Knowledge Base


Core Web Vitals


First Contentful Paint (FCP): A Definitive Guide

First Contentful Paint: What is it & How to Optimize for it?

Saket Mittal
First Contentful Paint (FCP)

Have you ever clicked on a website only to be greeted by a glaringly empty screen while it slowly loads? That delay in website loading often leads users to abandon the site altogether. This frustrating experience often stems from a poor First Contentful Paint (FCP) score.

FCP measures the time it takes from when the page starts loading to when any part of the page's content is rendered on the screen. It's a critical metric that directly influences user experience, impacting how visitors perceive the speed & responsiveness of your site.

Improving your site's FCP can significantly enhance user engagement, reduce bounce, and improve conversion rates. In this blog, we will learn everything about First Contentful Paint and the strategies to optimize it for better user experience & SEO.

Quattr Scores

of this article

Keyword Relevance


Content Quality


Check your content's score now!

What is First Contentful Paint (FCP)?

First Contentful Paint (FCP) is a key metric that measures how quickly the first content appears on a webpage.

It could be text, an image, or other visual elements. It acts as the first sign to users that a webpage is loading, setting their expectations for the rest of the content.

A slow FCP means users wait too long for something to happen, unsure if the website works. But a fast FCP assures them that progress is being made, even if the page isn't ready yet. It builds trust & keeps them engaged.

Factors Impacting First Contentful Paint (FCP)

Several factors influence the First Contentful Paint, impacting the user experience and overall site performance. Here are some of the major factors affecting FCP:

1. Heavy JavaScript execution delays FCP as browsers must parse and execute scripts before rendering.

2. Unoptimized images slow FCP by requiring more time to download & display content.

3. Excessive CSS can hinder rendering paths, delaying the appearance of initial content.

4. Unoptimized fonts lead to invisible text, pushing back FCP until fonts are downloaded.

5. Too many server requests overwhelm the network, dragging FCP to later times.

6. Lack of caching mechanisms forces browsers to fetch all resources from scratch, prolonging FCP.

First Contentful Paint & SEO

First Contentful Paint (FCP) is an important metric that links web performance with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), affecting both user experience and a website's search engine ranking.

FCP measures the time when the first content appears on a user's screen, impacting the speed at which users can interact with the website and serving as an indicator to search engines of the site's speed and responsiveness.

A fast FCP suggests a site is well-optimized and user-friendly, aligning with the expectations for quick loading times, and is becoming a key element in SEO strategies.

1. Enhanced User Engagement

When someone lands on your page, it's important to catch their interest immediately. A fast FCP makes your content appear quickly, encouraging people to interact with it, share it, and make your page more relevant.

2. Improved Crawl Efficiency

Search engines allocate a crawl budget for each website. Websites with faster FCPs show content to users & search engine bots more quickly, helping search engines index more pages efficiently. It helps increase your site visibility in SERP.

3. Boost in Mobile Search Ranking

Google gives priority to mobile-friendly websites when ranking search results. If your site loads quickly on mobile devices with a fast FCP, it ensures that even users on slower connections can access your content without waiting. It can boost your ranking & improve user experience on mobile.

4. Higher Conversion Rates

Users having a positive experience right from the start are more likely to stick around & complete actions like making a purchase or signing up. Fast FCP times signal a high-quality, relevant site, which search engines consider when ranking websites, increasing chances of appearing higher in SERP.

FCP distinguishes itself from other metrics like Time to First Byte (TTFB), Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), and Time to Interactive (TTI). Other metrics might measure different aspects of website performance, such as how long the entire page takes to load or how quickly it becomes interactive. FCP focuses just on the initial loading experience.

First Contentful Paint Compared

1. FCP vs Time to First Byte (TTFB)

First Contentful Paint (FCP) and Time to First Byte (TTFB) are two critical metrics for understanding website performance, yet they measure different aspects of the user experience.

FCP marks the moment when the first text or image is painted on the screen, giving users a sense of a website's speed in delivering visible content.

In contrast, TTFB is when a user's browser receives the first byte of page content from a server, serving as an indicator of the initial server response speed.

Together, these metrics offer a comprehensive view of both the responsiveness of the server and the visual loading performance of a website, highlighting areas for optimization to enhance the overall user experience.

2. FCP vs Time to Interactive (TTI)

Time to Interactive (TTI) quantifies the duration until a page becomes fully interactive, ensuring that users can engage with webpage elements without frustrating delays, making it essential for a seamless user experience.

