance.
- GTmetrix: GTmetrix is a widely used site performance analysis tool that includes TTFB among the metrics it evaluates. This tool provides a detailed analysis of site performance, highlighting factors that could affect TTFB and offering specific recommendations to improve performance.
- WebPageTest: WebPageTest is an open-source tool for testing website performance. It allows you to evaluate TTFB and other aspects of site performance from different geographic locations and with different browsers. This tool offers a variety of metrics and graphs for a detailed understanding of site performance.
- Google lighthouse: Google lighthouse is a tool developed by Google for analyzing site performance. In addition to TTFB, it evaluates a number of other critical performance metrics, such as loading speed, accessibility, and search engine optimization. It is available as a browser extension or as a site performance analysis tool.
- Pingdom: Pingdom is another popular tool for analyzing website performance. It offers the ability to test TTFB from different geographic locations and with different configuration options. In addition to the TTFB rating, Pingdom provides detailed information about the site's overall performance and suggestions for improvement.
Using these tools, you'll be able to measure your website's TTFB, get in-depth analysis of the results, and get practical tips to improve overall performance. Keep in mind that optimizing your TTFB can help provide a faster and more responsive user experience by improving user engagement, reducing bounce rates, and driving better indexing in search engines.
Of the several tools listed for measuring TTFB, SpeedVitals stands out as a preferable choice, especially if you want to focus solely on measuring this metric. The main advantage of SpeedVitals is that it allows you to test TTFB for free, easily and elegantly. You can access the specific test for the SpeedVitals TTFB by clicking on this link.
One of the distinguishing features of SpeedVitals is the ability to measure TTFB from different geographical locations and even from different continents. This is especially important if your website receives international traffic. Indeed, it is essential to avoid the mistake of relying solely on a low TTFB in your own country while ignoring the fact that there may be high TTFB in other regions or continents. To offer an optimal browsing experience to all users, TTFB must remain low (less than 200 milliseconds) regardless of their geographical location and the continent involved in the request.
SpeedVitals presents itself as a complete solution for measuring TTFB and offers the possibility to obtain a detailed overview of the performance of your website. This free tool allows you to accurately evaluate TTFB, identifying any lags and providing recommendations for optimizing performance. Thanks to its intuitive interface and the ability to test TTFB from different locations, SpeedVitals allows you to make informed decisions to improve the responsiveness of your website, ensuring a quality user experience regardless of the users' geographical location.
7 ways to reduce TTFB on your website
Reducing the Time To First Byte (TTFB) is a key step in achieving a faster website and providing users with a smooth on-page experience. Fortunately, there are several solutions that can help improve TTFB effectively. Listed below are 8 highly effective methods to accomplish this:
1. Switch to a fast hosting provider
The main cause of a poor Wait Time Before Transfer (TTFB) can mostly be attributed to poor hosting management of your servers. When dealing with slow TTFB, this means that your server is taking longer than it should to respond and process customer requests. This problem is usually caused by a variety of issues that can range from congested networks to overly loaded shared servers.
A shared server, for example, may have hundreds, if not thousands, of websites fighting for the same resources. This can overload the server and reduce the speed with which it can respond to requests. In addition, network congestion, which can result from too many requests or excess data slowing communication between servers and clients, can also contribute to poor TTFB.
The best solution to this problem is to consider switching your hosting plan. Instead of sticking with shared hosting, you may want to consider upgrading to a virtual private server (VPS) or, even better, a dedicated server. These plans give you dedicated resources that you don't have to share with other websites, therefore improving the speed and performance of your site.
Also, consider fine-tuning your server settings and implementing advanced caching systems, like ours, for example. These systems store website information in a cache, reducing the time it takes for the server to retrieve the information and send it to the client, thus improving TTFB.
2. Constantly update your plugins and themes
A content management system (CMS) like WordPress provides the opportunity to install a wide variety of plugins and themes. These tools allow you to customize your website, making it more functional, aesthetically pleasing and adaptable to your specific needs. However, adding these plugins and themes increases the amount of code that needs to run on your website.
Often, a significant portion of this code is not actually required for the website to function, and in fact, can be considered dead weight. During the request and response process between the customer's browser and your server, this redundant code can take extra time to process. This, in turn, can contribute to slower TTFB. Faced with this problem, there are two measures you can take to mitigate the effect:
- You can choose to remove plugins and themes that you are not currently using. This will reduce the amount of code your server has to process, potentially speeding up your site's response time.
- Another option is to update your current plugins and themes. Updates often contain performance improvements and bug fixes that can make your code more efficient.
By implementing one or both of these strategies, you may see an improvement in the performance of your website and a consequent decrease in TTFB. However, it's important to note that not all later versions of plugins and themes are free from bugs or issues that could negatively impact performance. Therefore, you should carefully measure your site's performance before and after implementing any updates to ensure that the change is genuinely beneficial and does not inadvertently hurt the speed or efficiency of your site.
