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A Definitive Guide to Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

What is Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) & Fix LCP Issues At Scale To Provide A Good User Experience

By
Rick Bucich
Largest Contentful Paint

We are still seeing a lot of articles about performance. This is because Google puts a lot of emphasis on user experience and web page performance. Performance is no longer just about page load speeds, but rather how your users feel throughout your website’s journey.

Since the emphasis is on user experience, Google rolled out the Core Web Vitals algorithm update. This made user experience metrics key ranking factors. Largest Contentful Paint or LCP is one of those metrics.

Largest Contentful Paint metric measures the loading time of the largest visual element on a website. A significant parameter of Core Web Vitals, it aims to provide a positive user experience.

In this blog, we try to understand LCP as a Core Web Vitals metric and why you should focus on fixing LCP issues. Explore the tools that can help you and steps to optimize LCP scores for your web pages.

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What Is Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)?

Largest Contentful Paint or LCP is the time it takes for the largest visible content element (like a text block, hero image, or video) to fully render within the viewport.

It measures the time from when the page starts loading to when this largest element is fully visible, ensuring a good user experience by making the main content quickly accessible.

LCP is one of the Core Web Vitals metrics, along with Interaction to Next Paint (INP) and Cumulative Layout Shifts (CLS). Ensuring good performance in all these metrics is essential for an optimal user experience.

What Affects Largest Contentful Paint?

Understanding what affects your Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is essential to optimize your web pages for better LCP scores. There might be anything taking up a lot of space, such as built-in media players that slow down a website, slides of unoptimized images, social media buttons, or even widgets such as the login, a newsletter sign-up form, and more. The Largest Contentful Paint or LCP is affected mainly because of the four factors:

1. Slow Server Response Time: A sluggish server response time has a detrimental influence on all your loading speed KPIs and is an apparent cause of bad Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) score.

Slow server response times are frequently the consequence of issues with your back-end architecture, unoptimized database queries, or API replies that take a long time to resolve – all occurring in the background of your site.

The first step in improving this is ensuring your website is hosted on a reliable server.

2. Render-Blocking JavaScript and CSS: Although personalizing your website is a terrific way to make it stand out, using JavaScript and CSS to enhance your site's theme and content will, regrettably, influence on its loading time.

For your users' benefit and to improve Largest Contentful Paint score, it's often best to stick to a less "heavy" site design and decrease the number of plugins you have, especially above-the-fold plugins.

3. Client Side Rendering: Client-side rendering (or simply rendering web pages in the browser with JavaScript) is a common web development technique.

Nevertheless, it requires a significant amount of back and forth for the browser to gather and load the JavaScript before generating the main content and adding waiting for your user.

If you rely on client-side rendering, you should consider this when working on improving your Largest Contentful Paint score.

4. Slow Resource Load Time: Large resources or visually appealing information on a website will always take a long time to load.

If you have a lot of unoptimized high-quality photos, GIFs, and text boxes above the fold, your LCP will suffer.

Largest Contentful Paint v/s Other Rendering Metrics

Largest Contentful Paint is a rendering measure that records the exact instant that a certain area of a web page is drawn in the user's browser. While Google chooses to incorporate LCP in its ranking algorithm, there are additional rendering metrics you may improve for your website:

1. First Contentful Paint marks the time between the start of the loading process and the rendering of any part of the page's content

2. DOMContentLoaded fires when the initial HTML has been fully loaded and parsed. The difference between DCL and load is that external resources like pictures don’t need to be loaded for the DCL to occur.

3. Load Event fires when the whole page has been loaded, including all dependent resources such as stylesheets and images.

While all of these measures can be helpful for optimizing your site, they aren't the ideal alternatives for measuring how quickly the major content of a page loads and becomes accessible to consumers.

Why Is Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) Important?

Largest Contentful Paint is one of the indicators used by Google for search engine ranking as part of the Core Web Vitals. Not only that, but an ideal LCP score ensures that your website's perceived loading time is quick enough to keep visitors from leaving.

Let us explore five reasons why a strong Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) score is vital for your site, including how it may make your web pages more visible to your intended audience.

1. LCP was invented and recommended as a metric by Google.

Since the Largest Contentful Paint is a Google creation, neglecting it significantly impacts all developers and site owners. LCP was introduced in 2020 by Lighthouse as a part of Google's Core Web Vitals update and was integrated into the ranking algorithm in June 2021. LCP contributes 25% of the Performance Score as a Core Web Vital measure, making it one of the most critical metrics to improve.

2. Rankings are affected by site loading speed.

When it comes to technical SEO, Google has frequently underlined the significance of online performance, especially on mobile. It has also been suggested that it is one of the signals used by the search engine's algorithm to rank websites.

