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What Is Largest Contentful Paint: An Easy Explanation via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is a Google user experience metric that became a ranking factor in 2021.

This guide explains what LCP is and how to achieve the best scores.

What is Largest Contentful Paint?

LCP is a measurement of how long it takes for the main content of a page to download and be ready to be interacted with.

What is measured is the largest image or block of context within the user viewport. Anything that extends beyond the screen does not count.

Typical elements measured are images, video poster images, background images, and block-level text elements like paragraph tags.

Why is LCP Measured?

LCP was chosen as a key metric for the Core Web Vitals score because it accurately measures how fast a webpage can be used.

Additionally, it is easy to measure and optimize for.

Block-level Elements Used to Calculate the LCP Score

Block-level elements used for calculating the Largest Contentful Paint score can be the <main> and <section> elements, as well as the heading, div, form elements.

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Any block-level HTML element that contains text elements can be used, as long as it’s the largest one.

Not all elements are used. For example, the SVG and VIDEO elements are not currently used for calculating the Largest Contentful Paint.

LCP is an easy metric to understand because all you have to do is look at your webpage and determine what the largest text block or image is and then optimize it by making it smaller or removing anything that would prevent it from downloading quickly.

Because Google includes most sites in the mobile-first index, it’s best to optimize the mobile viewport first, then the desktop.

Delaying Large Elements Might Not Help

Sometimes a webpage will render in parts. A large featured image might take longer to download than the largest text block-level element.

What happens, in this case, is that a PerformanceEntry is logged for the largest text block-level element.

But when the featured image at the top of the screen loads, if that element takes up more of the user’s screen (their viewport), then another PerformanceEntry object will be reported for that image.

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Images Can Be Tricky for LCP Scores

Web publishers commonly upload images at their original size and then use HTML or CSS to resize the image to display at a smaller size.

The original size is what Google refers to as the “intrinsic” size of the image.

If a publisher uploads an image that’s 2048 pixels wide and 1152 pixels in height, that 2048 x 1152 height and width are considered the “intrinsic” size.

Now, if the publisher resizes the 2048 x 1152 pixel image to 640 x 360 pixels, the 640×360 size image is called the visible size.

For the purposes of calculating the image size, Google uses whichever size is smaller between the intrinsic and visible size images.

Note About Image Sizes

It’s possible to achieve a high Largest Contentful Paint score with a large intrinsic size image that is resized with HTML or CSS to be smaller.

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But it’s a best practice to make the intrinsic size of the image match the visible size.

The image will download faster and your Largest Contentful Paint score will go up.

How LCP Handles Images Served from Another Domain

Images served from another domain, like from a CDN, are generally not counted in the Largest Contentful Paint calculation.

Publishers who want to have those resources be a part of the calculation need to set what’s called a Timing-Allow-Origin header.

Adding this header to your site can be tricky because if you use a wildcard (*) in the configuration, then it could open your site up to hacking events.

In order to do it properly, you would have to add a domain that’s specific to Google’s crawler in order to whitelist it so that it can see the timing information from your CDN.

So at this point, resources (like images) that are loaded from another domain (like from a CDN) will not be counted as part of the LCP calculation.

Beware These Scoring “Gotchas”

All elements that are in the user’s screen (the viewport) are used to calculate LCP. That means that images that are rendered off-screen and then shift into the layout once they are rendered may not count as part of the Largest Contentful Paint score.

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On the opposite end, elements that start out in the user viewport and then get pushed off-screen may be counted as part of the LCP calculation.

How to Get the LCP Score

There are two kinds of scoring tools. The first one is called Field Tools, and the second one is called Lab Tools.

Field tools are actual measurements of a site.

Lab tools give a virtual score based on a simulated crawl using algorithms that approximate Internet conditions that a typical user on a mobile phone might encounter.

How to Optimize for Largest Contentful Paint

There are three main areas to optimize (plus one more for JavaScript Frameworks):

  1. Slow servers.
  2. Render-blocking JavaScript and CSS.
  3. Slow resource load times.

A slow server can be an issue with DDOS levels of hacking and scraper traffic on a shared or VPS host. You may find relief by installing a WordPress plugin like WordFence to find out if you’re experiencing a massive onslaught and then block it.

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Other issues could be the misconfiguration of a dedicated server or VPS. A typical issue can be the amount of memory allotted to PHP.

Another issue could be outdated software like an old PHP version or CMS software that is outdated.

The worst-case scenario is a shared server with multiple users that are slowing down your box. In that case, moving to a better host is the answer.

