You must have also used many online tools to check the performance of your WordPress and taken steps to speed them up. But, you did not get the expected results. Right? This usually happens when we only focus on the performance and optimizations of the frontend.
Optimizing WordPress involves working on the frontend and backend, including the hosting solution that powers your websites. Similarly, it is crucial to test and analyze the server-side performance, where the site loading begins, and where all of the activity required for the website’s operation occurs.
In this article, I will tell you about what server response time is and how you can reduce it on your WordPress.
Before I begin, let’s see the four-step process that results in rendering a web page on your screen.
- Request: This is the request initiated by the visitor (aka client)’s browser.
- Response: The request is processed, and the necessary assets (web page files, resources, and such) are processed by the server and sent back to the visitor’s web browser.
- Build: The web browser uses these assets to start the rendering process for the requested web page.
- Render: Finally, the web page is displayed to the visitor.
Out of the four, the second step (response) is entirely dependent on the hosting server. If the server cannot carry out this step (for whatever reason), the next steps get delayed, and thus the UX for the visitor suffers.
This is quite common in shared hosting, where the user is promised sufficient resources that are then distributed among all the sites hosted on the server. Thus, the website performance suffers because of the lack of adequate resources, making it slow. This slow performance also affects the website’s SEO and user experience.
What Is Server Response Time?
Server response time (aka Time To First Byte) is the time taken by a server to respond to the visitor’s request. TTFB refers to the time bracket during which the client sends the request, and the client’s browser starts to render the requested web page.
There are three components involved in TTFB measures
Sending HTTP Request
An HTTP request is triggered when the user initially loads the webpage. The server receives this request and prepares an appropriate response. Factors such as network speed and the distance to the server can affect the time it takes for the server to receive the request.
Processing the Request
When the server receives the request from the browser, it initiates various processes, such as running scripts, fetching data from the database, and running back-end tasks.
Processing the Response
Once all response components have been generated, the server sends them to the end user. This step depends on the performance of your website hosting server and the user’s internet connection speed.
While reviewing the results generated by an online performance analyzing tool like WebPageTest, you might have noticed TTFB. According to Google guidelines, a website shouldn’t have a TTFB of more than 200 ms.
Note: If you run a speed test of a WordPress site, you probably find references for slow admin-ajax.php in your results. If yes, learn how to fix it!
Why Reduce Server Response Time?
A slow website can have negative consequences for businesses. The loading time of your website significantly impacts the User Experience (UX) and search engine optimization (SEO).
According to research, over 40% of web users abandon a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Furthermore, the longer it takes to load, the lower it ranks on the search engine results page (SERP).
This is reason enough to investigate the server response time and how to improve it.
How to Reduce Server Response Time?
Many factors can cause a slow server response time. But, here, I’ll highlight the most prominent factors that site owners can control.
1. Use Content Delivery Network
Let’s start with the fundamental issue – the distance the data has to travel both ways!
Before finalizing a hosting server, you should have a pretty good idea of who and where your target audience is. Based on this information, you can choose the data center nearest to your target audience. This ensures that the latency remains at the minimum because of the fewer distance data has to travel to and from the server As a result, the server response time improved dramatically.
If your global audience, you can take advantage of WordPress CDN providers that keep a copy of the website assets on globally distributed nodes. When a user requests a page, it is served from the closest node rather than the original hosting server.
CDN plays an essential role in performance, and statistics can judge it. Let’s look at some of the test results we performed on the website with and without CDN.
The server location is San Jose, California, USA. First, we perform the test without integrating the CDN. The load time is 633ms.
After integrating the CDN with the WordPress site, we tested the website on the same location, and the load time improved to 523ms, which was previously 633ms.
Your slow website can affect conversion rates!
Try Cloudways and maximize the performance of your WordPress.
2. Monitor Website Traffic
With the continuous growth of your business, traffic surges can become very frequent (with little to no warning).