Because Google now uses the Largest Contentful Paint to determine how long it takes for the content to display on the screen instead of just starting to load. This can affect how well sites rank on Google. Therefore, developers and website owners should make it a point to keep their LCP under 2.5 seconds.

3. Page Crawling is hampered by slow loading.

You may gain a more precise idea of the load time of your web pages by using the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) reporting. It might reveal any areas requiring improvement to lower your LCP.

Optimizing loading time is critical since it restricts the number of web pages a search engine can crawl at once, affecting your indexation. It will directly impact how highly your site ranks in search engine results pages.

4. User experience and search engine optimization.

Google has algorithms that rank your web pages based on their delightfulness. Fundamentally, search engines do not want to rank websites that are sluggish to load and difficult to navigate at the top of their search results.

Undoubtedly, faster website loading times result in a better user experience. As a result, a decent Largest Contentful Paint is a direct component in deciding how attractive your website is and if people will enjoy browsing your pages. People that have a positive experience on your website are more likely to convert.

5. Visitors value content.

Because the LCP measure prioritizes content in the user experience, enhancing it might help you strengthen your domain authority. As a result, it demonstrates to the search engine that you are a valuable and reliable source that deserves to rank higher on SERPs.

Since Largest Contentful Paint is concerned with the loading speed of the page's primary content, it guarantees visitors a positive experience while accessing and viewing it. It implies that optimizing your LCP and page speeds will influence user experience and, as a result, how users interact with your content.

What Is A Good LCP Score?

Largest Contentful Paint is a metric that is represented by a time. Higher the time, slower the page load.

According to Google, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of the first time the page loads. Any value greater than 4 seconds is considered poor.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) Core Web Vitals metrics
LCP Core Web Vitals Metrics

It is essential to constantly monitor this metric in order to keep load times below 2.5 seconds. In the case of a negative variation, resulting in an increase in time, the cause must be investigated and action taken.

Tools that can Help Measure Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

You can measure LCP in two ways:

1. Directly on the site. (field test)

2. Or through performance simulations performed by algorithms. (lab test)

Various tools speed up the work and make measurements more accurate for each of these methods. All of the tools suggested below are free and can help measure LCP scores for your web pages.

Measure Largest Contentful Paint with Field Tool Methods

Field tools collect data from real users as they interact with your website in their natural environments. This data reflects actual user experiences, providing highly relevant insights for making improvements that benefit your users directly. Let us look at the tools for measuring LCP in the field.

1. Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX) data represents the web experience of real-world Chrome users and can be accessed via API. Follow the steps to measure LCP using the CrUX report.

 1. Go to Google Cloud Platform and enable the CrUX API.

 2. Request data for your website using the API.

 3. Download and analyze the data to see LCP and other Core Web Vitals metrics.

 4. Identify and address any LCP issues based on the insights from the data.

Using this method allows developers and webmasters to gain insight into how users are experiencing the pages. Based on the same you can improve each Core Web Vitals metric and fix any LCP issues identified.

2. Page Speed Insights (PSI) can help you find out which element is the largest on your page. Follow the steps to measure LCP using the PSI report.

 1. Visit the PageSpeed Insights website.

 2. Enter your website URL and click "Analyze."

 3. Review the report, focusing on the "Diagnostics" section to see which element triggers the LCP metric.

 4. Follow the specific recommendations provided to improve your LCP score.

3. Search Console (Core Web Vitals report) is based on real-world user data. It displays a chart for both mobile and desktop platforms that indicates how many pages are good, need improvement, and poor in page experience scores. To measure LCP using the Google search console, follow the steps:

 1. Open Google Search Console and navigate to the Core Web Vitals report.

 2. Review the charts for both mobile and desktop platforms.

 3. Click on the URLs listed to see detailed scores and identify which pages need improvement.

 4. Use PageSpeed Insights to get specific suggestions for improving the LCP of those pages.

Measure Largest Contentful Paint with Lab Tools

Lab tools simulate user interactions in a controlled environment, allowing you to test and diagnose performance issues before they affect real users. These tools provide detailed insights and controlled conditions to help pinpoint specific problems. Let us look at the tools for measuring LCP in the lab.

1. Chrome DevTools: Just go to the page you want to test an LCP score for. Then right-click to open the “Inspect” panel, find “Performance”, and refresh the page. After reloading, you will see all the metrics in action on the page. The recording will show both the First Contentful Paint and Largest Contentful Paint.

