WordPress has announced to release its new version in August 2023. The Beta version, released for testing, is already making waves. The global WordPress community (developers and website owners alike) is eagerly awaiting the new update.
Amongst all WordPress 6.3 new features, we want to focus on the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) update. This update aims to enhance user experience and improve the Core Web Vitals SEO scores for WP websites. To better understand the benefits of LCP, let’s dive into what it is and how it can boost your SEO.
Table of Contents
- I. What Is Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)?
- II. How WordPress 6.3 Improves LCP Performance
- III. How to Test and Optimize LCP Performance on WordPress
- IV. Conclusion
What Is Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)?
In simple words, Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is a metric that measures how long it takes the largest or main content to load. It is the time taken to render the LCP completely, making it ready for interactive use.
LCP is one of the three of Google’s Core Web Vitals metrics. The other two are Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) and First Input Delay (FID). As you can imagine, the LCP can be anything.
It can be:
- Text: They are usually block-level elements containing text nodes or inline-level text elements.
- Image: Any image, including elements inside an element or elements in an image.
- Video: Any video on the page.
- Background Image/Element: It is often an element with a background image.
Naturally, the main content or LCP will change from page to page. But the faster your LCP loads, the better. It essentially reassures the users that your webpage is working, and you can use it without hassle. And WordPress 6.3 is the most recent and significant update that brings several improvements to LCP performance.
How WordPress 6.3 “Lionel” Improves LCP Performance
The LCP time matters because it directly affects your user experience and search engine optimization (SEO). LCP is an excellent proxy to understand your website’s user experience. As you may already know, most users want the important elements on your site to load first. And LCP focuses on providing this value to your potential users.
On the other hand, LCP is one of Google’s trio of Core Web Vitals metrics. So, this has been a critical ranking factor since 2022. In other words, poor LCP time means your ranking will get affected. That’s why you need to focus on improving your LCP time.
Now let’s see how WordPress 6.3 improves LCP performance.
Fetchpriority HTML Attribute
Fetchpriority is an HTML attribute of webpages. This attribute tells the browser which webpage resources are to be downloaded faster to render the main content. This is the content in the users’ viewport. Viewport is the part of the webpage users can see without scrolling up or down.
WordPress 6.3 comes with a new feature that auto applies the fetchpriority attribute with a value of “high” to the image that’s most likely to be LCP. It is usually the largest image or content element in the viewport. It tells the browser to prioritize this image even before computing the layout. This can boost your LCP load time by 5%-10%.
But that’s not all. Fetchpriority comes with two unique features.
- First, the
fetchpriorityattribute applies to only images of minimum size threshold. That means it will not apply to small resources, improving overall LCP loading speed.
- Second, it will never override an existing
fetchpriorityattribute. So, if you already have one, the
fetchprioritywill honor that attribute.
Lazy Load Attribute
As mentioned before, your users need to see the main content in the viewport first. So, the necessary elements in the viewport should get downloaded as a priority. The browser doesn’t have to download the elements below the viewport.
Earlier, WordPress implemented the
lazy load attribute on all images on a webpage. Needless to say, it was not the best way to optimize page loading speed. But with WordPress 6.3, the
lazy load attribute won’t apply to critical images. As a result, they will load as fast as possible.
Plus, the WordPress 6.3 update has made adjustments to improve the automatic handling of lazy loading. And combined with the
fetchpriority attribute, the new lazy loading attribute further improves your website’s performance.
3) Reduced Need for Plugins and Themes
Yes, plugins and themes are necessary to create an appealing website. But some plugins and themes can also slow down your site. Fortunately, with WordPress 6.3 comes a new site editing experience. It allows you to customize your site’s layout, design, and content using blocks.
That, in turn, reduces the need for plugins and themes that can add extra code and requests to your website. This added code can slow down the performance of your site. Plus, you can preview block themes before activating them, which helps you choose the best one for your site.
4) Block Selectors API and Global Styles
WordPress 6.3 also comes with another unique feature. It introduces a new block selectors API that allows you (developers) to target specific blocks and apply styles to them.
This enables global styles, which remain consistent across the site, that you can customize. These features prevent layout shifts affecting LCP by ensuring that the blocks have consistent dimensions and positions. You can also access style revisions in the site editor, which allows you to undo or redo changes to your global styles.
How to Test and Optimize LCP Performance on WordPress
Now that you know how WordPress 6.3 improves LCP performance, let’s learn how to test and optimize it on your WordPress website.
How to Measure LCP Performance?
The first step, of course, is measuring your site’s LCP performance. You can find several tools, such as PageSpeed Insights, Lighthouse, and Chrome DevTools, to test your site’s LCP performance.