Let me illustrate this with an example: if you post a special offer on the website of your coffee shop, the number of visitors to the site can go up significantly. As a result, the server starts to receive more and more requests that demand an immediate response. As resource consumption hits the limit, the server response time increases. Eventually, as all the resources get consumed, the site will go down, and your brand will see a decline in sales and reputation.
I wouldn’t recommend you stop offering free coffee. You can improve slow server response time by choosing a web host optimized for performance and capable of handling traffic surges.
The experts recommend choosing a hosting solution with server and application monitoring features. So, you can check the server resources and take immediate action if required. You can analyze and track the traffic stats, slow pages, DB queries that take too long to execute, disk space, and more with the Application-level monitoring feature.
3. Upgrade Hosting Resources
When starting an online business, the first order of business should be a thorough server resources requirements gathering session. This should give you an idea of the volume of server resources you need to launch the business and the future projection of the resource requirements.
If you are unsure about the process, contact your hosting provider’s support first and explain your situation. They might be able to present a solution that works in your case. You may even get to try the service before actually investing in it.
Choose the PHP hosting provider which constantly upgrades its infrastructure and uses the latest hardware and updated software such as PHP 7.3 and HTTP/2 servers.
Debian 10 is available on all the Cloudways servers launched after January 12th, 2022. Cloudways web stack is based in Ngnix. It helps to serve more audiences rapidly while lowering the load on your server. Also, Cloudways offer a MariaDB database because MariaDB is an advanced version and a compatible drop-in replacement for the equivalent MySQL version.
On a related note, it is not always the wisest decision to go with the largest server out there. Managing the resources efficiently and applying all the best development and server management practices also help you improve your server response time.
4. Optimize WordPress Database
A database is a place where all the required information is stored. It must be optimized so that both servers can access, manage and update information without any delays. Unmaintained and/or huge databases need more time to fetch the right data; thus, the overall server response time goes up.
To fix database-related issues, try to remove unnecessary and obsolete data and rewrite queries for smarter and faster execution.
You can also consider using tips to optimize the WordPress database for improved performance, including tweaking the database structure and the database optimization-related WordPress plugins.
A question may arise in your mind Why Cloudways offers MariaDB and not MySQL?
MariaDB is an advanced and compatible drop-in replacement for the equivalent MySQL version. Cloudways currently has MySQL 5.5, MySQL 5.6, MySQL 5.7, MariaDB 10.0, MariaDB 10.1, MariaDB 10.2, MariaDB 10.3, MariaDB 10.4, MariaDB 10.5, and MariaDB 10.6 supported.
5. Dynamic vs. Static Content
Dynamic content is generated at runtime on the request generated by a visitor and is generally different for every user. For instance, if I order a coffee and you order a hamburger, the process on our end would remain the same because of the similar UI of the website. However, the server response would be different because of the different nature of the two orders. The server would fetch two different data sets from the database and prepare two separate responses. Now scale the example for a popular restaurant, and you can have a pretty good idea of the load on the server.
The static content is hard coded in the website’s HTML, JS, CSS, and images. These assets do not change for different user inputs, and the server delivers the same content to every visitor. This is the fastest way to deliver the content as it does not consume much server resources, and the server response time increases.
Experts suggest offloading static content to a WordPress CDN to reduce load time and the consumption of server resources.
6. Use Updated Server Stack
The stack of the server has a serious impact on the server response time. The stack generally comprises a combination of servers and cache that come together to provide processing power to the server. Popular stack components include Apache, NGINX, and MySQL/MariaDB.
Don’t forget to keep your WordPress and PHP versions updated. Older versions often require more server resources and are inefficient in response handling. WordPress Core Team recommends using PHP 8 because of optimized processing.
WordPress on PHP Performance Benchmarks & Upgrade Guide
7. Choose Optimized Hosting
Since you now have a deeper understanding of how servers process clients’ requests, you can make an informed decision about the type of hosting solution for your WordPress website. The best fit is a dedicated environment where you can control and optimize the server components according to your performance requirements.