2. Lighthouse analyzes the web performance of a page and generates a report containing metrics and suggestions for improving them. Follow the steps to measure the LCP using Lighthouse:

 1. Open the webpage you want to test in Chrome.

 2. Right-click on the page and select “Inspect” to open DevTools.

 3. Go to the “Lighthouse” tab in DevTools.

 4. Click “Generate report” to start the analysis.

 5. Review the Lighthouse report for LCP score and follow the suggestions for improvement.

3. WebPageTest is a free web-based tool that measures LCP. It uses the lab method to simulate different scenarios and record their results. It offers more detailed information about the page like DOMContentLoaded, time spent on each object, and total time spent loading the page. This can help further optimize your site for speed.

 1. Go to the WebPageTest website.

 2. Enter your website URL and configure the test settings (e.g., browser, location).

 3. Click “Start Test” to initiate the performance test.

 4. Wait for the test to complete and review the detailed results, focusing on the LCP time and other performance metrics.

 5. Use the insights from the results to identify and fix issues that affect your LCP score.

LCP is a Google-created metric, we can readily discover it in all of these tools. It enables the use of a Largest Contentful Paint test as necessary, as well as ongoing monitoring of the results.

How to Optimize Web Pages for LCP & Fix LCP Issues?

As you have seen, your LCP score is critical to the overall performance of your website. With this in mind, let us look at ten practical techniques to boost your website's score and make it load more quicker.

1. Using a CDN

To improve the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) and potentially the user experience, a content delivery network (CDN) is a great tool to optimize website traffic management. 

CDNs can help reduce network load by balancing the user requests over multiple servers rather than queuing them up on the origin server. It can result in a faster LCP score and improved user experience. Additionally, larger sites that receive more traffic may want to consider using a CDN for their website.

Image CDNs can also further improve website speed by optimizing the transformation and size of images in real time. These can be beneficial for websites that are rich in media content. Setting up a CDN depends on your hosting provider and can be done quickly and easily.

2. Image Optimization

Optimizing images is a great way to improve Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) performance. To reduce a website's loading time, you should compress and resize their images, convert images into a new format, use responsive images, exclude the LCP element from lazy-loading, and use a static image instead of a slider.

Google recommends that images be converted to the WebP format for optimal performance. Additionally, responsive images should be used for desktop and mobile, as each device's image size should differ. Lastly, it's best to avoid using a slider because it can be too heavy to load due to code.

By optimizing images, users can address Page Speed Insights audits such as “Serve images in next-gen formats,” “Properly size images,” “Efficiently encode images,” and “Avoid enormous network payloads.” Optimizing images effectively boosts the Largest Contentful Paint performance and, ultimately, the user experience.

Read our guide on Image Optimization for Web & SEO for more.

3. Improve Server Response Time

Improving server response time is one of the key ways to optimize the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) score. This can be done by implementing server-side caching, upgrading server specifications, and optimizing application code. For WordPress websites, plugins such as WP-DBManager can help reduce bloats and schedule automatic cleanups. By taking these steps, web owners can ensure faster page loading times and improved user experience.

4. Fix Lazy Loading Issues

Lazy loading effectively reduces page loading time; however, it can sometimes worsen the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) score. The LCP score measures the time taken for the main content of a page to render. If a website's images follow lazy loading behavior, it can lead to a lower LCP score. 

To fix this issue, hero or featured images should be tagged with the attribute loading="eager," which allows the image element to render immediately without waiting for users to scroll down. Additionally, you can disable lazy loading on images rendered above the fold so browsers can load them without executing JavaScript beforehand.

5. Enable Caching

Page loading time is one of the most important aspects of website performance. Long loading time can negatively impact user experience and directly affect search rankings.

Caching is an effective way to reduce page loading time and improve LCP. Caching involves storing static web page components in temporary storage, which saves the server from reconstructing it each time a user visits the page. 

There are two main caching methods – server-side caching and browser caching. Server-side caching involves storing a pre-made web page version on the origin server, while browser caching lets visitors keep components in their local storage. By leveraging both caching methods, users can avoid downloading the same data whenever they visit your site.

6. Use a Reliable Web Hosting Provider

The hosting quality can impact the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) score. Hosting platforms have various features that can improve the user experience and simplify web management. Good hosting is properly configured to ensure your website has the best speed and performance, which can significantly affect the LCP. Therefore, it is essential to select an appropriate hosting plan that meets the needs of your website. Doing so can help minimize the load time and improve the website's overall performance.

7. Eliminate Render-Blocking JavaScript and CSS

Render-blocking resources are typically found in CSS and JavaScript files and can cause elements on a page to load slower, resulting in a poor online experience. 

