How to Reduce Initial Server Response Time on WordPress Website?

Reduce Initial Server Response time” is one of the PageSpeed Insights warnings you’ll likely get when testing your site speed. In this article, you’ll learn what Initial Server Response Time means and how you can reduce and optimize your site for speed and performance — manually and with a plugin. So, let’s get started.

What is the Initial Server Response time?

To put it simply Initial server response time means, the amount of time it takes for a hosting server to respond to a request made by a user’s browser. This includes the time it takes for the server to process the request, locate and retrieve the requested content, and send it back to the user’s browser.

Initial server response time is an important metric for website performance, as it directly affects the time it takes for a webpage to load. A longer initial server response time can result in a slower loading time for the webpage, which can lead to a negative user experience & overall customer conversion.

Reduce Initial Server Response Time Warning

There are several factors that can impact “slow initial server response time“, including the speed of the server, the size of the webpage and its assets (such as images and CSS files), the number of HTTP server requests, and the performance of the website theme, plugins, and database.

How to Reduce Initial Server Response Time?

There are several ways you can try to reduce the initial server response time on your WordPress website. I listed the top 7 best ways to reduce initial server response time within 10 minutes.

1: Use a Lightweight Theme

Your WordPress theme is your site’s foundation, which means it plays a big role in your site loading time. Choosing a theme with a smaller file size and optimized for core web vitals can help reduce the initial time it takes for the server to respond.

A lightweight theme is designed to be fast and efficient, with a minimal codebase and minimal use of resources. Lightweight WordPress themes are often smaller in size than compare to other themes, and they are optimized for site performance, which can help your website load faster.

There are many lightweight multi-purpose themes available on the WordPress repository. If you are looking for the fastest WordPress themes, then I recommend you use GeneratePress, Astra, OceanWP, or kadence theme on your website. These themes are designed to be lightweight and optimized for performance, and also Reduce Initial Server Response Time on your website.

I use the GeneratePress theme on my websites, here’s my website performance:

GeneratePress Performance

2: Enable Caching

Caching helps reduce the number of requests made to the server by storing a copy of the website’s content on the user’s computer. There are several different types of caching that can be used in WordPress websites to improve performance:

  • Object caching: This type of caching stores the results of common database queries in a cache, which can be retrieved more quickly than if they were retrieved from the database each time they are needed.
  • Page caching: This type of caching stores a copy of the fully rendered HTML of a web page in a cache, which can be served to users without the need to execute any PHP code or run any database queries.
  • Browser caching: This type of caching stores resources, such as images and stylesheets, in the user’s web browser cache, which can reduce the amount of data that needs to be downloaded from the server each time the user accesses the website.

There are several WordPress caching plugins available that can help you to reduce initial server response time. Some popular cache plugins include WP Rocket, FlyingPress, W3 Total Cache, etc. These plugins allow users to configure various caching options and fine-tune the performance of their website.

WP Rocket cache plugin dasboard

On this website, I’m using the WP Rocket cache plugin. WP Rocket is the most powerful premium cache WordPress plugin, it automatically optimizes your website performance by up to 80%. Download WP Rocket Cache plugin.

3: Use Fast Managed WordPress Hosting

Managed WordPress hosting is specifically optimized for hosting WordPress websites. Managed WordPress hosting providers typically offer a range of features and services that are tailored to the needs of WordPress users, including:

  • Automatic WordPress updates: Managed WordPress hosting providers will typically handle the installation of WordPress updates for you, ensuring that your website is always running the latest version of WordPress.
  • Expert WordPress support: Managed WordPress hosting offers an expert WordPress team to help with any issues you may face with your website.
  • Performance optimization: Managed WordPress hosting providers often offer features such as built-in caching, a fast WordPress server, multiple server locations, and CDN to improve the performance of your website.
  • Advance Security: Managed WordPress hosting offers advanced WordPress security measures to protect your website from hacking and other potential security threats.
  • Automatic Site Backup: Managed WordPress hosting offers automatic backups of your website and helps you recover your website in the event of a disaster.

Overall, managed WordPress hosting is the best choice for users who want a hassle-free fast hosting experience without worrying about the technical details.

CloudWays Dashboard

There are several Managed WordPress hosting providers that offer a super fast hosting experience with all the premium features you need to run your website. Some popular managed WordPress hosting include Kinsta, WPX, CloudWays, Nexcess, etc. However, I recommend you to use CloudWays or WPX hosting to host your website.

4: Optimize Media Files

An unoptimized image will still drag down your website’s overall loading time even if you use lightweight themes, fast hosting, and the best cache plugin on your website. To optimize images you can use third-party websites or you can use a WordPress plugin that can automatically reduce image size without losing quality.

