While many SEO experts are advising clients to improve their “page speed”, it seems a more important factor is being overlooked: “time to first byte” (TTFB).
TTFB is the amount of time it takes for a server to deliver its first byte of information. For all intents and purposes, this is how long it takes for a website to deliver its first bytes of data when someone visits it. Of course, the faster the better.
So how fast should the TTFB be?
Google actually recommends that your website respond within 200 milliseconds. That’s 2/10ths of a second! If Google has made this a recommendation, it’s worth paying attention to if you’re serious about SEO.
Realistically however, 200ms is far more fast than most websites. In fact, Google’s homepage, takes about 400 ms to respond with its first byte. Yahoo.com takes about 568 ms. Amazon.com takes 581 ms. You can test it yourself at ByteCheck.com.
What about us? TooMuchTina.com?
Yes, we’re pretty darn quick.
But obviously, it can be done.
To be clear, the difference between “page speed” and “time to first byte” is that the former is a measurement of how long it takes a webpage to display completely, whereas the latter is how long it takes for a server to deliver its first bytes of information.
The reason why TTFB has become an important SEO signal to Google is because high authority websites typically are more popular, and are high in demand. Therefore, they typically reside on high-powered servers. Meanwhile, spam sites, and low quality sites, typically receive low volumes of traffic, and therefore reside on slower, low-cost servers.
Several high profile SEO analysts tend to agree about the importance of TTFB…
- “Improving Search Rank by Optimizing Your Time to First Byte” (Moz Blog)
- “Are Speed Ranking Factors a Magic 8-Ball for Google?” (SearchMetrics)
It’s not to say that if you want Google to consider you an authority you must move to fast server. And certainly, TTFB is not the only signal that Google looks at. However, many SEO analysts tend to agree that TTFB seems to be a significant signal.
So where can you go to get on a faster server?
- Avoid the “DIY website builders” like Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace, or similar tools offered by GoDaddy, HostGator, et al.
- Avoid any hosting service costing $25.00 or less, per month.
- If you have a WordPress website, look for website hosts that offer a service specifically geared to WordPress.
- If you’re savvy with setting up your own web server, look into a dedicated server, or VPS, generally starting at $50.00 to $100.00 a month.