If you are not tech-savvy, choose a highly-optimized managed WordPress hosting provider that handles server management issues.
How Cloudways Reduce Response Time?
Cloudways is a managed cloud hosting platform with an optimized server stack and is ideal for WordPress sites. A basic WordPress site hosted on Cloudways and Breeze installed can be loaded in just a few ms.
Isn’t it impressive?
Load WordPress Sites in as fast as 37ms! Thanks to the Best Hosting for WordPress
Distance Between Server and Visitors
Cloudways has partnered with top-notch cloud infrastructure providers and, as a result, offers 65+ data centers globally. No matter where your audience is, just choose the nearest data center and launch the server without worrying about the website speed.
Remember, the closer the server, the faster the website loads up for the audience. For a global audience, utilize CloudwaysCDN.
To deal with traffic spikes, server resources on Cloudways can be scaled up in just a single click.
This feature is useful for both new and established online businesses. Established businesses can operate without worrying about losing their traffic due to server crashes. New businesses that are unsure about their future needs can easily scale their resources when needed.
The cloud experts at Cloudways are available 24/7 to help you out. Feel free to discuss and let Cloudways Support know your requirements/queries so they can guide you accordingly.
Currently, the official WordPress supports MySQL and MariaDB only. Considering this, we at Cloudways left the choice to WordPress users by adding both to the platform. Converting MySQL to MariaDB is just a click away.
Dynamic vs. Static
As described above, this decision varies from user to user. At Cloudways, the servers come with pre-installed PHP 7.4 (as you read, the latest version is PHP 8.0), which significantly boosts dynamic content processing. But, you must ensure that your application code base is compatible with PHP7. For this, create a WordPress staging environment for your live site, and test everything out. Once you are satisfied, push the changes to the live version. For static content, our ThunderStack formula works the best!
Cloudways servers combine Apache, NGINX, Varnish, Memcached, PHP-FPM, Redis, and the support for PHP 8.x. All this combines together and boosts the performance of a WordPress site.
TTFB on Cloudways Servers
For the sake of testing, I launched a 2GB DigitalOcean server (at the London data center) with all the default settings. Next, I installed Breeze to enable minification and grouping.
I then run the test through GTMetrix. Here are the results.
You can see the Time To First Byte (TTFB) is under 200 ms which fits guidelines by Google.
When the same site is tested on Pingdom. Here’s what I got!
Improving the overall performance and reducing server response time for a WordPress site is a matter of following all the best practices. When you are satisfied with the TTFB value of your hosting provider, you can start implementing the tips to speed up a WordPress site.
Want to test the TTFB of your existing WordPress site on Cloudways? Start with a free trial and migrate your WordPress site with just a few clicks. And don’t forget to share results in the comment section below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How can I reduce server response time on WordPress?
A: There are multiple ways to reduce the server response time, but the most important ones are as follows:
- Upgrading your hosting resources and using the updated server stack can help reduce the server response time.
- Optimize how your server queries databases.
- Use CDN if your site visitors are from different regions.
Q: What are the ways to fix slow server response time?
A: WordPress has seven ways to fix the slow server response time. It may vary from site to site. For a better solution, always read out the suggestion carefully from the speed test tools like GTMetrix, Pingdom, and PageSpeed Insights.
- Use Content Delivery Network
- Monitor Website Traffic
- Upgrade Hosting Resources
- Optimize WordPress Database
- Dynamic vs. Static Content
- Use Updated Server Stack
- Choose Optimized Hosting
Q: How to check if the server response time is reduced?
A: Test your site on Speed test tools like GTMetrix and Pingdom and see the result section. You’ll see all the stats in the suggestion area if you go into the test details.
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Danish Naseer is a WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways. He is passionate about designing, developing, and engaging with people to help them. He also actively participates in the community to share his knowledge. Besides that, he loves to watch documentaries, traveling and spending time with family. You can contact him at [email protected]