Lighthouse 8.4 Improves LCP Scores
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is a metric that allows webmasters to measure their site’s largest visual element. Recently, Google announced that PageSpeed Insights will now use Lighthouse 8.4.0, featuring two brand-new audits. The update will help site owners diagnose any issue that negatively affects one’s website SEO score in LCP. By using tools and strategies effectively, one can easily improve their website SEO.
Largest Contentful Paint
LCP is a metric that measures the loading time a site takes to display the largest piece of content on the screen. This metric only considers above-the-fold content, meaning all content that appears without the user scrolling. Moreover, the metric only considers the loading time of elements relevant to user experience, such as image tags, images, background images with CSS, video thumbnails, and other text elements, like headings, lists, and paragraphs.
Metric monitoring is crucial in SEO. It is also important for an SEO expert to understand the minimum performance standards expected to get ahead of their competitors. Based on Google’s algorithm system regarding page loading time, the main content should take no longer than 2.5 seconds to load.
One should also rely on web.dev’s metre regarding LCP scores. According to them, 2.5 is a good score. Any score between 2.5 and 4.0 would need improvement, while anything above 4.0 is a poor score.
For some time now, the SEO community has been experiencing a widespread problem with LCP. But with Lighthouse 8.4.0, there is now a way for publishers to diagnose issues.
Site owners found that lazy loading images were a great method to make the main content visible and provide faster interaction on mobile devices. Before lazy loading, the photos placed below the fold would download in the background, slowing down the content’s interactivity and visibility.
When photos outside the mobile viewport load in the background, they slow down the rendering of the visible part of the site. But adding Lazy Load HTML to the photos tells the browser that images that aren’t visible don’t need to be downloaded. As a result, the Page Speed increases.
However, these lazy loading elements were detrimental to LCP, and this particular issue is what Lighthouse 8.4.0 addresses.
The Negative Impact Of Lazy Loading ALL Images
WordPress 5.4 launched native lazy loading for images. Before they conducted the update, the developers tested the speed improvements. They found out that using the lazy load HTML attribute for all photos would improve speed.
However, the implementation of the lazy load attribute was unsuccessful. WordPress added the lazy load attribute to the featured image, which is an element that’s generally the first area that the user sees when visiting a page. It resulted in a negative impact on LCP scores and led to a slightly worse user experience.
With that being said, the gains from adding lazy load increased faster than the losses from the hit to the LCP metric. As a result, WordPress continued adding the lazy load attribute to featured images.
Meanwhile, Google observed that for those who implemented lazy loading in the WordPress core, the LCP scores started dropping.
The search engine company published an article about the performance effect of too much lazy loading on web.dev. They studied real sites and found out that those containing too much lazy loading had poor LCP scores.
The poor LCP scores were due to aggressive lazy loading implementations – an issue that was specific to WordPress websites. Google confirmed that they noticed the drop in the LCP in their article. They said that the lazy loading technique that WordPress uses helps reduce image bytes but also compromises LCP scores.
Lighthouse 8.4.0 Includes LCP Audit
Many online businesses and site owners noticed their LCP scores drop but did not understand what caused it. The new Lighthouse version solves this problem as it comes with an audit feature that diagnoses this issue.
Every image in the LCP viewport – or above-the-fold content – mustn’t have lazy loading. The new version of the tool detects if there are lazy-loaded elements in the LCP viewport.
Based on a Chrome Developer page, Lighthouse 8.4.0 recommends that website SEO companies remove the loading attribute after detecting the lazy-loaded element. Meanwhile, the tool’s official developer page states that lazy-loaded images will render later in the page lifecycle, delaying the LCP.
Newly-Launched Mobile Viewport Audit
The new Lighthouse 8.4.0 provides an audit feature that notifies SEOs about the lack of mobile viewport meta tag in the head section. This feature helps because failure to include meta tags can result in a poor First Input Delay (FID) score.
The documentation explains that experts studied data from the HTTP Archive. They found out that more than half of the websites with a score of 90 or higher in Lighthouse, but failed at least one Core Web Vital, did not have a mobile viewport set. Moreover, they all had poor FID scores. As a result, the Lighthouse performance section will notify SEOs that they need to add a viewport if the system detects it lacks a meta tag.
Lighthouse 8.4.0 Is Live
Lighthouse 8.4.0 is now available in PageSpeed Insights and will notify SEOs if the system detects a lazy-loaded element in the LCP viewport.
On the other hand, Chrome Dev Tools will launch the new tool version in Chrome 95 on 19 October 2021.
There are a few ways to optimise LCP for a better score. These include:
- Optimise image sizes – Always use the right image sizes, depending on the mobile or desktop version.
- Use an image CDN – A CDN service can speed up the image loading time.
- Opt for a good hosting service – The hosting service affects a page’s loading time, so one must choose the best hosting service out there.
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