9 Ways to Reduce Server Response Time

The speed at which your site loads has huge impacts on the search engine optimization and user experience that your site can deliver. Optimizing your server response time is absolutely critical to getting a good load time. In this post, we’ll look at 9 ways to reduce the server response time that you have.

What is Server Response Time?

In the technical sense, the server response time refers to the amount of time that it takes for a server to send information from the website server to the user. A client piece of hardware will send a request to the hardware of the server, and the server will respond to the request. Response time, or time to first byte (TTFB), is technically the amount of time that it takes for the server to respond to that request, the amount of time it takes for information to move from the server to the user. 

However, when we talk about server response is a less technical and more colloquial sense, server response time can refer simply to the amount of time it takes for a user to receive a website on their screen, or how long it takes for the user’s request to reach the server and be returned as information in a response.

Good response times are generally considered to be under 200ms, but anything below 500ms is fine. 

Ways to Reduce Server Response Time

01Good Hosting

If you’re running off bad servers, lack the necessary speed and data, or have information stored in far away places with bad network connections–then yes, things will run very slow. You could spend a hundred hours pouring over your HTML and CSS, you can trim down your WordPress theme and plugins, and you could optimize everything. And still, through all those fixes, you might only save a fraction of the amount of server response time that you could save if you simply got a better hosting solution. Server response time is a critical thing to test before selecting your hosting provider.

02A Content Delivery Network (CDN)

If you will be running a larger website or if you need your site to have a seamless loading experience in vastly different locations, there might not be a single hosting location that you can use to deliver a fast user experience for everyone. If you put your server in Los Angeles and you have users in New York, you could get a very different user experience from New York to Los Angeles. One way to get around this problem is to have an orginating server in one location but then leverage a CDN, or content delivery network, to put resources in strategic locations. That way when people in a city far away from your originating server request information, the originating server can distribute the load time to a local content delivery hub that has cached versions of the information requested.

03Eliminate Clutter in Your Files

The bigger the files the slower the load time. Here we get into the difference between the technical definition of server response time and the total load time of the page. The size of the file will not affect the server response time, or time to first byte, but it will affect the overall load speed of the page. It could also affect the time to first byte in a case where the machine has to process the request of a larger file. Keeping things smaller will definitely improve the load time of the page.

04Enable Caching

If your site can create caches in the browser and on the machines of people who use your site, this will increase the server response time for subsequent uses. Caches will not help your server response time on a user’s first time on the site, but it could drastically improve the server response time on the next time that they visit.

05Remove Plugin and Template Weight

WordPress has tons of really cool plugins and templates that you could get for free or pay money for. While many of these plugins and templates can do really cool things for your site, they do come at the cost of speed. The more plugins and the bigger the template that you toss onto your site, the slower it will load.

06Optimize Your Images

If the page needs to load a huge image it can take your server precious milliseconds to figure out what kind of information it needs to send, which can hurt your time to first byte. The best way to reduce this kind of lag is to optimize images. While using high-resolution graphics can be great, it can actually harm the user experience by slowing down the whole site.

07Simplify Your HTML

When your page needs to load and get called into existence from the server, the machine has to read the HTML and deliver the HTML. and the user has to process the HTML and turn it into the web page. While the way that your HTML reads may not always have a big impact on time to first byte, it will have a huge impact on the overall loading experience on the page.

08Minify Your Code

HTML and CSS minification programs will help trim your code down from what it is currently. It will do really helpful stuff, like removing comments and redundancies in your code which can take extra milliseconds to read. Optimizing your code through minification can save valuable time on every single page.

09Optimize Your Databases

If you have big databases that have unnecessary columns, lines, and entries–you can absolutely crush the load speed of your website under all of that weight. Database calls take a notoriously long time to load. If you have to call databases for various pieces of the site, you can keep things speedy on the backend by ensuring that the databases are optimized. There is some software that can do this automatically, but there is no substitute for building streamlined, small databases.