Here’re two of our favorite tools and how to use them:
This is perhaps the best tool to analyze your website’s LCP. And it’s super easy to use this tool. Here’s how you can use it.
Step 1: Go to https://pagespeed.web.dev/
Step 2: Enter your webpage URL
Step 3: Click Analyze
You will get results for both desktop and mobile sites. Make sure to check them both for a better understanding of your LCP. For detailed information, go to Diagnostics and expand the Largest Contentful Paint Element option.
PageSpeed Insights offers a few unique benefits.
- If your website has enough traffic, Google will show you LCP times with real users in the Chrome UX report.
- It will tell you which LCP element is getting tested. That helps in accurate optimization.
- It will provide you with suggestions to improve your LCP time.
- It allows you to run simulated tests. That helps you see how your site is performing.
Another excellent option you have is Chrome DevTools. You can use the Performance tab or the Lighthouse audit feature. But the former will give you a more detailed report.
Here’s how you can use the Performance tab.
Step 1: Open the page you want to test in Chrome
Step 2: Open Chrome Developer Tools
Step 3: Open the Performance tab
Step 4: Check the Web Vitals box
Step 5: Click the Reload button
You can see a complete analysis of your webpage in Chrome DevTools. You can go to different tabs and over the LCP to see more details.
How to Find The LCP Element On a Webpage?
Knowing which is your LCP is the first step in optimizing it. It can be anything, a hero image on your homepage or a large content block on your product page. The question is – how do you find your LCP?
Again, you can use PageSpeed Insights or Chrome Developer Tools to find the LCP on a webpage. But using PageSpeed Insights is much easier. Here’s how you do it:
Step 1: Go to https://pagespeed.web.dev/
Step2: Enter your webpage URL
Step 3: Click Analyze
Step 4: Go to Diagnostics
Step 5: Expand the Largest Contentful Paint element
Here, you will see your LCP element. However, it could be different for your mobile and desktop sites. So, make sure to check both tabs.
Best Practices to Optimize Your LCP Performance
While the new upgrade will take care of your LCP performance, there’s still a lot you can do to improve it further. Let’s talk about a few best practices to improve your LCP performance.
- Choose A Fast and Reliable Hosting Service
One of the first things you can do is to find a reliable and fast WordPress hosting provider. Remember, the quality of your web hosting will always affect your LCP loading times. Try to find a hosting service that can help you achieve less than 2.5-second LCP times. Here are a few hosting options to get you started.
- WP Engine
- Use A Lightweight and Responsive Theme
Another decisive factor in improving your LCP times is your theme. A carefully chosen WordPress theme gives your website the much-needed aesthetic appeal. But what is the point of aesthetics without the appropriate loading speed? If your theme is bogging your LCP time down, you need to change to a more lightweight and responsive one.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of such WordPress themes. You can find one that best fits your aesthetic and functional needs. Some of the lightweight and fast leading themes include:
- Use a Caching Plugin
Caching can improve your website’s server response time. Usually, a browser will take several steps to load a webpage. But caching makes it easy for returning visitors to access your website. Caching helps store data to serve your web pages faster.
For a WordPress website, you can use a caching plugin. WP Rocket, WP Super Cache, and W3 Total Cache are a few examples of caching plugins. You can choose a free or paid plugin based on your needs.
- Use A Content Delivery Network
The closer your site’s server is to your end users (website visitors), the faster it will load. But when that’s not the case, you will need to use a Content Delivery Network or CDN.
A CDN helps you distribute your site’s static assets to its global network. It allows your end users to download files from the nearest location of your CDN. This helps boost the download speed of your website. You can choose a reliable CDN if you already haven’t.
- Avoiding Unnecessary Plugins and Widgets
This is a no-brainer. The fewer plugins and widgets your website uses, the faster it can load. This can help boost your LCP times. Run a thorough audit of your website, check for obsolete plugins and widgets, and remove or update those plugins.
Before adding any plugin or widget, clearly define the purpose it serves on your website. Consider whether it’s crucial for enhancing user experience and functionality. Try to avoid adding it if it’s just for cosmetic purposes. Only include elements that align with your website’s goals.
Largest Contentful Paint or LCP is one of Google’s three critical Core Web Vitals. Your LCP times need to be as low as possible to ensure a seamless user experience.
Page speed may not be a major ranking factor for Google, but it matters a lot for your SEO performance. Faster pages can boost your user experience, reduce your bounce rate, and increase the organic traffic of your client’s website. And keeping that in mind, WordPress 6.3 update has made a few exciting changes.
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