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How to Build a Topic Cluster in 10 Minutes

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How to Build a Topic Cluster in 10 Minutes

How do you know an SEO is into topic clusters?

Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

Lots of SEOs seem to be raving about the benefits of topic clusters at the moment. But do topic clusters live up to the hype, or are they just another buzzword?

In this guide, you’ll learn the following:

Topic clusters are interlinked pages about a particular subject.

People often get confused by the name variations. If there’s one thing SEOs love to do, it’s to create multiple terms for the same thing:

Topic clusters, content hubs, pillar pages, hub and spoke. Whatever you call them, they are all essentially the same thing: topically grouped pages designed to cover a subject and rank.

Simply put, a topic cluster consists of three components:

  1. A page focused on a topic.
  2. A “cluster” of pages covering related subtopics in more depth.
  3. Internal linking between all of the pages.

If you nail those three elements, you have a topic cluster.

Most people’s first encounter with topic clusters is via this graphic from Hubspot that illustrates the setup of a cluster:

Infographic showing how topic clusters are arranged and how they link to the pillar content

Why do topic clusters matter for SEO?

Topic clusters help search engines better understand the hierarchy of your website. As such, they may help search engines see your site as an authority on a specific subject.

Basically, a topic cluster is just another way of laying out your website’s architecture.

However, it’s worth pointing out here that Google has never specifically said to use topic clusters or mentioned anything about their benefits. The closest SEOs get to an official comment on topic clusters is this part from Google’s Webmaster Guidelines:

Design your site to have a clear conceptual page hierarchy.

This is open to interpretation. Like most things in SEO, topic clusters are a framework created by SEOs (not Google) to help get stuff done.

Topic clusters are effective for SEO because they:

  • Group relevant content together so that it is easier to find (for users and search engines).
  • May help to build topical relevance/authority for your site by fully covering a topic.
  • Help to create relevant internal links naturally.

So what do topic clusters actually look like?

Three examples of topic clusters in the wild

Below you will find three examples of topic clusters across different niches.

If you want more examples, check out Kane Jamison’s awesome 30+ content hub examples or look through Ahrefs’ Beginner’s Guide to SEO for inspiration.

All these examples below have the ingredients of a good topic cluster:

  1. Page focused on a high-level topic (online courses, wines, workouts)
  2. Related subtopics that go into greater detail
  3. Internal linking between all of the pages

Example 1 – Podia’s guide to selling a profitable online course

Excerpt of Podia's guide; title on top and video below

This is a classic example of a topic cluster: one main page linking out to subpages (or chapters, in this case). Most of this content is evergreen, so the subpages don’t need to be updated too often.

The best way to think of this cluster is as a long-form guide split into bite-sized chunks. In fact, that’s how Podia described it:

8 lines, each summarizing a step; each line is linked to another article with more details

Example 2 – Wine Folly’s beginner’s guide to wine

Excerpt of Wine Folly's guide

This content cluster is another overview page linking to evergreen resources. But this time, it lists out many supporting articles (each grouped under a subtopic).

As compared to Podia, which split its cluster into chapters, Wine Folly chose to group its keywords under subtopics and even created supporting text for each:

Excerpt of guide. Pictures of grapes and wine in glasses on left; text on right

This format works really well when covering a large topic (like wine). There are lots of different subtopics and keywords with different intents, so it makes sense to split the content this way.

Example 3 – Muscle and Strength’s workout database

Excerpt of M&S' page about free workouts. Man is lifting weights in background image

This cluster is massive. It’s set up like a visual database made up of hundreds of pages that are sortable and filterable (to an extent).

Each page is labeled and grouped under a relevant category (e.g., Workouts For Men, Workouts For Women, Chest Workouts, etc.). And on the main page itself, you can immediately see what each category is about.

3 pictures of different programs side by side, corresponding text below

And it looks like it’s working in terms of SEO:

List of URLs with corresponding traffic

As you can see, there are different ways to build your topic clusters. The important thing is to pick the format you think will best display your content for Google and users.

How to create a topic cluster in 10 minutes

Most articles about building topic clusters look like this…

  • Step 1: Choose the topic you want to rank for
  • Step 2: Select your content clusters
  • Step 3: Review your existing content
  • Step 4: Link your content together
  • Step 5: Profit?

But this article is going to be a bit different.

The following guide will walk you through how to use free tools and Ahrefs to go from zero to a fully planned out topic cluster strategy in 10 minutes. Oh—and in a niche you know nothing about.