To improve core web vitals and reduce bounce rate, it is essential to eliminate render-blocking CSS and JavaScript. This is known as progressive loading and can be achieved with the help of specific plugins. Lab tools can also suggest which non-critical CSS or JS files should be removed for improved performance.

8. Minify JavaScript, CSS, and HTML Files

Minification is a method of lowering file size that mostly involves eliminating lines of code within the file. It is one of the most frequent file optimization techniques for improving your LCP metric.

Specific fundamental files, such as CSS, JavaScript, and HTML, may have numerous unneeded white spaces inside the code, increasing their size. Even though they may not appear substantial separately, they might harm site performance when combined.

Web admins may manually minify CSS, HTML, and JavaScript files or use plugins.

9. Compress Text Resources

To optimize the transfer process of text resources like CSS, HTML, and JavaScript, minification and compressing can be great options. GZIP compression is a popular choice for text compression, and it falls into the lossless category, meaning the original file and its information will be preserved. You can easily enable GZip compression on your website.

Additionally, some web hosting companies offer GZIP compression as part of their services. Compressing your text resources can reduce their file size and make your website more efficient, resulting in a better LCP score.

10. Defer Parsing of JavaScript

People want web pages to load quickly and efficiently, and Defer Parsing of JavaScript is a method that helps to achieve this. This technique involves delaying the processing of non-essential JavaScript code on a page and enabling the browser to prioritize loading the essential page content first. 

Defer Parsing of JS can drastically improve page load speed and, consequently, user experience and help optimize the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) metric. To defer parsing of JavaScript, you can manually modify the function.php file or use external tools.

Improve User Experience & Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) with Quattr

The current process of optimizing web pages for LCP only allows you to optimize the scores for one web page at a time. This can be a challenge if you have a website with thousands of web pages. Existing tools do not allow you to optimize and track your LCP across your entire website.

The Quattr platform addresses the shortcomings of the current process and helps you optimize your site to improve overall page experience and LCP Scores. You can use Quattr to view LCP scores for each page of your website all at once and filter pages based on whether the LCP score is Good, Needs Improvement, or Poor. Quattr also lets you compare LCP, and other Core Web Vital scores against your competitors in one view.

Check Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), FID, and CLS scores for competitors and evaluate overall Page Experience.
Compare Core Web Vitals against your competitors in Quattr

With Quattr, you can scale and optimize render-blocking resources for multiple pages. The Usability Recommendations dashboard in Quattr gives you a list of prioritized recommendations and performance improvements you can make across your entire site.

Usability Recommendations by the Quattr Platform for Largest Contentful Paint
Usability Recommendations by the Quattr Platform

This list is ranked based on what key pages you should focus on and aligns optimization efforts with business metrics like clicks and conversions so that you can measure the benefits of your efforts.

Continue Optimize Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP is a great metric to understand how well your page is performing. It can help you understand how fast your website loads and how well it performs on different devices. The above guide helps you understand what affects LCP and how to fix LCP issues.

While the current optimization tools allow you to improve LCP scores on a page level, you can scale your efforts with Quattr.

You may also want to check out our guide on how to improve Core Web Vitals metrics and how to improve website page speed.

Optimize Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) Scores with Quattr today!

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Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) FAQs

What is Largest Contnetful Paint?

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is a metric used to measure the loading performance of a webpage. It is a timing metric that measures when the main content of a page has finished loading and provides information about how quickly the page's main content is being displayed.

How to Measure LCP Scores?

LCP scores are measured using tools such as Chrome's Lighthouse, Pagespeed Insights, and WebPageTest. These tools measure how long the page's main content is to render. They also provide information about the page's loading performance by measuring factors such as the time for the initial server response, time for the first byte, and time for the page to load. The higher the LCP score, the better the page's loading performance.

How to Improve LCP?

To improve LCP, webmasters should optimize webpages for speed, reduce page size by compressing and resizing images, minifying and combining files, and caching static content. Additionally, webmasters should keep an eye on render-blocking resources, reduce JavaScript execution and prioritize visible content. Lastly, optimizing server response time is also essential.

How to Optimize LCP for Mobile?

To optimize LCP for mobile, webmasters should ensure that the page is optimized for mobile devices, ensure the page is responsive, reduce page size and the number of HTTP requests, and improve the speed of external resources. Additionally, webmasters should prioritize visible content, enable preloading and pre-rendering, reduce render-blocking resources, and minimize the use of JavaScript.

About The Author

Rick Bucich

Rick got involved in SEO by accident 20 years ago while working at a small startup. He has 10+ years of experience in SEO and translates it into actionable recommendations. Rick writes about how to optimize and enhance websites for search engines.

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.

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