FCP is about the impression of speed and responsiveness when a page starts loading, while TTI is about the usability and interactivity of a page once it has loaded.

Together, FCP and TTI offer a comprehensive view of a webpage's performance from initial load to full interactivity, guiding developers in optimizing both the appearance and functionality of their sites.

3. First Contentful Paint vs Largest Contentful Paint

First Contentful Paint & Largest Contentful Paint are two crucial metrics in web performance optimization. FCP measures the time it takes for the first visual element to appear on a webpage, while LCP measures the time it takes for the largest element above the fold to be rendered.

The key difference lies in what each metric focuses on during the page load. Let us understand how FCP and LCP are different:

Aspect First Contentful Paint Largest Contentful Paint
Focus Focuses on the initial loading experience, capturing the first moment the browser renders any text, image (including background images), non-white canvas, or SVG. Targets the largest contentful element visible in the viewport, providing a more meaningful indication of what users consider the page's main content.
Criticality Acts as an early indicator of page load speed and is useful for detecting if the website works. More closely correlates with user satisfaction, as it reflects the point at which the main content has likely loaded.
Factors Impacting Highly influenced by the speed at which the initial HTML document is parsed and the first bits of content are sent to the browser. Affected by larger page elements’ load times, such as unoptimized images or video thumbnails, and potentially the impact of JavaScript and CSS that delays their rendering.
Impact on User Experience Affects initial user engagement and perception of site responsiveness but may not fully represent the overall loading experience. Significantly influences user satisfaction and retention, directly impacting the visibility of essential page content.

What is a Good FCP Score?

According to Google, an FCP score is categorized into three distinct segments:

First Contentful Paint (FCP) Scores
First Contentful Paint (FCP) Scores

1. Good: An FCP of 1.8 seconds or less is considered good. It means the page presents visual content to the user quickly, signaling a responsive & fast-loading web page.

2. Needs Improvement: If the FCP duration is between 1.8 and 3 seconds, the website is in the "needs improvement" zone. While not detrimental, this indicates areas where optimization could enhance user satisfaction.

3. Poor: Any FCP above 3 seconds falls into the poor category, suggesting significant room for improvement. Such delays in content rendering can hinder user engagement & increase bounce rates, as visitors may grow impatient.

Google also states that pages that managed to hover around the "Good" FCP threshold see higher visitor retention.

Google found that 53% of mobile users will leave a website if it takes more than 3 seconds for the page to load.

Thus, the FCP score gives web developers & digital marketers a roadmap, signaling the direct correlation with the site's bottom line. Let us understand how to measure FCP in the next section.

Tools to Measure First Contentful Paint (FCP)

FCP measurements can be carried out in two distinct environments: in the lab and the field. Both approaches offer unique insights into how your pages perform, but they serve different purposes & are captured through different sets of tools. Let's understand these tools in detail.

Field Tools to Measure FCP

Field tools measure the performance of websites in real-world conditions. This data provides insights into how a website performs across different devices, networks, and geographical locations. It also provides a more realistic picture of user experience but can be more challenging due to the variability of real-world conditions.

1. FCP & PageSpeed Insights

FCP and PageSpeed Insights
FCP and PageSpeed Insights

PageSpeed Insights is a free tool provided by Google that analyzes the performance of web pages on both mobile & desktop devices. It provides a comprehensive report on various aspects of performance, including First Contentful Paint (FCP).

To measure FCP using PageSpeed Insights, follow the steps:

1. Visit Google's page speed insights tool.

2. Enter the URL of the page you wish to analyze.

3. The tool then returns a score & a set of recommended actions to improve performance.

The benefit of using PageSpeed Insights is its accessibility and ease of use. It offers insights into various performance aspects beyond just FCP, allowing developers to optimize their websites comprehensively.

2. FCP & Chrome User Experience Report

The Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX) is a public dataset provided by Google that contains real user experience data from millions of websites. It aggregates performance data from users' actual interactions with websites.

To utilize CrUX, developers can access the dataset through Google BigQuery or the CrUX API for specific URLs or website categories. It allows developers to retrieve FCP data from real users, allowing for targeted optimizations to enhance user experience.

3. Web-vitals JavaScript Library

The core web vitals library is a lightweight, open-source JavaScript library provided by Google to measure your website performance metrics on real users.

