Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): What It Is & How to Optimize Your Website for It

Every web page is made up of dozens or hundreds of elements. Among them you’ll find text, images, buttons, widgets, and much more. Each element varies in size, and the largest ones call tell you a lot about how well optimized your website is – via a metric called Largest Contentful Paint (LCP).

In this article, we’ll explain the concept of LCP. We’ll also show you how to measure this data point and interpret the results. Finally, we’ll discuss how to optimize your LCP score. Let’s get to work!

What Is Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)?

On most web pages, there’s one element that stands out from the rest due to its size and prominence. Consider this landing page, for example, where the hero section dominates the viewport:

An example of a Divi landing page

That hero section represents the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) for this particular page. That is to say, it’s the largest element that will render immediately when a user visits the URL.

If you wanted to find out the LCP for this page, you’d need to measure how long the hero section takes to load. In theory, if you have a low LCP score, it means your website is well optimized and loads quickly for users.

It’s important to understand that an LCP score can be different from your site’s overall loading time. You may have a page that takes three seconds to load in full, but its LCP might be only 2.5 seconds. That’s because most modern websites also load scripts on top of text and media files.

Usually, LCP goes hand in hand with First Contentful Paint (FCP). This is a metric that tells you how long it takes for the first element to render when someone accesses your website. When combined, those metrics (or Google’s Core Web Vitals) give you a much better insight into your website’s performance than overall loading time does.

Keep in mind that when measuring your site’s LCP, Google doesn’t look at everything. It will ignore elements such as Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) files and videos, since they are almost always the “biggest” elements on any page.

How to Measure LCP

Usually, it’s easy enough to determine what the “biggest” element on any web page is. All you have to do is wait for the page to load fully and take a look around. In most cases, there’s one section or element that stands out above the rest.

The real trick lies in measuring how long that element takes to load. Fortunately, if you’ve ever used a tool or service that enables you to measure loading times, chances are that it also includes detailed metrics such as FCP and LCP scores.

Consider PageSpeed Insights, for example. You can enter any URL and the service will conduct a full performance test for that page. In the results, you’ll see an overall performance score. There will also be a breakdown of other metrics under the Field data section – including LCP:

A PageSpeed Insights results screen

PageSpeed Insights collects real-life performance data from multiple users, and uses it to provide you with aggregate scores over time. That approach is much more precise than using a single test to determine your website’s performance.

Moreover, you get a percentage breakdown for each score. In the above example, we can see that 89% of page loads happen in under 1.5 seconds, which is a fantastic score. However, the remaining 11% of page loads fall outside of that range. This means that for some users the LCP takes a lot longer to resolve.

It’s important to understand that even if your website is well optimized, loading times will vary across your user base. Some visitors might have slow internet connections or be too far away from your servers. Those are just two of many reasons why loading times might be higher in some cases. This is why having an average score to reference is crucial.

If you scroll further down the PageSpeed Insights results page, you’ll encounter the Experiment data section. Here Google provides you with the precise results for the test it just ran on your page:

PageSpeed Insights experiment data

PageSpeed Insights uses this experiment data to provide you with the overall score that you see at the beginning of the results. Experiment data doesn’t provide as full a picture as the aggregate field information. However, it still gives you a pretty good idea of your website’s performance.

Ideally, your LCP score should be below 2.5 seconds. The lower it is, the better, as your overall loading times should stay under 3 seconds for best results. After that point, you’ll usually start seeing a marked increase in bounce rates.

In our experience, PageSpeed Insights is the best tool you can use to measure LCP and overall loading times. However, you can also access the same information if you set up Search Console for your website, which we definitely recommend for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) purposes.

If you want to look outside of Google, you can also measure LCP times manually using your browser’s dev tools. Most dev tool kits enable you to measure page loading times, offering details on how long it takes to load each element and process each request. However, this manual approach involves a lot more work than using a third-party service.

How to Optimize Your LCP Score

If you can identify the largest element on your page, you should be able to optimize it. For example, if that element is an image, you can always use a compression tool to reduce its file size and improve your LCP score.

However, that approach only works if your website isn’t well optimized. If you’ve already taken steps to improve your site’s performance, then you’ll need to consider different approaches to optimize its LCP scores.

In our experience, here are the most effective optimizations you can make to improve your website’s LCP scores:

  • Resize and compress images. In most cases, images will determine your LCP scores. As a rule of thumb, you should resize and optimize every image that you upload to your website.
  • Choose a better hosting service. If you’ve worked hard to optimize your website and it’s still taking too long to load, it’s probably due to your web host. You might be using a plan that can’t keep up with your site’s popularity, or your web host might not offer the performance you need.
  • Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN). CDNs can cache copies of your website on server clusters around the world and serve them to visitors. Some CDNs also offer image-specific services, which can help reduce LCP scores immensely.
  • Eliminate render-blocking scripts. A script is “render-blocking” if it stops elements on your website from loading until after it executes. As a rule of thumb, you want to eliminate scripts that do this or force them to run after everything else is done loading.

By and large, all of those optimization methods are standard recommendations if you’re working on improving your website’s performance in any way. If you take the time to optimize your website, your LCP scores should go down accordingly, and your users will be all the happier for it.

Frequently Asked Questions About Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

Understanding a concept like LCP is less intuitive than making sense of a single overall loading time for your page. With that in mind, here are some of the most frequently asked questions that we see concerning LCP scores.

How Does LCP Fit into My Website’s Overall Performance?

When measuring your website’s performance, a single overall loading time won’t give you an accurate idea of how well optimized your pages are. Focusing on specific metrics such as LCP gives you a much better insight into how your servers are responding. It also tells you how long it takes for users to see your website in full.

Is LCP the Same as Page Loading Time?

It’s common for website owners to test their pages and see how long each one takes to load. Some performance measuring tools give you a single number and nothing else. However, individual metrics such as LCP help you get a better understanding of what actually happens when a user visits your website.

What Are Other Core Web Vitals Beyond LCP?

The Core Web Vitals are metrics that Google takes into consideration when trying to determine if a website offers a strong User Experience (UX). LCP is just one of those vitals – others include First Input Delay (FID) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

Conclusion

When assessing your website’s performance, it’s best not to focus on a single number, such as how long it takes your home page to load. Instead, you’ll want to pay attention to more specific metrics such as LCP.

Each page’s LCP gives you an idea of how long visitors have to wait until the page loads enough for them to make sense of it. Even then, they might have to wait longer until it becomes interactive. FCP is a single piece of the puzzle. However, by optimizing this score you can offer a much better UX on your website.

Do you have any questions about how to measure or improve LCP scores for your website? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!

Featured Image via NeMaria / shutterstock.com

The post Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): What It Is & How to Optimize Your Website for It appeared first on Elegant Themes Blog.

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