Typically, applying fixes like adding caching, optimizing images, fixing render-blocking CSS and JavaScript, and pre-loading certain assets can help.

Google has a neat tip for dealing with CSS that’s not essential for rendering what the user sees:

“Remove any unused CSS entirely or move it to another stylesheet if used on a separate page of your site.

For any CSS not needed for initial rendering, use loadCSS to load files asynchronously, which leverages rel=”preload” and onload.

<link rel=”preload” href=”stylesheet.css” as=”style” onload=”this.rel=’stylesheet’”>”

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Field Tools for LCP Score

Google lists three field tools:

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The last one – Chrome User Experience Report – requires a Google account and a Google Cloud Project. The first two are more straightforward.

Lab Tools for LCP Score

Lab measurements are simulated scores.

Google recommends the following tools:

The first two tools are provided by Google. The third tool is provided by a third party.

Citations

How to Optimize for LCP

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What is LCP?

Timing Attacks and the Timing-Allow-Origin Header

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Featured image credit: Paulo Bobita

Searchenginejournal.com

SEO

8 Pillar Page Examples to Get Inspired By

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8 Pillar Page Examples to Get Inspired By

Pillar pages are high-level introductions to a topic. They then link to other pages, which are usually more detailed guides about parts of the main topic.

Altogether, they form a content hub.

Example of a content hub

But not all pillar pages look the same. 

In this guide, we’ll look at eight examples of pillar pages to get your creative juices flowing.

Excerpt of beginner's guide to SEO by Ahrefs

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 1,200
Backlinks: 6,900
Referring domains: 899

Overview of Ahrefs' beginner's guide to SEO in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

This is our very own pillar page, covering the broad topic of search engine optimization (SEO)

Why I like it

Besides the fact that I’m biased, I like the custom design we created for this page, which makes it different from the articles on our blog. 

Even though the design is custom, our pillar page is still a pretty classic “hub and spoke” style pillar page. We’ve broken the topic down neatly into six different chapters and internally linked to guides we’ve created about them. There are also custom animations when you hover over each chapter:

Examples of chapters in the SEO guide

We’ve also added a glossary section that comes with a custom illustration of the SERPs. We have explanations of what each element means, with internal links to more detailed content:

Custom illustration of the SERP

Finally, it links to another “pillar page”: our SEO glossary

Takeaway

Consider creating a custom design for your pillar page so that it stands out. 

Excerpt of Doctor Diet's ketogenic diet guide

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 92,200
Backlinks: 21,600
Referring domains: 1,700

Overview of Diet Doctor's ketogenic diet guide in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Diet Doctor is a health company focusing on low-carb diets. Its pillar page is a comprehensive guide on the keto diet. 

Why I like it

On the surface, it doesn’t exactly look like a pillar page; it looks like every other post on the Diet Doctor site. But that’s perfectly fine. It’s simply a different approach—you don’t have to call out the fact that it’s a pillar page. 

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Diet Doctor’s guide is split into 10 different sections with links to its own resources. The links bring you to different types of content (not just blog posts but videos too).

Video course about keto diet for beginners

Unlike the classic pillar page, Diet Doctor’s guide goes into enough detail for anyone who is casually researching the keto diet. But it also links to further resources for anyone who’s interested in doing additional research.

Takeaway

Pillar pages need not always just be text and links. Make it multimedia: You can add videos and images and even link to your own multimedia resources (e.g., a video course).

Excerpt of Wine Folly's beginner's guide to wine

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 5,600
Backlinks: 2,800
Referring domains: 247

Overview of Wine Folly's beginner's guide to wine in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Wine Folly is a content site devoted to wine knowledge and appreciation. Its pillar page, as expected, is about wine. 

Why I like it

Wine Folly’s pillar page is a classic example of a “hub and spoke” style pillar page—split into multiple sections, with some supporting text, and then internal links to other resources that support each subsection. 

Supporting text and links to other resources

This page doesn’t just serve as a pillar page for ranking purposes, though. Given that it ranks well and receives quite a significant amount of search traffic, the page also has a call to action (CTA) to Wine Folly’s book:

Short description of book; below that, CTA encouraging site visitor to purchase it

Takeaway

While most websites design pillar pages for ranking, you can also use them for other purposes: capture email addresses, sell a book, pitch your product, etc. 

Excerpt of A-Z directory of yoga poses

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 11,100
Backlinks: 3,400
Referring domains: 457

Overview of Yoga Journal's A-Z directory of yoga poses in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Yoga Journal is an online and offline magazine. Its pillar page is an A-Z directory of yoga poses.