DISCLAIMER:

If you want to build a comprehensive topic cluster, there’s no substitute for doing proper research. But that’s not always possible due to a lack of budget or time. So treat this method as minimum viable niche research.

Let’s get started.

Step 1. Choose a topic (to build a cluster around)

You need to pick a topic before you can start building a cluster.

Whatever topic you pick, it needs to be tight enough so that it focuses on a single concept. But it also must be broad enough so that you’re not limiting the amount of content you can produce.

Don’t overcomplicate it. The key here is to start thinking in terms of topics and not just keywords.

Here are some criteria that will help you make good choices. Topics should:

  • Satisfy informational search intent.
  • Have search traffic potential (just don’t get hung up on search volume).
  • Be broad enough to generate subtopics.

Struggling for ideas? Head over to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, search for a niche-related term, and go to the Overview report.

You can now look at Keyword ideas for—well, keyword ideas. This is a good place to start picking a topic to build a cluster around.

Just don’t use terms that are too narrow here.

For example, if you drop in a keyword like “personal injury lawyer for prisoners,” the results are not useful for the purpose of building a topic cluster:

List of keyword ideas

However, if you go a bit broader and drop in the keyword “personal injury lawyer,” you’ll get some good terms:

List of keyword ideas on left; list of "question" searches on right

These terms (in the “Questions” section) fit our criteria: informational, search traffic potential, and broad.

However, the Terms match ideas are more like commercial investigation intent keywords. So we may want to go broader and use “lawyer” as a seed keyword instead.

Why?

Because I don’t think you’d use keywords such as “best personal injury lawyer” and “atlanta personal injury lawyer” to build a topic cluster—much less an informational topic cluster.

Here’s what we get using the seed keyword “lawyer” instead:

List of keyword ideas on left; list of "question" searches on right

Once more, these terms fit our three criteria (and our original term “personal injury lawyer“shows up again).

The key here is to pick a topic that has the potential to unlock more supporting topics. If you pick topics that are too narrow, you’ll not have enough keywords to choose from. Too broad and you’ll have to filter through many unrelated terms.

Step 2. Do topical keyword research with Wikipedia

In this section, we will walk through how to use Wikipedia to understand the common talking points of a topic so that you can do better, more informed keyword research.

But first: Why use Wikipedia, though?

Well, because it is the ultimate topic cluster. Every Wikipedia article fully covers a topic and interlinks between supporting subtopics—just like an SEO topic cluster does. Treat it as a guide for choosing topics to pursue.

For this example, let’s build a topic cluster around the topic “personal injury lawyer.”Why this one? It’s because I know absolutely nothing about this industry.

First up, see if there is a Wikipedia page for the topic, which there is.

Now look for subtopics on the page. You can look at the internal links to find indications of subtopics:

Wikipage on personal injury lawyer

If you want to dig a bit deeper, you can run the URL through Ahrefs’ Site Explorer. Once you’ve done so, head over to the Organic Keywords report and review the keywords it ranks for.

(Hint: look for informational keywords here.)

List of keywords with corresponding data

You can even repeat the process for all the internal links on the Wikipedia page, as these will typically be related subtopics.

Depending on the page/topic, you may have enough information to get started on building a topic cluster.

If you don’t, move on to the next section to find more subtopics.

Step 3. Find more subtopics (if you don’t have enough)

In this section, we will walk through how to dive deeper into a topic and get more actionable data for building topic clusters.

MissingTopics is a great free tool for finding the most important topics and entities on pages. It allows you to extract data from URLs, see common headings being used, and find topics missing from your content (which your competitors have).

Copy the Wikipedia page URL. Then run it through MissingTopics:

Text field to enter URL
  1. Go to Topics
  2. Paste in the Wikipedia URL you want to analyze
  3. Hit Submit

You’ll now have a list of (you guessed it) missing topics:

Topic results

Copy these and save them to your list. You’ll need to clean up the output a little (remove numbers, brackets, etc.). Also, make sure to review this output to find any generalized terms that may skew your results.

In this example, one of the topics is “united states,” which will obviously skew your results:

Results with outliers highlighted; for example, "united states"

Once the output is cleaned, you’ll have some additional seed keywords to use in Ahrefs.

Open up Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. Then paste in the missing topics as seed keywords.

From here, you’ve got a few different methods for finding a bunch of keywords, thanks to Ahrefs’ functionality.

Here are a few methods you can try:

Find high-volume “question” keywords:

Matching terms report results
  1. Toggle the Questions tab
  2. Select Terms match
  3. Set a minimum volume* 

Sidenote.