I recommend you use a WordPress Image optimization plugin, it not only saves you a lot of time but all processes are automated. There are a lot of plugins that can help you to optimize images, I use ShortPixel Image Optimizer.

ShortPixel Image Optimization settings

ShortPixel not only helps you to optimize images, it automatically converts any image format to .webp or .avif format ( .webp format is the next-gen image format developed by Google that is much smaller and faster than PNGs or JPGs image formats).

On PageSpeed Insights, if you see warnings like “Properly size images“, or “Serve images in next-gen formats“, then ShortPixel can solve this issue automatically. Download ShortPixel Plugin.

5: Use a CDN

A CDN refers to a network of proxy servers that are spread across the world. This allows users to access the content from a server that is geographically closer to them, which can help reduce the initial response time.

A CDN stores a copy of your WordPress site’s static contents such as images, CSS, JavaScript, video files, etc. Using a CDN can decrease your website’s initial load times by 43.2% because CDNs always have a lot more server locations than your hosting providers.

There are many CDN providers available for WordPress websites like Cloudflare, StackPath, BunnyCDN, etc. To implement CDN on your website, you use the CDN provider’s WordPress plugin or you can use a cache plugin like WP Rocket to directly implement CDN.

WP Rocket CDN

Cloudflare is free to use and it’s by far the most prominent CDN provider with 200+ PoPs powered by edge servers around the globe. However, I recommend you use BunnyCDN on your website, it’s pricing starts at $0.01 /GB. BunnyCDN is a very cost effecting and the fastest CDN provider with 98 global data centers. Explore BunnyCDN.

6: Optimize Your Database

Your WordPress website database stores all of the information for your website, including posts, pages, and comments. As time passes, your site database is filled with outdated and unnecessary information.

Wp Optimize Database

The larger your database is, the longer it will take the server to respond. There are several plugins available that can help optimize your database and allow you to improve server response time. Some popular WordPress database optimization plugins include WP Rocket, FlyingPress, Perfmatters, WP-Optimize, etc.

7: Enable Gzip Compression

Gzip compression helps reduce the size of your website’s files, which can help improve the initial response time. There are many free tools like Check GZIP Compression and HTTP Compression Test that can check if GZIP compression is enabled on your website.

There are several plugins available that can enable Gzip compression on your WordPress website. To enable Gzip compression in WordPress, you can use a plugin such as WP Rocket, W3 Total Cache, or WP Fastest Cache. These plugins allow you to easily enable Gzip compression through the WordPress dashboard.

W3 Total Cache Gzip Compression
W3 Total Cache Gzip Compression

Alternatively, you can also enable Gzip compression by adding the following code to your website’s .htaccess file. However, I recommend you take a backup of your WordPress website before adding code to your website or you can contact your hosting support team to help you to add Gzip compression code. If you want to do it yourself, here’s Gzip compression code for WordPress:

<IfModule mod_deflate.c>
# Compress HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Text, XML and fonts
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/javascript
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/vnd.ms-fontobject
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-opentype
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-otf
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-truetype
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-ttf
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-javascript
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/opentype
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/otf
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/ttf
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE image/svg+xml
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE image/x-icon
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/javascript
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml
# Remove browser bugs (only needed for really old browsers)
  BrowserMatch ^Mozilla/4 gzip-only-text/html
  BrowserMatch ^Mozilla/4\.0[678] no-gzip
  BrowserMatch \bMSIE !no-gzip !gzip-only-text/html
  Header append Vary User-Agent
</IfModule>

It is important to note that Gzip compression may not be suitable for all websites, as it can increase the CPU usage on the server. Additionally, some hosting providers may not allow Gzip compression to be enabled on shared hosting plans. In these cases, you may need to contact your hosting provider to see if Gzip compression is possible on your account.

8: Remove Bloated Plugins

Each plugin you install on your website adds additional code that needs to be loaded by the server, which can slow down the initial response time. Try to only use those WordPress plugins that are absolutely necessary for your website to maintain. To be honest, I use only 12 WordPress plugins on this website and I also recommend you not use too many plugins.

To identify slow bloated WordPress plugins you can use Query Monitor, Chrome Dev Tools, or WP Hive tools. I recommend you install the Query monitor plugin to check which plugin affects your website loading time.

Query Monitor

One more thing, Instead of using regular drag & drop page builders like Elementor, Thrive Architect, or Divi Builder, use Block editor to design your website. You can use GenerateBlocks and KadenceBlocks to design your website.

That’s all. By implementing all of these suggestions, you should be able to significantly reduce the initial server response time on your WordPress website. However, after implementing all suggestions if your server response time is not reduced, you need to check whether you use a page builder or not.

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If you have any other questions let me know in the comment section. Thank you. Have a nice day.

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