Largest Contentful Paint: The Missing Ingredient of Your Marketing Strategy?

There are so many components to consider when we look at ranking a website. From keyword research to a wide variety of SEO factors there is a lot that you can take advantage of. One of the biggest factors that every website owner needs to consider, especially when it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the website speed, and specifically, page loading speed. As part of Google's regular adjustments to guarantee a better user experience, the latest metric, known as Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), came into force.

The focus of a user's experience is to ensure visitors are satisfied with what they find, which doesn't just include content but also encompasses the website's presentation and performance. Therefore, if a website doesn't provide a worthwhile user experience due to slow performance, the visitor is very likely going to leave. LCP became a vital ranking factor in 2021, so if you are not aware of this essential aspect, let's show you exactly how Largest Contentful Paint works, and how you can use it to improve your website's ranking.

What is Largest Contentful Paint?

Largest Contentful Paint is a measurement of how long it will take for the main content of a web page to download so the user can interact with it.

LCP consists of three events that coincide. Contentful means an HTML element that has content such as an image. The paint happens when a browser displays a new element. When a browser creates a webpage, the “paint” is repeated numerous times. The Largest part of the term measures the largest paint in the visible part of the web page. As a rule, Google will only consider the content above the fold of the webpage (everything that appears without needing to scroll up or down). However, this metric doesn't just consider the overall loading time, Largest Contentful Paint refers to the type of content, such as the following:

  • Images and image tags. 
  • Video thumbnails. 
  • Background images with CSS
  • Text elements, such as lists, paragraphs, and headings. 

Why Does LCP Matter?

This metric is considered by Google to be a crucial part of the Core Web Vitals, which means LCP is one of the most essential parameters evaluated by Google's algorithms to determine what is considered as valuable content and will rank highly as a result. In recent years, Google has focused on refining its evaluation parameters by integrating Core Web Vitals to ensure an enhanced experience for the user.

For any site to rank highly, it needs to achieve a good score in the eyes of the algorithm. This is a vital component of any SEO package so businesses can get to the core of what makes their website rank effectively. As Largest Contentful Paint relates to the loading time of a page, the lower the score, the faster the page will appear to load for a visitor.

As the user's experience is so crucial, this is why for any website creator or owner it is not enough to have sophisticated design, good content, or even worthwhile products. This is why having a good LCP score is so pivotal to the user experience. The better the user experience, the higher the content will rank.

Why Is LCP Measured?

Largest Contentful Paint was chosen as a vital metric for the Core Web Vitals score because it measures how fast a web page can load. Largest Contentful Paint shows up a number of errors with any website based on how fast the web page loads, and the slower the loading page response time, the less likely users are going to determine this as useful.

How Can You Measure LCP?

You can measure Largest Contentful Paint in two different ways:

  • Directly on the website, using a method known as “Field.”
  • Through performance simulations performed by the algorithms, also known as a “Lab Test.”

Whatever method you choose, certain tools can speed up the work to make the measurement more accurate. If you are using the “Field” method, you could use some of the following:

For those using “Lab” tools, you can use the following:

  • Chrome DevTools.
  • Lighthouse.
  • WebPageTest.

What Is a Good LCP Score?

When you are monitoring metrics, it is always beneficial to know what the minimum performance standards are. For a good LCP score, Google's algorithms demand a page loading time of up to 2.5 seconds. Between 2.5 seconds and 4.0 seconds means it needs improvement, and anything over 4.0 seconds is classed as poor. To guarantee you hit this target for your website's users, you need to measure the 75th percentile of page loads across all desktop and mobile devices. 

However, while having an understanding of the minimum requirements is essential, monitoring this metric is just as crucial. Ensuring that you measure the website loading speed is just as important as focusing on high-quality content. Many view content and products as the best approach to deliver a great service. But understanding how people interact with your website is so important. As it takes 0.05 seconds for a user to form an opinion about your website, you've got to be quick and provide an instant impact, which is why a great LCP is so crucial.

What Are the Elements for Largest Contentful Paint?

As specified in the Largest Contentful Paint API, the types of elements considered for LCP are as follows:

  • <img> elements.
  • <image> elements inside an <svg> element.
  • <video> elements.
  • An element with a background image loaded via the URL() function.
  • Block-level elements containing text nodes or other inline-level text elements.

How Is the Size of an Element Determined?

The size reported for Largest Contentful Paint is usually the size that is visible to the user. If the element goes outside of the viewport or is not visible, they do not count towards the size of the elements. If image elements are resized from their intrinsic size, the size reported that determines the score is going to be either the visible size or the intrinsic size, whichever is smaller.

How Do Images Impact LCP?

It's crucial to remember that images are not the only element that will influence the Largest Contentful Paint score. While images have a major bearing, and can impact the score negatively, in order to make sure that your images don't slow down the web page speed, you've got to guarantee that the files are compressed and of adequate size and make sure they are in formats such as WebP, JPEG, and PNG.

How Do You Optimize LCP?

To ensure that your web page is aligning with Google's metrics, learning how to optimize the Largest Contentful Paint is essential. When addressing what improves your website's presentation and performance, measurement should be a key part of your website maintenance routine. But focusing on optimization is just as important to your LCP score. The Largest Contentful Paint score is determined by four key factors: 

  • Resource load times.
  • Client-side rendering.
  • Slow server response times.
  • Render-blocking JavaScript and CSS.

Here are some simple ways to optimize your website for Largest Contentful Paint:

Choose a Reliable Hosting Service

The qualities of a great hosting service will have a seismic impact on the overall loading of the page, so it will also impact its loading time. Choosing a high-quality hosting service with a good reputation in the market while also offering a solid infrastructure of your website and volume of access is crucial. This simple component will go a long way to guarantee your LCP score stays above board.

Use an Image CDN

A Content Delivery Network service can help website images to load faster, and is something many businesses incorporate so they don't have to pay attention to the smaller details all the time. There are many tools out there that will take into account all the various factors of an image, such as the accessing device, user location, and file size.

Optimize the Size of the Images

It's so important to use the right size images for a good LCP score. Your hosting service will suggest certain dimensions for the mobile or desktop version of your site. When you use the indicated size, this will prevent overloading because overloading will generate a higher Largest Contentful Paint score, having a negative effect on your rankings.

Avoid JavaScript

JavaScript loading can slow down the loading process. The best approach is to disable it and let the browser do the work, which keeps the Largest Contentful Paint within the recommended average score.

What if the Largest Element Is Not the Most Important?

While as a rule, the largest element is considered the most important factor of your LCP score, there will be times when the most important element on the page is not the same as the largest element. This is where developers might be more interested in measuring the render times of the elements instead, which can be achieved with the Element Timing API.

Fast websites are not likely to provide a poor user experience. Because website speed is such an important component of any SEO strategy, the Largest Contentful Paint metric needs to be a key focus. Amazing content and wonderful services are all well and good, but if you ignore LCP, you are ignoring the most important Core Web Vital that will have a major impact on your abilities to rank. 

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