Date : 31 July 2021 | 8 min read

How to reduce server response time

1. Overview

Website owners and SEO professionals should make it a priority to reduce server response time.
Investing efforts in developing a website is a waste of time if it takes too long to load and visitors abandon it. The initial few seconds influence whether a consumer remains on your website or navigates to a competitor’s. A page that takes more than three seconds to load is abandoned by 53% of mobile site visitors.
Customers will most likely go elsewhere if your web server response time is too long. That means you might lose clients, business, and money if you don’t take the necessary steps to enhance your page load speed and performance.
This detailed tutorial is for you if you believe your site is loading slower than it should and is costing you money. When you are finished reading this article, you will have a complete understanding of how to reduce response times and get those clients (and revenues) pouring in.

2. What is server response time

The time that elapses between a client requesting a page in a browser and a server replying to that request is referred to as server response time. It is measured by TTFB (Time to First Byte). The time it takes to get the first byte of a page after making an HTTP request is measured in milliseconds.

3. What is a Good Server Response Time?

Google suggests aiming for a response time of fewer than 200 milliseconds. A TTFB of 100ms is optimal, while anything above 500ms is problematic. It is critical that this time be constant for all users. It should not change based on the users’ geographical locations.
Slow servers have an impact on load times, PSI scores (many items), and the performance of the admin panel. Because online vitals are becoming increasingly essential ranking factors, obtaining a quick TTFB is more critical than ever.
0-200ms Google Recommended
200-600ms Passes Lighthouse
600-1000ms Fails Lighthouse
1000ms+ Very Slow

4. How much does server response time matter?

According to Google, consumers will abandon a website if it takes more than three seconds to load, and as previously said, server response time plays a big factor in deciding how optimum your page load speed is.
As a result, a long reaction time will result in a high bounce rate.
A high bounce rate is not just indicative of a poor user experience; it is also a bad SEO ranking indicator. Of course, page load speed is already a key SEO ranking criterion, which is why Google offers its own PageSpeed Insights tool.
Thus, reducing server response time is critical for three reasons:
  • More enjoyable experience for your visitors
  • Reduced bounce rate
  • Improved SEO performance.

5. Steps to reduce server response time

Let’s look at the steps that you can take to improve your server response time.

5.1 Use Reliable and Fast Web Hosting

If your current server response time is on the slower side, you should search for a faster host. There are a few things to consider.
If you have the money, go for dedicated hosting. This simply implies that you are not sharing a server with another website. While shared hosting might be a good place to start, some shared hosting companies overburden their servers, which increases their revenues but spells disaster for your website.
So, while deciding between different hosting provider packages, look for internet evaluations and suggestions for providers who can maintain a quick and consistent server response time.
You may also examine a provider’s server speeds before making a purchase.
You should select a host with servers that are geographically close to your intended audience. A CDN is a simple method to ensure this.

5.2 Route users to a nearby CDN

A content delivery network (CDN) is a framework of distributed networks of proxy servers and associated data centers. They are geographically dispersed to provide content to users as quickly as possible. Unless your company is hyper-local in its focus, individuals from all over the world will want to access your content at some point.
Using a CDN ensures that your site visitors have the greatest user experience possible, no matter where they are. A CDN serves more than half of the world’s internet traffic.
A CDN maintains a cached version of your website in various locations across the world. Each region has its own server, and the content requested will be sent by the server nearest to the user’s location. Here’s an example of how it works:
If your website is hosted in the United States but accessed by a person in Australia, the server response time maybe 0.2 to 0.4 seconds slower. A CDN solves this problem by delivering consistently fast server response time regardless of geographic location.
While a half-second in server response time may not seem like much, it has an impact on your visitors’ perceived loading speeds.
To get started, you’ll need to select a CDN and register your website. There are hundreds of CDN providers to select from. Consider criteria such as expected traffic volume, the main types of media you serve, and your budget when selecting your CDN.
After you’ve signed up with a CDN service, you or your web developer must enable it on your website. You will enable it using your C-panel or a plugin, depending on your hosting provider and content management system (CMS).
If you bought your domain from a different provider than the one hosting your site, you’ll need to make an update there as well. To link your domain to your CDN’s servers, you or your domain name registrar will need to modify your DNS name server records.

5.3 Use Caching

Caching is the technique of providing a pre-generated version of your website when it is requested instead of having the server process and build the page on demand.
If your HTML is static and does not need to be changed on every request, caching can save you time by preventing it from being generated. Server-side caching can reduce TTFB and resource use by keeping a copy of the produced HTML on disks.
There are several approaches to implement server caching depending on your toolchain:
  • Configure reverse proxies (Varnish, Nginx) to serve cached content or act as a cache server when installed in front of an application server
  • Configure and manage your cloud provider’s (Firebase, AWS, Azure) cache behavior
  • Use a CDN that provides edge servers so that your content is cached and stored closer to your users
  • FPC
  • VArnish

5.4 Optimize Your Web Server

Although not everyone is comfortable performing their own web server optimization, ensuring that your server is completely optimized can help to further lower your server response time. When it comes to server software, there are a few alternatives; however, most users choose either Apache or Nginx. Each web server has advantages and disadvantages, however, Nginx has been proven to provide superior performance in many situations.
After selecting your web host and server, you may configure the settings. It may be a bit frightening to do so, especially if you have no past experience. However, improving things like activating a cache, employing a content delivery network, and ensuring you utilize HTTP/2 will make a significant impact in decreasing the response time of your website. Furthermore, it is completely free to do.