1. Add the web-vitals Javascript library to your webpage.

Code to Add the web-vitals Javascript library to Your Webpage
Code to Add the web-vitals JavaScript Library to Your Webpage

2. Use the getFCP function from the library to measure FCP.

getFCP Function to Measure FCP
getFCP Function to Measure FCP

3. After adding the code, open your browser's developer console. When the FCP event occurs, you'll see the time it took to render the first contentful paint logged in the console.

It helps developers to start collecting vital web performance metrics directly from their users & act on them in near real-time.

Measure FCP with Lab Tools

Lab Tools are used in a controlled environment where variables like network condition, device type, and browser can be standardized. It allows for consistent, repeatable testing, ideal for development phases or benchmarking against competitors.

1. Measure FCP with Google Lighthouse

FCP and Google Lighthouse
FCP and Google Lighthouse

To measure FCP using Lighthouse, developers can run audits directly within the Chrome browser's DevTools or through the Lighthouse CLI (Command Line Interface). After initiating an audit, Lighthouse simulates a page load & provides a detailed report with recommendations for improving your website performance.

Its integration with Chrome DevTools makes it easily accessible to developers during development.

Learn more about Google Lighthouse here.

2. Chrome DevTools & FCP

Chrome DevTools is a set of web developer tools built directly into the Google Chrome browser. It allows developers to debug, profile, and analyze the performance of web pages in real time.

Follow the steps to measure FCP using Chrome DevTools:

1. Navigate to the webpage you want to test.

2. Right-click anywhere on the page and select "Inspect" to open Chrome DevTools.

3. Click on the "Performance" tab in DevTools. If you don't see it, click the ">>" icon to find it.

4. Press the "Reload" button icon at the top left of the Performance tab to start recording the page load.

5. After the page reloads and recording stops, you'll see a timeline of the page's load performance.

6. Look for the First Contentful Paint marker in the timeline. It's usually marked with a green flag icon.

7. Hover over the marker to see the FCP time, which tells you how long it took for the first piece of content to appear on the screen.

It allows developers to identify performance bottlenecks quickly & iteratively optimize their websites for better user experience.

5 Ways to Improve First Contentful Paint

Optimize Your Critical Rendering Path

The Critical Rendering Path (CRP) represents the sequence of steps the browser goes through to convert HTML, CSS, and JavaScript into pixels on the screen. Optimizing these steps is crucial for improving your FCP score, as it accelerates the time it takes for the primary content to appear on the user's screen.

1. Minify and compress CSS and JavaScript files to reduce the size & the amount of time the browser spends fetching them.

2. Async or defer non-critical JavaScript & use media queries to mark CSS files as non-blocking.

3. Extract & inline the CSS needed for the initial render in the HTML to speed up its loading time.

Doing so streamlines the process of rendering your page, drastically reducing the time it takes for the first contentful paint. It improves your FCP score & also enhances the perception of speed for your users.

Implement HTTP/2 and Server Push

HTTP/2 is a protocol designed to improve website performance by allowing multiple requests & responses to be sent over a single connection. Server Push enables the server to send resources to the browser before they are requested.

1. Enable HTTP/2: Check with your hosting provider or web server documentation to enable HTTP/2.

2. Utilize Server Push: Preemptively send critical resources to the client before they are explicitly requested.

3. Prioritize Your Requests: Use HTTP/2's prioritization mechanism to ensure critical resources are loaded first.

By leveraging HTTP/2's features, you can reduce latency & improve the parallelism of resource delivery, thereby enhancing your FCP score. Server push, in particular, can preload critical resources, making them available instantly when the browser requests.

Leverage Browser Caching

Browser caching allows web resources to be stored locally in the browser. When a user revisits a page, the browser can quickly retrieve these resources from its cache rather than downloading them again.

1. Set Appropriate Cache-Control Headers: Use `max-age` to specify how long resources should be cached & 'must-revalidate' to ensure stale resources are not used.

2. Leverage ETags: Configure ETags to help the browser identify when a cached resource has changed & needs to be updated.

3. Optimize Your Caching Strategy: Cache static resources aggressively & use a content delivery network (CDN) to serve them efficiently to users around the globe.

Implementing an effective caching strategy can remarkably reduce load times on subsequent page visits. It indirectly benefits your FCP score by ensuring that critical resources are readily available from the cache, thus speeding up the rendering process.

Optimize Images and Fonts

Images & fonts often account for the bulk of a webpage's size, making their optimization crucial for improving page load times and, consequently, the FCP score.