*Volume: Feel free to change this based on your topic/preference. Sometimes, you may need to set a minimum search volume for a client. Or maybe you only want to target keywords that get 100+ searches. Either way, update this accordingly or leave it blank. Do note that by default, Ahrefs sorts results by search volume.

Now you’ll have a list of question-based keywords with a minimum search volume for you to target. Combine this with the Terms filter, and you can quite easily start building out keyword-focused FAQ pages per term.

For example, filter by “tort,” and you’ll get enough keywords to build a useful informational post.

Matching terms report results filtered by "tort"

Find specific content formats

Matching terms report results with "Include" filter applied
  1. Toggle the All tab
  2. Select Terms match
  3. Add a modifier to the Include filter

By selecting a keyword modifier (“benefits” in the example above), you can drill down to find specific content formats.

Some modifiers to try:

  • Benefits
  • Tips
  • Best + Review
  • Examples
Matching terms report results with "SERP features" filter applied
  1. Toggle the All tab
  2. Select Terms match
  3. In “SERP features,” select Featured snippets

Given that featured snippets typically show up in informational search results, this can be a quick way to filter out the junk and get to the types of keywords that work well as informational content.

This method is also useful because it shows you informational terms, which you otherwise may have missed, outside of question-based keywords.

Step 4. Putting together a topic cluster plan

Now you should have a healthy list of keywords on a topic you previously didn’t know anything about.

You’ll probably have a bunch of keywords with similar meanings. So you’ll need to determine if you can target them all with one page or if you’ll need separate pages.

Group subtopics with similar intent

Here’s a quick method using Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer:

  1. Paste the keywords you want to compare into Keywords Explorer
  2. Go to Traffic share and select By page
  3. Look for pages ranking for multiple terms
  4. Click to examine and look at how much the SERPs overlap
Traffic share by pages report results

(I definitely didn’t steal this tip from Tim Soulo.)

Once you’ve worked out how many pages you need to create and what keywords to map to them, you’ve got to now create your clusters.

For this stage, you may need a bit more than 10 minutes.

My keyword research process didn’t take too long. It’ll likely be quicker than spending the next week cramming enough information about lawyers (or whatever unfamiliar topic you are researching).

Despite being unfamiliar with this topic, I found a good number of keywords to create content around. When you are working in niches you don’t have a working knowledge of, you don’t know what you don’t know.

That’s where this method can help.

Still have questions about topic clusters? You’ll like the final section:

Here are answers to a few common questions you may have about topic clusters:

Are “topic clusters,” “content hubs,” and “pillar pages” the same thing?

However you want to refer to them, topic clusters, content hubs, and pillar pages are all basically the same thing: a single place to house content around a specific topic.

What is a topic in SEO?

Google’s main goal is to give people the most relevant answers to their search queries as quickly as possible. As an SEO, your focus should be the same.

Instead of thinking about an article as one that focuses on a keyword, think of keywords as topics. You want to try and cover everything Google expects to see within that topic in your content.

How many pages should you have in a cluster?

Stock SEO answer time: It depends.

There is no minimum or maximum number of pages you should create per topic cluster. Scroll up to the topic cluster examples. Some of those have a handful of pages, while some have hundreds.

What you should do is create enough to cover the topic fully but not so many that you are potentially cannibalizing your rankings.

That’s why the last step of the process (grouping subtopics with similar intent) is important. You don’t want to be building a topic cluster full of keywords competing against themselves.

Final thoughts

There you have it: how to build a topic cluster using Wikipedia, Ahrefs, and some SEO brainpower.

Is this going to be the most comprehensive content hub? No. But it’s a starting point. And it only took 10 minutes, which is not bad considering we know nothing about the niche.

Got a question on topic clusters or content strategy? Tweet me.




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No Algorithmic Actions For Site Reputation Abuse Yet

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Looking up at an angle at the Google sign on the Head Office for Canada

Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, has confirmed that the search engine hasn’t launched algorithmic actions targeting site reputation abuse.

This clarification addresses speculation within the SEO community that recent traffic drops are related to Google’s previously announced policy update.

Sullivan Says No Update Rolled Out

Lily Ray, an SEO professional, shared a screenshot on Twitter showing a significant drop in traffic for the website Groupon starting on May 6.

Ray suggested this was evidence that Google had begun rolling out algorithmic penalties for sites violating the company’s site reputation abuse policy.