5.5 Reduce bloat

If you use a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress or Magento, your site will bloat if not carefully managed. Even if you don’t utilize a CMS, you’re still in danger when you add content to your site over time (e.g. pictures, additional content pages, and so on). It may seriously clog up your website with needless bloatware (bloatware is defined as programs/apps/plugins that take up space but provide little value).
This is due to the fact that third-party apps, duplicate pages, and CSS/Javascript files use resources on your server. As a result, get rid of whatever you don’t need. Smaller files are your friend when it comes to decreasing SRTs, so delete plugins you don’t use, remove non-responsive pictures, and trim down your code, combine your resources, and enable compression.

5.6 Optimize your SQL Data

A database is a place where all of the necessary data is kept. It must be optimized so that the server and the client can access, manage, and update data without delay. Because unmaintained and/or large databases take longer to retrieve the correct data, the total server response time increases.
Remove unneeded and obsolete data and rewrite queries for better and faster execution to resolve database-related difficulties. Modern content management systems (CMSs) usually provide a simple approach to improve their database. WordPress, for example, has a number of plugins, such as WP-Optimize, that make this task simple.
Slow queries are the most common cause of a server’s slow response time, therefore you should spend time figuring out how to avoid bottlenecks.
Server optimization is a broad topic with several stages based on the server. When it comes to optimizing, the following are some good areas to start:
  • Rewrite your queries so that they only return the information you require and are optimized for speed (for example, use joins instead of loops)
  • Wherever possible, indexes should be used.
  • Changing your schema to properly organize things like tables, views, and stored procedures Alternatively, you may minimize the strain on your database by shifting the weight to your front-end by employing external caches.

5.7 Pre-fetching

Pre-fetching is the process of anticipating and carrying out instructions before the user asks them. For example, predicting the user’s future queries and loading certain material or links in advance.
Pre-fetching is commonly supported by modern browsers, and there are three forms of pre-fetching:
Link pre-fetching: if a page has only one or a few links and you are confident that a user will click on one of them, you may conduct link pre-fetching. This is beneficial for a more stable website user experience and may be used to speed up the loading of the shopping cart page after a user has added products, for example.
DNS pre-fetching is the process of converting domain names into IP address forms ahead of time in order to speed up the loading.
Pre-rendering entails rendering part or all components of a page ahead of time.
While pre-fetching reduces server response time, it necessitates a thorough understanding of your users’ behavior, otherwise, it will result in a waste of resources.

5.8 Keep an eye on your PHP usage

The more tasks a server must do in order to serve a page to a visitor, the slower it becomes. If you’re running a PHP script, make sure it’s not wasting resources on non-essential activities.
Ensure that PHP is up to date. Many hosting companies do not automatically update PHP. A website that is still using PHP 5 will have a slower response time than a website that is using PHP 7.
The PHP Compatibility Checker plugin can tell you which version you have. Upgrade to a newer version if necessary via cPanel or by contacting your hosting provider.

5.9 Scripts should be minimized

The term “minification” refers to the process of reducing the size of a program’s code. You reduce the size of your code by eliminating unnecessary variables, characters, and comments.
External files, JavaScript, and CSS all contribute to the speed with which a web page is provided. When it comes to working with files, minifying and compressing scripts is a typical method. It retains a big amount of data on hand while ensuring that the quantity does not degrade performance.
Depending on their size and relevance, distribute JS and CSS files as external or internal. Internally, as part of the HTML file, place small files to speed up the loading time. Finally, keep ambiguous files external to make them simpler to cache.

5.10 Update your CMS, plugins, and themes on a regular basis

How frequently do you get notifications informing you that your CMS, plugins, or website theme needs to be updated? Do you put things away, assuming you’ll get to them later, just to forget about them? Now is the time to stop doing that!
Page performance may be considerably slowed by using outdated versions of your CMS, plugins, and website themes. Updates are made by the designers of these products and platforms for a reason—often to enhance efficiency and speed.
(There’s also the issue of outdated CMS systems, plugins, and themes, which might expose your website to security risks.) One of the most prevalent reasons for website hacks, according to Malcare, is outdated themes and plugins.)
When was the last time you cleaned away your stored plugins and themes, much as you did with your site’s scripts? You probably have a few downloads but aren’t using them. Run a quick audit of everything you’ve downloaded and installed on a regular basis.

6. Conclusion

Overall, if your server response time or time to first byte (TTFB) is greater than 200 ms, it’s time to examine your stack and make adjustments to reduce that number. The faster your server responds, the more likely people are to stay on your page longer, and the less likely they are to bounce while waiting for it to load.
SRT and SEO are two areas where milliseconds and seconds count. Every fraction of a second you save will keep visitors on your site longer, encourage them to return, and help you reach the top of the search engine results pages. Implement the suggestions in the article into your own site to begin improving your server’s response speeds.