Why I like it

Yoga Journal’s pillar page is straightforward and simple. List down all possible yoga poses (in both their English and Sanskrit names) in a table form and link to them. 

List of yoga poses in table form

Since it’s listed in alphabetical order, it’s useful for anyone who knows the name of a particular pose and is interested in learning more. 

What I also like is that Yoga Journal has added an extra column on the type of pose each yoga pose belongs to. If we click on any of the pose types, we’re directed to a category page where you can find similar kinds of poses: 

Examples of standing yoga poses (in grid format)

Takeaway

The A-Z format can be a good format for your pillar page if the broad topic you’re targeting fits the style (e.g., dance moves, freestyle football tricks, etc.).

Excerpt of Atlassian's guide to agile development

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 115,200
Backlinks: 3,200
Referring domains: 860

Overview of Atlassian's guide to agile development in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Atlassian is a software company. You’ve probably heard of its products: Jira, Confluence, Trello, etc. Its pillar page is on agile development.

Why I like it

Atlassian’s pillar page is split into different topics related to agile development. It then has internal links to each topic—both as a sticky table of contents and card-style widgets after the introduction: 

Sticky table of contents
Card-style widgets

I also like the “Up next” feature at the bottom of the pillar page, which makes it seem like an online book rather than a page. 

Example of "Up next" feature

Takeaway

Consider adding a table of contents to your pillar page. 

Excerpt of Muscle and Strength's workout routines database

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 114,400
Backlinks: 2,900
Referring domains: 592

Overview of Muscle and Strength's workout routines database in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Muscle and Strength’s pillar page is a massive database linking to various categories of workouts. 

Why I like it

Calling it a pillar page seems to be an understatement. Muscle and Strength’s free workouts page appears to be more like a website. 

When you open the page, you’ll see that it’s neatly split into multiple categories, such as “workouts for men,” “workouts for women,” “biceps,” “abs,” etc. 

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Workout categories (in grid format)

Clicking through to any of them leads us to a category page containing all sorts of workouts:

Types of workouts for men (in grid format)

Compared to the other pillar pages on this list, where they’re linking to other subpages, Muscle and Strength’s pillar page links to other category pages, which then link to their subpages, i.e., its massive archive of free workouts.

Takeaway

Content databases, such as the one above, are a huge undertaking for a pillar page but can be worth it if the broad topic you’re targeting fits a format like this. Ideally, the topic should be about something where the content for it is ever-growing (e.g., workout plans, recipes, email templates, etc.).

Excerpt of Tofugu's guide to learning Japanese

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 39,100
Backlinks: 1,100
Referring domains: 308

Overview of Tofugu's guide to learning Japanese in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Tofugu is a site about learning Japanese. And its pillar page is about, well, learning Japanese.

Why I like it

This is an incredible (and yes, ridiculously good) guide to learning Japanese from scratch. It covers every stage you’ll go through as a complete beginner—from knowing no Japanese to having intermediate proficiency in the language. 

Unlike other pillar pages where information is usually scarce and simply links out to further resources, this page holds nothing back. Under each section, there is great detail about what that section is, why it’s important, how it works, and even an estimated time of how long that stage takes to complete. 

Another interesting aspect is how Tofugu has structured its internal links as active CTAs. Rather than “Learn more” or “Read more,” it’s all about encouraging users to do a task and completing that stage. 

CTA encouraging user to head to the next task of learning to read hiragana

Takeaway

Two takeaways here:

  • Pillar pages can be ridiculously comprehensive. It depends on the topic you’re targeting and how competitive it is.
  • CTAs can be more exciting than merely just “Read more.”
Excerpt of Zapier's guide to working remotely

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 890
Backlinks: 4,100
Referring domains: 1,100

Overview of Zapier's guide to working remotely in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Zapier allows users to connect multiple software products together via “zaps.” It’s a 100% remote company, and its pillar page is about remote work. 

Why I like it

Zapier’s pillar page is basically like Wine Folly’s pillar page. Break a topic into subsections, add a couple of links of text, and then add internal links to further resources. 

In the examples above, we’ve seen all sorts of execution for pillar pages. There are those with custom designs and others that are crazily comprehensive.

But sometimes, all a pillar page needs is a simple design with links. 

Takeaway

If you already have a bunch of existing content on your website, you can create a simple pillar page like this to organize your content for your readers. 

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Keep learning

Inspired by these examples and want to create your own pillar page? Learn how to successfully do so with these two guides:

Any questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter.  



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