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Understanding TTFB (TIME TO FIRST BYTE)

One part of SEO is getting your page load times down to as low as possible. Part of that involves measurements, and one of the metrics you see during site benchmarking is called Time To First Byte or TTFB.

In this Knowledgebase Article, we’ll explain what TTFB is and why it’s important.

What is Time To First Byte? (TTFB)

TTFB is a measurement of a server’s responsiveness and accounts for the percentage of time which elapses when:

  1. A request is sent to your server.
  2. The server processes that request.
  3. The response is sent back to the client.

A common example of this is when you type a domain name in your browser. A request is sent from the browser to the server, which then processes the request and the website data is sent back to the browser. The moment that the first byte reaches the user is what we call TTFB.

There are a lot of variables that can affect TTFB, such as your physical distance from the server, firewalls, network speed, internet traffic between you and the server, bandwidth limitations, and more.

How does TTFB affect my website speed?

It doesn’t. Keep in mind, TTFB measures responsiveness and that’s not the same thing as speed. Even if you have a super-fast TTFB, if your website has sleeping processes, outdated plugins, unoptimized code, or misconfigured settings, the site could still load slowly.

On the flip side, a site that is optimized for high performance can still load in a reasonable amount of time, even if the TTFB isn’t the most swift.

Are you tired of slow hosting? We use LiteSpeed caching to deliver content to your visitors almost instantly.  Check out our web hosting plans!

How to test TTFB

Our favorite tool for testing website/app performance is GTmetrix.

  1. Go to https://gtmetrix.com.
  2. Type in your domain name in the search bar.
  3. Wait for your results to propagate.
  4. Click on Waterfall.
  5. Hover your mouse over the colored bars associated to “/“.
  6. The time associated to “Waiting” is your TTFB.

How to optimize for more performant TTFB?

There are literally hundreds of ways to improve your TTFB. These can include doing things such as:

  • reducing database queries
  • Improving MySQL and PHP configurations
  • adding memory to your server

But below are some more accessible ways to reduce your TTFB:

Update your apps, plugins, and themes

If your site runs WordPress for example, make sure you’re running the latest version. Also, ensure your themes and plugins are updated to the latest version.

Use Caching

Utilizing a caching plugin like LiteSpeed is an easy way to optimize your TTFB.

Use a CDN

Using a CDN like Cloudflare or Quic.cloud can dramatically lower your TTFB because it places cached copies of your site at endpoints closer to users, meaning there is less distance on the internet to travel to load your site.

We hope you enjoyed this Knowledgebase article. If you have any questions about optimizing your site, or improving responsiveness, be sure to contact a Happiness Engineer by opening a ticket from your Client Area or a live chat 24×7.

Updated on March 18, 2022

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