3. Use CDNs to reduce latency between servers and users
One of the most significant issues facing most website owners is the ability to effectively deliver their website to users around the world at the same speed, regardless of their geographic location. This is particularly relevant because latency – the delay that occurs as data travels from one point to another – can become a major concern. Users who are located far from the server may not be able to access your website efficiently due to the distance. Under these circumstances, implementing a content delivery network (CDN) may prove to be the optimal solution.
However, it is important to note that not all CDNs offer the same functionality. A CDN that can really help lower TTFB should provide advanced features, such as the ability to cache dynamic pages, and not just deliver content. This is because caching dynamic pages can further reduce the load on the server and improve TTFB.
When it comes to choosing a CDN, one of our recommendations is Cloudflare. Cloudflare, when combined with a Cache Varnish, offers a simple and effective way to improve the performance of your website. This combination allows you to take advantage of the advanced features offered by both tools, including caching of dynamic pages and efficient content delivery, thus improving the loading speed of your website and its TTFB.
4. Improve your database queries
If you run a website that collects a significant amount of user data, or takes frequent uploads of large files, it's almost inevitable that your database will fill up over time. When this happens, the data retrieval operation, which happens every time a user requests a login, starts to slow down. This can have a direct impact on the Wait Time Before Transfer (TTFB) and the overall speed of your website.
How your database responds to user queries is critical to ensuring optimal performance. In certain scenarios, if there are excess requests from the client to the database, the response from the server may take longer than usual. In some extreme cases, the server may fail to process queries effectively.
Addressing and solving this problem requires a number of actions. For example, it's crucial to purge obsolete and unnecessary data that may be weighing down your database. Additionally, query responses may need to be reviewed and rewritten to ensure faster and smoother execution. Another important point to consider is to avoid excessive use of related subqueries - these are queries that depend on each other to function, which can slow down the loading process of your website.
5. Opt for a premium DNS provider
Everything about TTFB starts with DNS lookup, which happens immediately after a user's request. If the DNS lookup time is slow at first, the whole experience will be bad.
Most hosting service providers offer premium DNS options, which are usually part of a complex package of services. These premium DNS can be a significant improvement in the performance of your website, as they ensure that your DNS queries are answered quickly and reliably by being distributed across a global network of DNS servers.
Latency, or the time it takes for a DNS request to reach your server and get a response, is a critical factor in the overall speed of your website. A hosting provider offering premium DNS service will be able to ensure low latency through the use of a large network of DNS servers spread across the globe. These servers are arranged in such a way as to ensure that the response to a DNS query always comes from the server closest to the user, thus reducing latency and speeding up site loading time.
However, not all hosting providers offer premium DNS services. If your current provider does not offer this service, or if you feel that the service offered does not live up to your expectations, there are other options available. Services like CloudFlare or Amazon Route 53 offer premium DNS solutions that can be easily integrated with your website. These services are known for their reliability and their ability to provide fast response times, thanks to the widely distributed DNS servers.
In addition to improving response times, a premium DNS can offer additional benefits, such as redundancy (to ensure service availability in the event of a server failure) and improved security (to protect your site from DDoS attacks). These services, therefore, represent a worthwhile investment for any website owner who is interested in improving the performance and reliability of their site.
Regarding the DNS speed we talked about it a lot.
6. Use client-side caching
Implementing client-side caching is one of the most effective methods of not only improving the Time To First Byte (TTFB) of your website but also optimizing its overall web performance. This technique consists of saving a copy of your website directly to the user's device. In this way, on subsequent visits, users will be able to access your website much faster, avoiding the browser having to make a round trip from the server to retrieve the requested information.
If you are looking for a reliable provider of client-side caching, Managed Server can be the ideal choice. Our platform is designed to offer high-quality client-side caching solutions aimed at significantly improving TTFB and the overall speed of your website.
Using Managed Server as a client-side caching provider can have a substantial impact on the performance of your website. We understand the importance of fast and smooth web browsing for the user experience and, consequently, for potential conversions. A fast website can lead to an increase in your conversion rate, which can have a direct and positive impact on your business revenue. It is for this reason that many businesses are constantly looking for ways to improve the speed of their website, even if just by a single second.
Managed Server offers a unique approach to client-side caching. We use the traffic to your website to create automatic and real-time optimizations. Our advanced pre-cache technology allows your customers to pre-load your site's content before they request it, helping to further reduce loading times.
Thanks to this strategy, our service allows your website to run faster, with performance improvements that can reach or exceed 100%. This is accomplished without making any changes to your website's database or front-end infrastructure, thus ensuring performance improvement without compromising the integrity of your site.
7. Keep your PHP up to date
PHP, the acronym for Hypertext Preprocessor, is one of the most used programming languages in the world, and is the basis of many functions of a website. Keeping your website's PHP version up to date is crucial, as each new version includes security improvements, bug fixes, and most importantly, performance improvements.
Starting with PHP 5.3, released in 2009, we have seen constant development of this scripting language. This release introduced new features such as namespace, which brought greater modularity to PHP code, improving maintainability and project structure.
