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February 28, 2022

No one likes to wait. And that’s especially true when it comes to your website.

It’s important to have a fast website for a number of reasons. It improves the user experience. It reduces bounce rate. And it helps your site rank higher.

TTFB, also known as time to first byte, is one way to measure your website’s performance. This blog will explain how to reduce server response time (TTFB) and provide WordPress plugin recommendations.

What Is TTFB?

Time to First Byte (TTFB) is the total amount of time from the start of the request to when the first byte is received back from the response.

Why Is TTFB Important?

You probably already are aware of the importance of website performance. TTFB is also important because it contributes to the overall performance and speed of your site. If your site has slow TTFB, then it will cause users to have a less than ideal experience of the site. No one likes to wait.

Determining Your TTFB

The easiest way to find out the TTFB of your site is by using online testing tools, such as GTmetrix or WebPageTest.

When testing the site in GTmetrix, click on the performance tab and then scroll down to the browser timings section. If testing the site using WebPageTest, click on the first-byte section and it will show the TTFB of the site.

TTFB From GTmetrix

TTFB From GTmetrix

TTFB From WebPageTest

TTFB From WebPageTest

Another Way to Find TTFB

Another great way to find out the TTFB without any plugins, images, or themes affecting the TTFB is to test using readme.html. This can be found in the public_html folder of the site from WordPress.

The URL to test with to get the readme.html TTFB result would be:

Example URL: https://sitedomain.com/readme.html

Testing the HTML file will give you an accurate TTFB when plugin assets (CSS and JavaScript files), image assets, and any theme assets (CSS and JavaScript files) along with third party external requests are loading on your site.

Cons Of A High TTFB

High TTFB on your site will cause site users to have a degraded, slow experience. This means that pages on your site will be slow to load for users. The slow speed can end up causing users to drop off. In the case of ecommerce sites, it will cause customers to abandon carts on the site and hurt your sales.

High TTFB would be anything which is slower than 600ms. A more common range would be 300-500ms. Typically on sites hosted on Nexcess, the TTFB will be well under 300ms.

Server Response Times (TTFB)Speed
High TTFBOver 600ms
Average TTFB300-500ms
Good TTFBUnder 300ms


How To Reduce Server Response Times In WordPress (TTFB)

After you have tested the site using GTmetrix or WebPageTest, look in the waterfall. See if you find any slow responses, or any slow third party external scripts that are running on your site.

See if the slow responses are being caused by your active theme or if they are from frontend requests being made by active plugins on your site.

Slow admin-ajax.php requests being made by active plugins on the site can increase the server response time. Also, admin-ajax.php requests are not going to be helped by any caching that might be running on your sites, such as a full page cache or Redis object caching.

Admin-ajax.php frontend requests can be cached and are commonly caused by plugins using it for updating a feature on the site or a popup plugin that is using it for tracking analytics.

Reduce Server Response Times With WordPress Plugins

Plugins that can help improve TTFB would be any full-page caching plugins, such as:

Enabling full-page caching will improve your site’s TTFB.

WordPress Plugins to Host Web Fonts Locally

You can locally host web fonts using plugins such as Flying Fonts or OMGF. If you are using Google Analytics, you can locally host those using plugins such as Flying Analytics or CAOS.

If you’re hosting web fonts or third party scripts locally, then you can control those with browser caching rules in place on the site’s .htaccess file.

With third party external requests, you have no control over how long those requests will take. Since those are not being served locally, then you can not control those. 500 server errors will not help your site load time if the site can not be loaded correctly.

Additionally, redirects in your site’s waterfall set of requests can create a slower site. Those should be reduced to as minimal an amount as possible.

If you can find specific site assets which should not be loading on the homepage — examples would be payment scripts or form scripts — then those can be disabled, which will help optimize the site to be faster, since the fewer sites requests the faster it will load.

Host With Nexcess for Lightning Fast Load Times

Consider fully managed WordPress hosting by Nexcess, which will accelerate your site’s server response time. Get with premium image compression, a built-in CDN, and advanced caching to improve your site’s performance.

Check out the WordPress hosting plans offered by Nexcess to get started today.

Luke Cavanagh
Luke Cavanagh


Product Operations Manager at Nexcess. A devoted husband and tween wrangler. Synthwave enthusiast. Jerry Goldsmith fan. Doctor Who fan and related gubbins.