Website Load Times: Time to First Byte

Website Load Times: Time to First Byte

Stopwatch on white background. Isolated 3D image

How quickly a website loads is still important when it comes to improving a law firm website’s SEO (search engine optimization), and one factor of a website’s load time is the time to first byte (TTFB). There was a very good blog post on Moz.com today discussing TTFB, explaining what goes into calculating TTFB, and ways to improve time to first byte for your website or blog.

According to the post:

Working with Matt Peters from Moz, we tested the performance of over 100,000 websites returned in the search results for 2000 different search queries. In that study, we found a clear correlation between a faster time to first byte (TTFB) and a higher search engine rank.

Implementing a CDN (content delivery network) is one of the most recommended courses of action when it comes to improving TTFB and website load times. We use WordPress as our clients’ content management system (CMS), and we’ve worked with Cloudflare and a few other CDN providers which improved load times, but always seemed to deliver content from foreign countries which we believe had negative affect on our clients’ overall SEO.

So we decided to implement MaxCDN on a new client’s website this morning, and after going through the following steps (these are obviously summarized, but it took a little less than an hour once all was said and done):

  1. Sign up for MaxCDN for around $9/month
  2. Create 5 custom URLs for the client to improve pull zone frequency/response time
  3. Create 5 CNAME records for the client’s website
  4. Make some adjustments in the caching plugin that we use for client websites

We re-ran some page speed tests and noticed some significant improvements immediately thereafter. The below screenshots are from http://www.webpagetest.org

Before:

before

 After:

Website load times- after

As you can see, the CDN implementation resulted in a significant drop in TTFB, as well as overall website load times. As we continued to compress images, defer javascripts, and make some additional tweaks to the client’s websites, the overall load times continued to decrease. This is likely to result in an increase in Google Webmaster Tools impressions and organic search visits, and a decrease in frustrated visitors waiting impatiently for the website to load.

According to a blog post directly from Google (which is from 2010 but still very relevant):

Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there.

Google also offers a Pagespeed Insights tool which allows webmasters to input their website’s URL to see how Google grades the site’s load times on both mobile AND desktop versions.

If you have $9/month and an hour to spare, setting up a content delivery network on your website should make a positive difference in a number of ways.