Reducing server response time should be a primary goal of website owners and SEO experts.

Investing resources in creating a website is a waste of time if loads slow and people abandon your site. The first couple of seconds determine whether a customer stays on your page or bounces to a competitor.

53% of mobile site visits leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. (Source: Think With Google)

In this article, learn how to reduce server response time with 7 actionable tips.

reducing the response time of a server

What is server response time?

Server response time is the time that passes between a client requesting a page in a browser and a server responding to that request. It is measured by TTFB (Time to First Byte). TTFB is how many milliseconds it takes to receive the first byte of the page after sending an HTTP request.diagram of how a server handles requests

Why is server response time important?

The consequence of a slow website can be damaging for business. Your website’s loading time has an incredible effect on user experience.

chart showing elements of a slow loading website ttfb
796ms TTFB needs to be improved.

Research reveals that over 40% of web users abandon a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Also, the more time it needs to load, the worse it ranks on the search engine result page (SERP).

Response time influences:

  • User Experience (UX)
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Improving search engine optimization, and user experience are critical strategies in digital marketing. This is a good enough reason for you to check what your server response time is and how to improve it.

Website Speed and SEO

Google announced that the loading speed of a page is a key ranking factor in 2019. The company even created PageSpeed Insights, a tool to enhance website performance. Therefore, the metric is simple: the better the TTFB, the higher the ranking on Google.

Loading speed impacts UX

Brand reputation relies on the user experience on its website.

With slow loading, you risk the clients losing patience and navigating to another page. It is likely that one occasion of poor response can ensure they will not return to your website. A fast website is a cornerstone of satisfying user experience.

What is a good server response time?

using an online tool to check TTFB

Google recommends you aim for a response time lower than 200 milliseconds. A 100ms TTFB is ideal, and everything over 500ms is an issue. It is important this time is consistent for all users. It should not vary depending on the users’ geographical positions.

Google classifies websites into three groups based on the speed score they achieve:

  • Fast (90-100)
  • Average (50-89)
  • Slow (0-49)

According to Google’s statistics, half of the sites online (50%) are slow, and only 10% are fast. Meaning 40% of websites ranked average, leaving a lot of room for improvement.

How to Improve Server Response Time

Here are 7 ways to reduce the server response time for your website.

1. Use Reliable and Fast Web Hosting

Make sure that your hosting provider caters to the needs of your online customers

It is essential to maintain fast server response times that do not fluctuate. To achieve that, it is necessary to invest in a high-performance server. Free web hosting, inadequate hosting services with minimal or no support, and shared resources all contribute to slower servers.

Data centers can offer a wide variety of hosting services and server managed services. PhoenixNAP is one example of a data center with hosting servers that ensure high performance, security, and availability.

2. Use a CDN

A content delivery network (CDN) is the framework of distributed networks of proxy servers and their data centers. They are geographically spread out to provide content to users as fast as possible.

A global audience requires a provider who has distributed its assets to various nodes around the globe. This ensures all web page visitors enjoy a fast response time.

A hosting server far from the target audience causes slow web page load times.

To avoid such an issue, you need to know your target audience before deciding on a hosting provider. This will help you choose a data center that is nearest to that audience. By minimizing the distance between your hosting servers and your visitors, you can improve latency issues. As a result, this reduces the overall response times.

3. Optimize databases

The response speed is dependent on database optimization. As you first set up a website, the database responds quickly to queries. As time passes, the database accumulates information. The compiling results in massive amounts of data stored.

There are ways of optimizing the database to speed up your website. If you are using WordPress, the first step is to identify the slow query with a query checker. Once you find the lagging ones, work on optimization. Change the group to objects, use indexes or other solutions appropriate for the issues at hand.

4. Keep WordPress Lightweight

WordPress allows you to create beautiful websites easily. It has appealing themes and numerous plugins for customizing. However, be careful not to overload your theme as it can slow down response time.

If you are using a WP template, try to stick to simple, lightweight ones and avoid adding too many plugins.

Also, delete any unused plugins and deactivate ones that use up CPU. Using a webpage monitoring tool, examine which plugins are slowing down your webpage. If possible, combine the ones with similar functionalities.

5. Monitor PHP Usage 

The more processes a server has to undertake to serve a page to a visitor, the slower it will be. If you are running a PHP script, ensure it is not using up vital resources fulfilling unnecessary tasks.

Make sure PHP is updated. Many hosting companies do not do automatical updates for PHP. A website still running on PHP 5 will have a slower response time than one running on PHP 7. See which version you have with the PHP Compatibility Checker plugin. If necessary, upgrade to a newer version through the cPanel or by contacting your hosting provider.

6. Configure Caching

Caching ensures fast delivery to visitors.

Without caching, a browser request assets from the server each time a page loads instead of accessing them from a local or intermediary cache.

There are WordPress plugins that enable storing files locally on a user’s computer. The files are then reused in future visits. This practice is called caching. It speeds up loading time and ensures better UX.

7. Minify Scripts

Minifying is reducing the size of the code. You minify by removing redundant and long variables, unwanted characters, and comments.

External files, JavaScript, and CSS, make up the web page and influence how fast it is served. The practice of minifying and compressing scripts is a popular solution when dealing with files. It keeps large amounts of data available but does not let the quantity compromise performance.

Distribute JS and CSS files as external or internal, based on their size and importance. Improve the load time by placing tiny files internally, as part of the HTML file. Finally, make ambiguous files easier to cache by keeping them external.


Bonus TIP: Use the “Connection: Keep-Alive” HTTP header. It enables the “keep alive method,” allowing HTTP to carry multiple files at a time. By transferring several types of files (CSS, JS, images, etc.) at the same time, you can improve how fast content is served to users.


Conclusion

One of the most crucial website performance metrics is server response time. Implement the suggestions mentioned in this article and improve your server speed today!