However, Sullivan quickly stepped in, stating:

“We have not gone live with algorithmic actions on site reputation abuse. I well imagine when we do, we’ll be very clear about that. Publishers seeing changes and thinking it’s this — it’s not — results change all the time for all types of reasons.”

Sullivan added that when the actions are rolled out, they will only impact specific content, not entire websites.

This is an important distinction, as it suggests that even if a site has some pages manually penalized, the rest of the domain can rank normally.

Background On Google’s Site Reputation Abuse Policy

Earlier this year, Google announced a new policy to combat what it calls “site reputation abuse.”

This refers to situations where third-party content is published on authoritative domains with little oversight or involvement from the host site.

Examples include sponsored posts, advertorials, and partner content that is loosely related to or unrelated to a site’s primary purpose.

Under the new policy, Google is taking manual action against offending pages and plans to incorporate algorithmic detection.

What This Means For Publishers & SEOs

While Google hasn’t launched any algorithmic updates related to site reputation abuse, the manual actions have publishers on high alert.

Those who rely heavily on sponsored content or partner posts to drive traffic should audit their sites and remove any potential policy violations.

Sullivan’s confirmation that algorithmic changes haven’t occurred may provide temporary relief.

Additionally, his statements also serve as a reminder that significant ranking fluctuations can happen at any time due to various factors, not just specific policy rollouts.


FAQ

Will Google’s future algorithmic actions impact entire websites or specific content?

When Google eventually rolls out algorithmic actions for site reputation abuse, these actions will target specific content rather than the entire website.

This means that if certain pages are found to be in violation, only those pages will be affected, allowing other parts of the site to continue ranking normally.

What should publishers and SEOs do in light of Google’s site reputation abuse policy?

Publishers and SEO professionals should audit their sites to identify and remove any content that may violate Google’s site reputation abuse policy.

This includes sponsored posts and partner content that doesn’t align with the site’s primary purpose. Taking these steps can mitigate the risk of manual penalties from Google.

What is the context of the recent traffic drops seen in the SEO community?

Google claims the recent drops for coupon sites aren’t linked to any algorithmic actions for site reputation abuse. Traffic fluctuations can occur for various reasons and aren’t always linked to a specific algorithm update.


Featured Image: sockagphoto/Shutterstock



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WP Rocket WordPress Plugin Now Optimizes LCP Core Web Vitals Metric

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WP Rocket WordPress Plugin Now Optimizes LCP Core Web Vitals Metric

WP Rocket, the WordPress page speed performance plugin, just announced the release of a new version that will help publishers optimize for Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), an important Core Web Vitals metric.

Large Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP is a page speed metric that’s designed to show how fast it takes for a user to perceive that the page is loaded and read to be interacted with. This metric measures the time it takes for the main content elements has fully loaded. This gives an idea of how usable a webpage is. The faster the LCP the better the user experience will be.

WP Rocket 3.16

WP Rocket is a caching plugin that helps a site perform faster. The way page caching generally works is that the website will store frequently accessed webpages and resources so that when someone visits the page the website doesn’t have to fetch the data from the database, which takes time, but instead will serve the webpage from the cache. This is super important when a website has a lot of site visitors because that can use a lot of server resources to fetch and build the same website over and over for every visitor.

The lastest version of WP Rocket (3.16) now contains Automatic LCP optimization, which means that it will optimize the on-page elements from the main content so that they are served first thereby raising the LCP scores and providing a better user experience.

Because it’s automatic there’s really nothing to fiddle around with or fine tune.

According to WP Rocket:

  • Automatic LCP Optimization: Optimizes the Largest Contentful Paint, a critical metric for website speed, automatically enhancing overall PageSpeed scores.
  • Smart Management of Above-the-Fold Images: Automatically detects and prioritizes critical above-the-fold images, loading them immediately to improve user experience and performance metrics.

All new functionalities operate seamlessly in the background, requiring no direct intervention from the user. Upon installing or upgrading to WP Rocket 3.16, these optimizations are automatically enabled, though customization options remain accessible for those who prefer manual control.”

Read the official announcement:

WP Rocket 3.16: Improving LCP and PageSpeed Score Automatically

Featured Image by Shutterstock/ICONMAN66

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Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint: A Step-By-Step Guide

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Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint: A Step-By-Step Guide

This post was sponsored by DebugBear. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.

Keeping your website fast is important for user experience and SEO.

The Core Web Vitals initiative by Google provides a set of metrics to help you understand the performance of your website.

The three Core Web Vitals metrics are:

This post focuses on the recently introduced INP metric and what you can do to improve it.

