Increasing page speed is essential for organic rankings and user experience. In order to first diagnose areas where gains can be made, a good place to start is Google PageSpeed Insights who will provide you with recommendations.
When you look at Time To First Byte (TTFB), there needs to be some in-depth consideration of the technical factors that will be on top of what you find in the tools that give you the main suggestions. Now we will dive into the subject of TTFB and what we can do to improve it.
What is time to first byte (TTFB)?
TTFB is the number of milliseconds (ms) that users initially wait for their web browser to request information (bytes) from a server.
Round-trip time (RTT) – which is the time it takes for the browser request to reach the server, for the server to send back a response, and to send it back to the browser – is also taken into account.
It should be remembered that the longer the TTFB, the slower the page. This can lead to:
- Website content may not rank as well as possible
- Traffic can go to alternative websites on the SERPs which are more reliable.
- Conversions will go to your competition.
- The traffic will not be engaged with the content. You will inevitably have a high bounce rate and a low average time on page score.
Did you know that TTFB is a Core Web Vital?
In case you missed it on 05/28/2020, Google has a new ranking algorithm which focuses on the page experience. We can now get an overview of Google’s search signals for on-page experience via the 3 add metrics that complement the existing signals.
With First Contentful Paint (FCP), (which is the time it takes for the first element to start loading on a page) TTFB (the first measure of the time it takes for requests to return from the host server) are both crucial to analyze.
By jointly exploring TTFB and FCP, you are able to see where the greatest opportunities lie. Largest Content Painting (LCP). This is a recognized page load metric that indicates the point at which the main content of a page should have loaded.
What is a good TTFB?
The recommendation for TTBF for pages is less than 200ms. You can see it on Tools for web developers. It is also confirmed that a Lighthouse the audit fails when a browser takes more than 600 ms to receive a response from the server, indicating that this is considered a bad TTFB. (source webdev)
TTFB: how to measure it?
If you are a Chrome user, you can measure TTFB using their DevTools. To do this, right-click « inspect » on any item on the page, then click « networking » on the top bar and refresh the page. See below.
There are of course a number of other tools that can be used to measure this, and each will have a slightly different way of measuring metrics. It’s worth diving into the options and sticking to one for consistency across multiple pages.
TTFB: Improve it!
To optimize TTFB, a number of factors must be taken into account. Your CMS and its limits, the way your content is consolidated on site are just a few examples. There isn’t just one way to go about this, but there are some optimization methods you should consider for your site if you have optimization limits and other optimizations haven’t given the desired results.
CMS: Are your plugins up to date?
Old or outdated CMS plugins can result in slower TTFB. When notifications of new versions are received, it is important to update them not only for TTFB but for safety.
Implement Transport Layer Security (TLS 1.3)
Similar to Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption, TLS provides a secure connection between web browsers and servers. Since 1999, TLS has undergone 3 iterations:
- Defined in August 2018, TLS 1.3 is faster than SSL and previous versions of TLS due to the refinement of its handshake (the process for establishing an HTTPS connection).
- The TLS 1.3 handshake involves only one round trip instead of three. Therefore, websites with TLS 1.3 encryption experience less latency.
Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network)
CDNs will be encountered by all those who use the net as they browse. CDNs reduce the distance between users and site content by compressing and caching pages and distributing them to points of presence (PoP). PoPs are access points located where there is a shared connection between two or more networks or devices.
The PoP closest to the user will serve the web pages, greatly improving the TTFB and dramatically improving the speed for that user.
Advanced CDNs such as Cloudflare offer advanced image rendering. If your site has a lot of images and uses them to promote and sell products, that would be a wise consideration when considering TTFB.
Optimization of the WordPress platform
Cloudflare announced the launch of their Automatic Platform Optimization Service (APO) in October 2020, which is initially available to their WordPress customers using Cloudflare. This is a very economical solution that will have a very positive impact on the TTFB and will also reduce the First Contentful Paint and Speed Index.
Servers close to the location of your primary audience
When you plan to limit your budget, work in a specific area, or have a primary audience in a particular country, you may want to consider switching your host server to be closer to users instead of funding a CDN. The shorter the distance, the faster the speed. This allows traffic to be served quickly and it will improve engagement and experience for that particular user.
Gzip compression: activate it!
Gzip Compression automatically compresses web pages and associated style sheets before they are sent to the browser. This will of course depend on the configuration of the CMS and it may already have been activated. (for example Apache or IIS) Compression improves loading times for pages and for files to be transferred from the server and browser.
Upgrade your DNS
By purchasing premium DNS – rather than the free version that is provided to you when you purchase your domain – you will have a more secure domain in the event of a cyber attack, while being much faster and more secure. This in turn benefits TTFB.
To summarize the above points and the main takeaways, here are the main ways to improve TTFB. There are only so many ways and options to improve TTFB of course and so taking advantage of it when you can is key.
- Change your host server to be closer to your primary audience
- Keep your CMS plugins up to date
- Implement TLS 1.3 encryption
- Use a content delivery network (CDN)
- Enable Gzip compression
- Switch to premium DNS
We would love to hear how your business and your business is growing with TTFB! Contact us and we would be happy to help you through this process or your other SEO needs.