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Website speed is critical to user experience and search engine rankings. With the advent of Google Core Web Vitals, speed has become even more important because it directly affects Google's rating of page quality. Among the various parameters used to evaluate the speed of a site, the most impactful and decisive one is the TTFB (Time To First Byte).
Throughout this post, we'll explore TTFB in detail and its impact on site speed and user experience.
What is TTFB Time To First Byte?
TTFB, which stands for time to first byte, is the amount of time it takes since a client makes an HTTP request to it by receiving its first byte of data from the web server. TTFB is an important aspect of website optimization as the faster TTFB, the faster the requested resource can start being delivered to the browser.
The time to the first byte is made up of three separate components.
- The time it takes for send the HTTP request
- The time it takes the server to process the request
- The time it takes the server to send the first byte response to the client
Definition of TTFB
Il Time to first byte (TTFB) is a metric for determining the responsiveness of a web server. In simple terms the TTFB measures the amount of time between creating a connection to the server and downloading the contents of a web page.
Connecting to a web server is a multi-step process where each step can potentially cause delays. When a website is slow or unresponsive, being able to pinpoint the source of the slowdown is critical to improving the user experience.
The TTFB value helps companies identify weaknesses in the connection process. By determining where delays occur, companies can modify their services for faster and more reliable performance. Since the speed of a website can affect web search rankings, TTFB has become critical for optimizing performance and increasing visibility.
What affects the time to the first byte?
TTFB is affected by three key actions:
- send a request from a client machine to the server,
- process that request on the server and generate a response
- send the response from the server to the client.
Action 1: Send a request to the server
The TTFB measurement begins with the request. The time it takes for a server to receive a request can vary based on the time it takes to perform a DNS lookup, the speed of the user's network, the distance from the server, and any interruptions in the connection. Businesses have no control over the connection between the user and the Internet, but any delays will still impact their TTFB.
Action 2: processing and generating the response
Once a server receives a request, it must generate a response. This involves starting processes, making database calls, running web scripts, and communicating with other systems on the network. Common strategies used by companies to reduce TTFB include caching of web pages , server-side code optimization and hardware resource improvement.
Action 3: Send the response to the client
Once a server generates a response, it must relay it to the user. This step depends on both the company's connection speed and the user's connection speed. The TTFB is determined when the client begins to receive the response, literally when the client receives the first byte. The transmission of a request and a response over a network can represent almost 40% of the TTFB .
Time to first byte example.
As part of the website optimization project, My-Spycam spy camera shop tried to reduce their TTFB from over 4 seconds to 2. Their strategy involved separating the areas of a page that changed based on the user, caching everything else on a CDN. My-Spycam has modified Magento, the underlying eCommerce platform, to cache everything except for specific pages and content (like a user's shopping cart).
By adding dynamic cache, My-Spycam reduced its TTFB from 1162ms to 152ms. This strategy of "punching content" on a cached page has resulted in dynamic pages that load faster than static pages, without affecting the user experience.
Benefits of Optimizing Time To First Byte
TTFB is not the same as your website loading time or speed. On the contrary, it is a metric to measure the responsiveness of a website to a user's request. This metric makes the most sense considering how a 2 second delay in page speed can increase bounce rates of 103% . This means that if your website loads and users get the first byte as fast as possible, you'll reduce your bounce rate.
The idea of TTFB is based on assuring users that the requested web page is "Working and will load quickly". This way, users know they are on the right website and the server is processing their request.
TTFB optimization benefits both users and content providers.
- Businesses are seeing greater customer engagement and retention as users are less likely to leave due to delays or slow loading times. As already mentioned in the point above, this has a very positive impact on the business of companies and especially in ecommerce.
- Search engines like Google are able to retrieve more information to the passage of their GoogleBots. The more pages scanned, the more placeable keyworks, and the more percentages to be found.
- Optimal core web vitals score. With the advent of the Google Core Web Vitals, this factor also becomes decisive from an SEO perspective, being i Core Web Vitals an important (but not decisive) factor for positioning.
It is always worth remembering that the online presence, today more than ever, is competition and therefore it is unthinkable not to do the maximum possible if you want to obtain an optimal positioning and a site that is profitable and profitable.
What is a good TTFB value?
In general, Pagespeed
If your TTFB is between 300 and 500 ms , this is the average and some changes will take you below 200ms.
However, any higher TTFB at 600 ms it is considered invalid and you will need to thoroughly investigate your server.
Generally, TTFB is a metric under your control and you can easily decide to optimize it for better results, you can work either by intervening on the application side, or by intervening on the server side and obviously both.
However, part of TTFB is out of your control: the speed of the user's network. So even if you properly cache your website on the server closest to the user's geolocation, it still depends on the speed of their internet connection, especially if your website is located in Italy and the user is making a request from somewhere like Hong Kong maybe from a mobile device like a smartphone connected to a not too fast 3G network.
How to measure the TTFB of a website?
One of the fundamental steps of any business (which is a mantra in our company) is to "Measure to decide". You need to have knowledge and awareness of the current conditions and then measure the improvements obtained in a before and after comparison.
