How To Reduce or Fix Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) Issue in WordPress

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LCP measures the time from when the user initiates loading the page until the largest image or text block is rendered within the viewport.

It’s ranked as “Good”, “Needs Improvement” or “Poor” scores, respectively represented by green, yellow, and red colors. These are the labels that appear on Search Console.

To get an LCP “Good” label, it should load within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading. The threshold to measure for this metric is the 75th percentile of page loads, segmented across mobile and desktop devices.

lcp

How to check LCP

Always strive for Core Web Vitals field data(live users), even if you are a small site, as Search Console Core Web Vitals data may take a while or be delayed.

Cloudflare offers free Core Web Vitals Analytics.

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Core Web Vitals Field Data – Cloudflare Web Analytics

For testing LCP lab data use Pagespeed or Webpagetest.org.

How to optimize your LCP in Wordpress

Optimizing LCP is making sure the LCP asset loads early. For that, you can use browser or server-side(TTFB) optimizations so that either the browser or the server(site) finds and loads it earlier.

Wordpress Core has now a dedicated Wordpress Performance Team. If you’re either using a classic, a block theme, or even a page builder, you are reaping the speed enhancements of the Wordpress Performance Team, if you keep Wordpress updated.

Nitropack, Perfmatters, and Wp Rocket are plugins proven to improve LCP.

Boost priority with FetchPriority

Impact: 38% of Improvement. FetchPriority is a new HTML attribute code that improves the loading priority of elements. Use it to load the LCP image(works best with background image) or other above-the-fold elements early. Perfmatters currently offers this feature.

Add fetchpriority="high" on above-the-fold elements. For fetchpriority to work, the elements need to be discovered early, therefore, make sure they are preloaded. Use fetchpriority only if your image isn’t dynamically added to the page.

Use Preload

Impact: Medium. Use the preload HTML tag to tell the browser to discover elements early. You can use preload with Perfmatters or code.

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The preload tag allows you to inform the browser about critical resources that are “late-discovered”. As for background images, use preload and fetch priority, as they are later discovered by the browser.

Perfmatters offers both preload and fetchpriority with a friendly interface.

Perfmatter’s “Preload Critical Images” beta feature automatically preloads the number of leading images that you choose (from 0 to 5).

Delay, Defer, or inline render-blocking JavaScript

Impact: Varies. Delaying or deferring non-essential javascript can make the LCP load earlier if the Javascript loads before the LCP(in most cases). Inline essential javascript(small amount), can make it also the LCP appear early. 

This technique requires advanced testing as your website may not be compatible with this approach and will produce errors.

Setup Critical CSS

Impact: Varies. Consider a Critical CSS plugin to load the essential CSS before any assets. WP Rocket offers a Critical CSS and a Remove Unused CSS feature alongside many other Core Web Vitals optimizations.

Jetpack recently launched the Jetpack Boost plugin for free and it generates Critical CSS for the homepage, posts, and pages.

Remove unused CSS

Impact: Varies. Removing unused CSS can lead to LCP load sooner. To remove unused CSS from WordPress, use Asset Cleanup, Perfmatters, or Wp Rocket.

The “Remove Unused CSS” feature strips unused CSS but may cause issues, especially with page-builder plugins. What defines the plugin/solution you will use may depend on your theme. The remaining options, Asset Cleanup and Perfmatters may only have the interface as a differential.

Only remove 100% unused CSS files after clicking and interacting with all elements on the page.

Host Google Fonts locally

Your theme may be using Google Fonts to load fonts on your website, and they are probably slowing down the speed. Host them on your site(locally) using Perfmatters.

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Disable Combine CSS or JS

If you’re using a page builder and a caching plugin, you may have enabled the Combine JS or CSS feature. Although this feature can improve the loading in the desktop version, it may make the TTFB metric worse on mobile, causing the LCP to load later.

On slow device connections(3G), the impact on LCP will be worse as the network will delay parsing the elements.

Switch to leaner HTML elements

Impact: High. If you’re using a slider in the header or a large image, switch to a CSS background color(gradient color) or an animated CSS background. It can also reduce the CLS, as sliders may cause them.

Use a smaller(in file size) image or element for the mobile viewport. Consider removing the slider from loading only on mobile, and using an image instead.

If you’re using a background image, switch to an inline image and improve the LCP in many seconds. Sliders can cause the page to not pass the mobile-friendly test, which is part of the Page Experience Google algorithm.

Use a blurry placeholder technique for loading dynamic javascript elements or large images, reserving space for them until they appear.

Consider a CSS-only element to reduce the amount of loading time for the LCP.

Use CDN for images and SVGs

Impact: Medium. CDN(Content Delivery Network), loads the images from distributed servers around the world to speed up the load time. We have a list of free image CDNs and the fastest WordPress CDNs.

Use Cloudflare APO

Impact: Low to High. Cloudflare currently offers Automatic Platform Optimizations (APO) for 5$ USD/month, and it caches the HTML of Wordpress to improve the TTFB(time to first byte). Cloudflare APO is compatible with WP Rocket and many other plugins.

You can also improve your TTFB by choosing a hosting with good TTFB field data. TTFB has a large impact on the LCP metric.

Improve icon font loading or switch icons to SVG

Impact: Low. To improve font loading and LCP, go to your website, look for all the icons used on the pages, and note each class name down. Load only the necessary classes on the font icon css file now. Font Awesome has a cheat sheet listing all icon assets’ class name

Fontello lets you build a css and font files by choosing only the necessary icons from various icon types, such as Font Awesome, Typicons, Entypo, and many more.

You should have a reminder that for adding new icons, it will need to be manual. 

Limit access from users with bad Core Web Vitals

Impact: High. Core Web Vitals are global, not deferred by country.

Limit access to a region where you’re failing Core Web Vitals. Install and set up Cloudflare Web Analytics. With the available data, you can define if some country contributes to lowering the Core Web Vitals. Install Cloudflare reverse-proxy CDN and block the region via firewall rules.

You should allow Google and other search engine crawlers to crawl your website through their bot crawlers. Crawlers can be from multiple locations. Please note this approach can also cause a reverse effect and worsen the metrics, as your blocked users may use a VPN with a lower speed to access the site.

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