Later versions of PHP, such as PHP 7 and its subversions, marked a significant step forward in terms of performance. PHP 7 has in fact brought a huge performance increase over PHP 5.6, reducing execution times by almost half and greatly increasing the speed of request processing. This has made PHP 7 an ideal choice for high-traffic or computing-intensive websites.
Today, with PHP 8, we have an even more powerful, secure and fast platform. PHP 8 introduces many new features, including the Just-In-Time (JIT) compiler, which promises to greatly improve the performance of PHP applications. Additionally, PHP 8 brings many new features for typing and error handling, making the language more robust and reliable.
However, updating PHP can be a technical matter, especially if you're not using a content management platform like WordPress. In fact, a poorly managed update can cause problems for your website. But if you're using WordPress, updating PHP can be done with a single click. With each update, the current version of PHP replaces the previous one, allowing you to immediately benefit from the improvements made, including those related to web performance. But remember that it's always good practice to back up your site before making major software updates, to prevent any problems.
8. Use HTTP3 or QUIC faster and more performant
The implementation of HTTP/3, also known as QUIC (Quick UDP Internet Connections), can lead to significant advances in Time To First Byte (TTFB). This progress is particularly evident in browsers that support QUIC negotiation, thanks to a number of technical innovations that differentiate the QUIC protocol from traditional protocols such as TCP.
QUIC, at its heart, leverages the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) transport protocol rather than the more common Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). UDP, unlike TCP, is a connectionless transport protocol, which does not require confirmation for each packet sent, thus allowing faster and more fluid data transmission. This implies a significant reduction in latency and, consequently, a faster TTFB, compared to what would be obtained using TCP.
Another fundamental aspect of the QUIC protocol is its ability to address and overcome one of the main obstacles to TCP connection speed: the so-called "Three Way Handshake". This mechanism, fundamental to establishing a secure connection in TCP, involves sending three separate packets between the client and the server before the actual data transfer can take place. This can cause a significant delay in TTFB, especially on high latency connections. QUIC, in contrast, reduces this process to a single "round trip", substantially limiting the time required to establish a secure connection.
In summary, adopting the HTTP/3 or QUIC protocol can lead to a significant improvement in the performance of your website in terms of TTFB. The efficiency of the UDP protocol and the reduction in the establishment time of the secure connection are characteristics that make QUIC an excellent choice for those aiming to optimize the performance of their website.
What do we offer and recommend to improve the TTFB?
Since 2017, our company has taken on a pioneering role in the hosting sector, deciding to differentiate itself from the traditional approach of companies that based their solutions on control panels such as Plesk or cPanel. This desire for innovation and distinction was not limited to simply wanting to be different, but arose from the goal of providing a value-added hosting service, capable of significantly improving our customers' business, offering tangible and measurable solutions beyond simple advertising slogans.
Responding to this ambition, we have developed our own unique software stack, tailored to meet the specific needs of our customers. Our technological offer starts from an in-depth tuning of the server-side kernel and goes as far as including multiple caching systems, designed to optimize the performance of each website. This was possible thanks to a dynamic and attentive vision of technological evolutions and specific application areas, such as advertising campaigns or the management of traffic from social media.
Our solution is now used by the most important high-traffic magazines and blogs in Italy, testifying to its reliability and performance. Among the key features of our software stack are advanced features such as the QUIC protocol, which improves the reliability and speed of connections, cache and microcache systems to optimize page loading speed, a Waiting Time Before Transfer ( TTFB) optimized for less than 50 milliseconds, and the on-the-fly delivery of images in webp format, for faster and higher-quality viewing of the images.
In addition, we provide important system supervision, ensuring maximum availability and performance of your site. Our commitment does not stop at the simple provision of a hosting space, but extends to the active management and continuous optimization of your website, to always ensure the best possible performance.
The time it takes to load a web page is a crucial factor in determining how successful your site is in terms of customer retention. In a digitized age, where the user's attention is constantly sought and time is considered a precious commodity, the loading speed of a website assumes fundamental importance.
Statistics and industry experiences show that 40% of users tend to abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. This data highlights the fact that, if your site is not able to provide information quickly and efficiently, you run the risk of losing a significant share of visitors, potentially interested in your content or your products. As a result, optimizing your site's Waiting Time Before Transfer (TTFB) becomes a top priority.
Having a low TTFB isn't just a way to reduce the chance of losing a customer, it's a key element in ensuring users have a fast, smooth and engaging online experience. In a competitive context, where user satisfaction can make the difference between success and failure, offering fast and efficient navigation can mean maintaining a loyal customer and creating a lasting relationship of trust.
Furthermore, an optimized TTFB not only improves the user experience but is also a key factor in SEO ranking. Search engines, in fact, reward sites that provide a quick response, thus increasing the visibility of your site and attracting more visitors.
Therefore, working to reduce your site's TTFB is not only an investment in customer retention, but it is a fundamental step in building a positive image of your site, increasing your online visibility and ultimately increasing the competitiveness of your business in the digital world.