Sorry Cloudflare, Here’s Why Time To First Byte (TTFB) Matters

TTFB is an important metric when testing your pageload speed time. Cloudflare has published a blog post as to why you shouldn’t worry about TTFB (Time To First Byte).

The post covers some foundational level technical reasoning which as they explain seems to make sense.

In short, the request for a webpage originates from your browser, reaches the server and the server sends back the requested data to your browser. This time taken for the entire request to initiate and the first bite to be received by the user’s browser is referred to as Time To First Byte or TTFB.

Here’s why Cloudflare says it doesn’t matter:

  1. The first byte received is a header and not the actual data that the browser can render.
  2. The duration of time from the point you receive the header till the time you receive the actual renderable data varies hugely based on a lot of factors. So just sending the header “hey I’m here but it’ll be some time before I can make myself usable” kills the entire purpose of treating TTFB as a usable page-load speed ranking metric.

Well just because it’s technically so doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.

TTFB still affects your ranking

Google doesn’t care if you serve the page after an hour from sending the initial response headers or whether it follows right after. TTFB is a signal for pageload speed and affects your rank period.

The metric is twisted for everyone

It’s just not sensible to blame the twisted scale. The only thing that matters is that it’s equally twisted for all. So it’s still a level playing field. Sites having a smaller TTFB rank better.

Fix your TTFB

TTFB is a reflection of your server performance. The technical irrelevance of TTFB too is a reflection of your server performance. So instead of ignoring TTFB, make your server useful. Things have to be tweaked and optimized so that TTFB is minimal as well as the time lag before the data that follows.

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