1. Compress Images: Use tools like ImageOptim or TinyPNG to reduce image sizes without compromising quality.

2. Choose the Right Image Format: Utilize formats like WebP & AVIF, which offer better compression and quality characteristics than traditional formats like JPEG & PNG.

3. Implement Lazy Loading: Load images only when users enter the viewport, reducing the initial load time.

4. Optimize Web Fonts: Use font-display swap to minimize the invisible text period during font loading & consider subsetting fonts to include only the characters you need.

Optimizing images & fonts can drastically reduce the amount of data the browser needs to download before rendering the page content. It directly contributes to a better FCP score, enhancing the overall user experience.

Reduce JavaScript Execution Time

JavaScript execution time refers to the time it takes for the browser to compile & run your JS code. Excessive or inefficient JS can significantly delay page rendering.

1. Minify and Compress JavaScript: Reduce file size to speed up parsing, compiling, and executing time.

2. Remove Unused Code: Use tools for Tree-shaking to eliminate dead code & reduce bloat.

3. Optimize and Defer Third-party Scripts: Move non-essential third-party scripts to load after the main content or asynchronously to prevent them from blocking the page render.

4. Use Web Workers for Complex Calculations: Offload heavy computations to Web Workers to prevent blocking the main thread.

Ensuring JavaScript is efficiently loaded, parsed, and executed minimizes the delay before the browser can start rendering the page. It improves the FCP score & also enhances interactivity, making for a smoother & faster user experience.

Optimize for FCP & Enhance Loading Speed With Quattr

Optimizing your website for a good First Contentful Paint score is crucial for enhancing user experience & retaining visitors. Following the best practices, you can significantly improve your website's loading speed. They offer a pathway to meet & exceed user expectations for swift & responsive web pages.

With tools like Quattr available to assist, achieving and maintaining a good FCP score becomes an attainable goal. Quattr identifies performance issues & offers actionable insights & automated optimizations.

This approach targets FCP improvements & also addresses the broader spectrum of web performance metrics. By leveraging Quattr's capabilities, web developers & digital marketers can surpass the common hurdles of page speed optimization, offering users a significantly improved browsing experience.

Improve Page Loading Speed At Scale Using Quattr!

Get Started

First Contentful Paint FAQs

Is First Contentful Paint the only metric that matters for page speed?

While First Contentful Paint (FCP) is a crucial metric for measuring page speed, it's not the only one that matters. Other metrics like Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), Total Blocking Time (TBT), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) provide valuable insights into different aspects of user experience and performance. Focusing solely on FCP might overlook critical factors impacting page speed & user satisfaction.

What elements are considered in FCP measurement?

In FCP measurement, the primary focus is on the rendering time of the first text or image content. It includes visible text, SVGs, and non-white canvas elements, excluding backgrounds, blank spaces, or unstyled text.

How do mobile and desktop FCP differ?

Mobile and desktop FCP differ primarily due to hardware, network conditions, and rendering capabilities. Mobile FCP tends to be slower due to limited processing power & variable network speeds, often requiring optimized designs & resource prioritization. Desktop FCP benefits from higher computing power & consistent network connections, resulting in faster rendering times & smoother user experiences.

How often should I monitor FCP?

Monitoring FCP regularly is crucial for optimal website performance. Aim for daily checks to detect any issues promptly & ensure a smooth user experience. Regular monitoring helps identify trends, anomalies, and areas for improvement, enhancing overall site speed & user satisfaction.

About The Author

Saket Mittal

Saket Mittal is a Marketing Analyst at Quattr and helps drive traffic to the website by improving user experience. He is a an expert Quattr platform user and takes charge in improving product experience and conversions. Saket writes about content marketing, website optimization, and expert tips on how to use Google Search Console for content SEO.

About Quattr

Quattr is an innovative and fast-growing venture-backed company based in Palo Alto, California USA. We are a Delaware corporation that has raised over $7M in venture capital. Quattr's AI-first platform evaluates like search engines to find opportunities across content, experience, and discoverability. A team of growth concierge analyze your data and recommends the top improvements to make for faster organic traffic growth. Growth-driven brands trust Quattr and are seeing sustained traffic growth.

Try Content AI Free Tools for SEO and Marketing

No items found.

Ready to see how Quattr
can help your brand?

Try our growth engine for free with a test drive.

Our AI SEO platform will analyze your website and provide you with insights on the top opportunities for your site across content, experience, and discoverability metrics that are actionable and personalized to your brand.