How Is Interaction To Next Paint Measured?

INP measures how quickly your website responds to user interactions – for example, a click on a button. More specifically, INP measures the time in milliseconds between the user input and when the browser has finished processing the interaction and is ready to display any visual updates on the page.

Your website needs to complete this process in under 200 milliseconds to get a “Good” score. Values over half a second are considered “Poor”. A poor score in a Core Web Vitals metric can negatively impact your search engine rankings.

Google collects INP data from real visitors on your website as part of the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX). This CrUX data is what ultimately impacts rankings.

Image created by DebugBear, May 2024

How To Identify & Fix Slow INP Times

The factors causing poor Interaction to Next Paint can often be complex and hard to figure out. Follow this step-by-step guide to understand slow interactions on your website and find potential optimizations.

1. How To Identify A Page With Slow INP Times

Different pages on your website will have different Core Web Vitals scores. So you need to identify a slow page and then investigate what’s causing it to be slow.

Using Google Search Console

One easy way to check your INP scores is using the Core Web Vitals section in Google Search Console, which reports data based on the Google CrUX data we’ve discussed before.

By default, page URLs are grouped into URL groups that cover many different pages. Be careful here – not all pages might have the problem that Google is reporting. Instead, click on each URL group to see if URL-specific data is available for some pages and then focus on those.

1716368164 358 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of Google Search Console, May 2024

Using A Real-User Monitoring (RUM) Service

Google won’t report Core Web Vitals data for every page on your website, and it only provides the raw measurements without any details to help you understand and fix the issues. To get that you can use a real-user monitoring tool like DebugBear.

Real-user monitoring works by installing an analytics snippet on your website that measures how fast your website is for your visitors. Once that’s set up you’ll have access to an Interaction to Next Paint dashboard like this:

1716368164 404 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear Interaction to Next Paint dashboard, May 2024

You can identify pages you want to optimize in the list, hover over the URL, and click the funnel icon to look at data for that specific page only.

1716368164 975 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideImage created by DebugBear, May 2024

2. Figure Out What Element Interactions Are Slow

Different visitors on the same page will have different experiences. A lot of that depends on how they interact with the page: if they click on a background image there’s no risk of the page suddenly freezing, but if they click on a button that starts some heavy processing then that’s more likely. And users in that second scenario will experience much higher INP.

To help with that, RUM data provides a breakdown of what page elements users interacted with and how big the interaction delays were.

1716368164 348 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP Elements view, May 2024

The screenshot above shows different INP interactions sorted by how frequent these user interactions are. To make optimizations as easy as possible you’ll want to focus on a slow interaction that affects many users.

In DebugBear, you can click on the page element to add it to your filters and continue your investigation.

3. Identify What INP Component Contributes The Most To Slow Interactions

INP delays can be broken down into three different components:

  • Input Delay: Background code that blocks the interaction from being processed.
  • Processing Time: The time spent directly handling the interaction.
  • Presentation Delay: Displaying the visual updates to the screen.

You should focus on which INP component is the biggest contributor to the slow INP time, and ensure you keep that in mind during your investigation.

1716368164 193 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP Components, May 2024

In this scenario, Processing Time is the biggest contributor to the slow INP time for the set of pages you’re looking at, but you need to dig deeper to understand why.

High processing time indicates that there is code intercepting the user interaction and running slow performing code. If instead you saw a high input delay, that suggests that there are background tasks blocking the interaction from being processed, for example due to third-party scripts.

4. Check Which Scripts Are Contributing To Slow INP

Sometimes browsers report specific scripts that are contributing to a slow interaction. Your website likely contains both first-party and third-party scripts, both of which can contribute to slow INP times.

A RUM tool like DebugBear can collect and surface this data. The main thing you want to look at is whether you mostly see your own website code or code from third parties.

1716368164 369 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Primary Script Domain Grouping in DebugBear, May 2024

Tip: When you see a script, or source code function marked as “N/A”, this can indicate that the script comes from a different origin and has additional security restrictions that prevent RUM tools from capturing more detailed information.

This now begins to tell a story: it appears that analytics/third-party scripts are the biggest contributors to the slow INP times.

5. Identify Why Those Scripts Are Running

At this point, you now have a strong suspicion that most of the INP delay, at least on the pages and elements you’re looking at, is due to third-party scripts. But how can you tell whether those are general tracking scripts or if they actually have a role in handling the interaction?

