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By John Eberhard

Over the last year Google has significantly changed their criteria for ranking pages in their search engine. Page loading speed and usability factors have become primary considerations.

In my last article I was discussing the Largest Contentful Paint, one of the metrics that Google uses today to measure websites. This is part of what Google calls their Core Web Vitals. Since 2021 these Core Web Vitals have become a major thing to measure the user experience of a website. The three primary metrics of the Core Web Vitals are the Largest Contentful Paint, Cumulative Layout Shift, and First Input Delay.

The Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is the amount of time from when someone types in your URL and hits return, or when someone clicks on a link to your site, and when all the content loads that displays above the fold. This should be less than 2.5 seconds. If it’s more than that, it hurts your search engine ranking.

The types of things that can cause your LCP to be more than 2.5 seconds would be things like having large images or videos above the fold that take too long to load, or you may have a slow hosting server.

Some of the design factors that have been popular prior to the Core Web Vitals, such as large image slide shows or video backgrounds, now have to be used with care. The LCP score now has to be the top priority in deciding content.

You can measure your LCP score here:

https://gtmetrix.com/largest-contentful-paint.html

The Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures how much your site’s content “shifts” or “moves around” as it loads. If you’ve ever been on a site where you try to click on a button but that button moves, that sites is getting penalized for that. A good score should be 0.1 seconds or less.

The First Input Delay (FID) measures the time between when a user clicks a button or a link and when their browser can begin processing that event. 100ms or less is good.

Another metric is the Time To First Byte (TTFB). This is the amount of time from when a user requests a page, and the server – the computer where the files of your website are stored – responds and starts loading content. The TTFB should ideally be less than 200 ms. If it’s more than 600 ms, your site will be penalized in the search engine rankings.

What Is Most Important Here, and What If You Have a Bad Score

I think the most important of these metrics to be concerned about are the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), and the Time to First Byte (TTFB). Both are shown on that page above.

The first thing to look at if your LCP is above 2.5 seconds, is the content that loads above the fold. Do you have a slide show with large images, with say 8 or more slides? Do you have a background video at the top of your site that is longer than 30 seconds? You should test replacing those items on the site with one large static image and see how that affects your LCP score.

Another thing that will slow both your LCP and TTFB score is a slow hosting server. There are definitely hosting services that are faster and slower, so it’s smart to find out about that and pay attention to it.

Caching can speed up performance of your pages, both file based caching and what is called Memcaching, which stores frequently executed queries to your databases and then reuses them for better peformance. In WordPress there are plugins that will do this.

Another thing that helps with performance is “minifying” CSS and Javascript files, and combining them. Once again, in WordPress there are plugins that do this.

Good luck with your site loading speed.

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