TTFB (Time To First Byte) is a key metric for evaluating a website's speed and user experience. There are several options for measuring TTFB, including the following online tools:
- SpeedVitals: A free tool that allows you to test TTFB, page speed, server availability and other parameters. It also offers detailed analysis of the results and suggestions for improving site performance. https://speedvitals.com/ttfb-test
- GTmetrix: A site performance analysis tool that includes TTFB among the metrics it evaluates. It also offers detailed analysis of the results and suggestions for improving site performance. https://gtmetrix.com/
- WebPageTest: An open source tool for testing site performance that includes TTFB among the parameters it evaluates. It offers the ability to test from different geographic locations and with different browsers. https://www.webpagetest.org/
- Google Lighthouse: a site performance analysis tool developed by Google that includes TTFB among the parameters evaluated. Available as a browser extension or as a site performance analysis tool. https://developers.google.com/web/tools/lighthouse/
- Pingdom: A site performance analysis tool that includes TTFB among the metrics it evaluates. It offers the ability to test from different geographic locations and with different configuration options. https://www.pingdom.com/
These tools can be used to measure TTFB, obtain detailed analysis of the results and receive suggestions to improve site performance.
Among the many listed, certainly SpeedVitals is to be preferred if relegated exclusively to the measurement of TTFB https://speedvitals.com/ttfb-test , in fact, it allows you to measure the TTFB from different locations and even continents in a free, easy and elegant way. If we have international traffic we shouldn't make the mistake of gloating about having a low TTFB in our country and then having a high TTFB in another country or another continent. The TTFB must remain low a priori (below 200ms) regardless of the location and the continent involved in the request.
7 ways to reduce TTFB on your website
Reducing your TTFB takes you one step closer to having a faster website and providing users with a smooth on-page experience. There are many easy solutions to get your TTFB working and below are 7 of the best:
1. Switch to a fast hosting provider
The main cause of poor TTFB is the result of bad hosting of your servers. If your server is slow in processing requests, it is due to several problems, such as congested networks and overloaded shared servers by your provider.
Your best bet is to switch your shared hosting plan to a virtual private server (VPS) or better use Dedicated Servers, with adequate tuning and caching systems like ours for example.
It is useless and absurd to be in shared hosting and at the same time to expect optimal speed.
2. Constantly update your plugins and themes
A content management system (CMS) like WordPress allows the installation of plugins and themes to allow for the customization of your website. While these plugins and themes add more functionality, they also increase the amount of code on the website.
Half the time, most of the code is unnecessary and does not affect the website. During the request and response from the browser and server, these codes will take longer to process and in turn slow down your TTFB. . In this case, you can do one of two things:
I. Remove plugins and themes that you are not using
II. Update your current plugins and themes
Doing one of these gives you the ability to improve the current performance of these tools and your website in general. But beware, later versions are not always free from bugs that penalize performance and performance, so always measure before and after to decide.
3. Use CDNs to reduce latency between servers and users
The biggest problem for most website owners: effectively delivering their website to users around the world at the same speed as those close to them. This is the reason why latency it is a significant concern because distant users will not be able to access your website due to their distance from the server. A CDN will be your best bet in this case.
As for content distribution networks, we recommend CloudFlare . The combination of a Varnish Cache and Cloudflare gives you an easy way to improve site performance.
4. Improve your database queries
If you run a website that accumulates user data or constantly uploads large files to it, your database is likely to fill up in due course. When this happens, data recovery when required becomes slower each time.
The response to user queries depends on database optimization. In some cases, if there are excess requests from the client to the database, the response will take longer than usual. Sometimes, it won't even process queries effectively.
Resolving this issue requires troubleshooting such as deleting stale and unnecessary data and rewriting the query response to allow for faster execution. Also, when working on your database, avoid related subqueries These types of queries depend on each other to work, thus slowing down the loading process of your website.
Some other things you can do are:
- Optimize your images (slow loading only when needed)
- Minimize your scripts and styles
- Do a weekly or monthly check of yours
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 providers will provide premium DNS as a whole package. Once you've found a provider that ensures your DNS queries will be delivered at low latency across a global network of DNS servers, then you're good to go. If your hosting provider doesn't have one, you can opt for one like CloudFlare or Amazon Route 53.
Regarding the DNS speed we talked about it a lot.
6. Use client-side caching
Client-side caching of your website is the best way to not only improve your TTFB but your overall web performance. This method saves a copy of your website on the user's device, and on subsequent visits, they can easily access your website without the browser having to make a round trip to and from the server.
Managed Server is your one-stop shop if you are in the market for a client-side caching provider.
Using Managed Server as a client-side caching provider to improve TTFB
Creating a quick website ultimately leads to an increase in the conversion rate, which positively impacts a business's revenue. That's why businesses are constantly looking for ways to improve their website speed, even by a single second.
Client-side caching is best for this, and that's how Managed Server helps you. We use your traffic to create automated, real-time optimizations for your website. Our advanced pre-caching technology allows your customers to preload your content before they request it.
As we have seen, this method allows your website to run at least 100% faster, without changing the database or front-end infrastructure.
7. Keep your PHP up to date
PHP is the foundation of what makes your website work, and keeping it up to date is essential. If you're not using WordPress, updating your PHP can be a bit technical: if you mess with it more than it should, you could damage your website.
On the other hand, websites running on WordPress can be updated with one click. With each update, the current version replaces the previous one and you can see an increase in overall web performance.
What do we offer and recommend to improve the TTFB?
Since 2017 we have set ourselves the mission to give something more than the usual Hosting companies that based their solutions and their software stack on systems based on control panels such as Plesk or cPanel.
The aim was above all to be different, to be able to say and give something that could make a difference and improve our customers' business through a service with real added value, real and measurable beyond the simple commercial slogan.
In this regard, we have developed a specific tailor-made software stack that starts from server-side kernel tuning, up to multiple caching systems, taking into account the evolutions and tailored application areas, such as advertising campaigns or traffic. social.
The time it takes to load a web page has a huge impact on customer loyalty. When the 40% of users abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load, having a low TTFB becomes essential. Not only does it reduce the chance of losing a customer, it also ensures users have a fast and engaging online experience.