DebugBear offers a breakdown that helps see why the code is running, called the INP Primary Script Invoker breakdown. That’s a bit of a mouthful – multiple different scripts can be involved in slowing down an interaction, and here you just see the biggest contributor. The “Invoker” is just a value that the browser reports about what caused this code to run.

1716368165 263 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Primary Script Invoker Grouping in DebugBear, May 2024

The following invoker names are examples of page-wide event handlers:

  • onclick
  • onmousedown
  • onpointerup

You can see those a lot in the screenshot above, which tells you that the analytics script is tracking clicks anywhere on the page.

In contrast, if you saw invoker names like these that would indicate event handlers for a specific element on the page:

  • .load_more.onclick
  • #logo.onclick

6. Review Specific Page Views

A lot of the data you’ve seen so far is aggregated. It’s now time to look at the individual INP events, to form a definitive conclusion about what’s causing slow INP in this example.

Real user monitoring tools like DebugBear generally offer a way to review specific user experiences. For example, you can see what browser they used, how big their screen is, and what element led to the slowest interaction.

1716368165 545 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of a Page View in DebugBear Real User Monitoring, May 2024

As mentioned before, multiple scripts can contribute to overall slow INP. The INP Scripts section shows you the scripts that were run during the INP interaction:

1716368165 981 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP script breakdown, May 2024

You can review each of these scripts in more detail to understand why they run and what’s causing them to take longer to finish.

7. Use The DevTools Profiler For More Information

Real user monitoring tools have access to a lot of data, but for performance and security reasons they can access nowhere near all the available data. That’s why it’s a good idea to also use Chrome DevTools to measure your page performance.

To debug INP in DevTools you can measure how the browser processes one of the slow interactions you’ve identified before. DevTools then shows you exactly how the browser is spending its time handling the interaction.

1716368165 526 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of a performance profile in Chrome DevTools, May 2024

How You Might Resolve This Issue

In this example, you or your development team could resolve this issue by:

  • Working with the third-party script provider to optimize their script.
  • Removing the script if it is not essential to the website, or finding an alternative provider.
  • Adjusting how your own code interacts with the script

How To Investigate High Input Delay

In the previous example most of the INP time was spent running code in response to the interaction. But often the browser is already busy running other code when a user interaction happens. When investigating the INP components you’ll then see a high input delay value.

This can happen for various reasons, for example:

  • The user interacted with the website while it was still loading.
  • A scheduled task is running on the page, for example an ongoing animation.
  • The page is loading and rendering new content.

To understand what’s happening, you can review the invoker name and the INP scripts section of individual user experiences.

1716368165 86 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Component breakdown within DebugBear, May 2024

In this screenshot, you can see that a timer is running code that coincides with the start of a user interaction.

The script can be opened to reveal the exact code that is run:

1716368165 114 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of INP script details in DebugBear, May 2024

The source code shown in the previous screenshot comes from a third-party user tracking script that is running on the page.

At this stage, you and your development team can continue with the INP workflow presented earlier in this article. For example, debugging with browser DevTools or contacting the third-party provider for support.

How To Investigate High Presentation Delay

Presentation delay tends to be more difficult to debug than input delay or processing time. Often it’s caused by browser behavior rather than a specific script. But as before, you still start by identifying a specific page and a specific interaction.

You can see an example interaction with high presentation delay here:

1716368165 665 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the an interaction with high presentation delay, May 2024

You see that this happens when the user enters text into a form field. In this example, many visitors pasted large amounts of text that the browser had to process.

Here the fix was to delay the processing, show a “Waiting…” message to the user, and then complete the processing later on. You can see how the INP score improves from May 3:

1716368165 845 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of an Interaction to Next Paint timeline in DebugBear, May 2024

Get The Data You Need To Improve Interaction To Next Paint

Setting up real user monitoring helps you understand how users experience your website and what you can do to improve it. Try DebugBear now by signing up for a free 14-day trial.

1716368165 494 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear Core Web Vitals dashboard, May 2024

Google’s CrUX data is aggregated over a 28-day period, which means that it’ll take a while before you notice a regression. With real-user monitoring you can see the impact of website changes right away and get alerted automatically when there’s a big change.

DebugBear monitors lab data, CrUX data, and real user data. That way you have all the data you need to optimize your Core Web Vitals in one place.

This article has been sponsored by DebugBear, and the views presented herein represent the sponsor’s perspective.

Ready to start optimizing your website? Sign up for DebugBear and get the data you need to deliver great user experiences.


Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Redesign.co. Used with permission.

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