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By John Eberhard

I know. You’re thinking “Huh?” Stay with me.

When it comes to SEO, search engine optimization, one of the things the search engines judge your site for, and rank your site for, is the loading speed. For years the criteria was that your site had to load in less than 5 seconds.

But recently, since May of 2021, there is now a new metric in town. It is called – you guessed it – Largest Contentful Paint, or LCP for short. It means the amount of time it takes for all the items on your page, above the fold, to load.

“Above the fold” is a term that comes from newspapers, meaning all the stuff that was at the top of the front page of the newspaper, which was the prime real estate. With websites, “above the fold” means everything you see on the site before you start scrolling down. Usually there is a header area with your logo and navigation, then below that is what is usually what is called a “hero” image, or sometimes a slide show of images, or even a large video that goes all the way across the screen.

So LCP measures how fast the items above the fold load. And word on the street is that your LCP should be less than 2.5 seconds. And as far as LCP is concerned, it does not include things that are further down the page. Search engines still want all that other stuff down the page to load fast, but the first thing they look at is the Largest Contentful Paint (what kind of pointy heads come up with these names anyway?).

I was working on a site this past week that was given a “poor” score on LCP by an SEO audit service called seranking.com. But seranking.com did not tell me what the time was. So I found another site that measures the exact time of the LCP.
https://gtmetrix.com/largest-contentful-paint.html

The site I was working on had an LCP of 10.6 seconds. It had a background video on that site that I had created, which looked great. But using another site I was able to see that the loading of the video was the main thing that was slowing down the site so much. So the video had to go.

I then tried to make a slide show that basically showed all the same stuff that had been ion the video. That got the LCP down to 6.7 seconds. Still too long.

I had to settle for one static image at the top of the site, which then brought down the LCP to 0.732 seconds.

I also found that this does NOT necessarily mean that you can’t have a slide show or background video on your site. I tested several other sites with background videos using the GT Metrix above, and they came in under the 2.5 seconds. So test your site on the GT Metrix page.

Other Things That Can Hurt Your SEO

Here is a sampling of things that can hurt your search engine ranking.

  1. There is information that you put into the invisible code of each page. Invisible to you but search engines see it. These are called the meta-tags. You need to have a unique meta-tag title for each page of your site. This is the title for the page that comes up when your listing comes up on a search engine. If you do not have meta-tag titles on every page, or if a lot of pages on your site have the same meta-tag title, that hurts your search engine rankings.
  2. There is also a thing called the meta description. This is the description that comes up under the title when your site comes up in a search engine search. This description should be an accurate description of the content of that page. Each page should have one and again they can’t all be the same.When it comes to the keywords you are trying to rank for, the ideal is to do keyword research, find keywords that have a decent number of searches per month, and don’t have tons of other sites competing for them. That’s what you use to write your meta titles and descriptions. Each page should have one keyword that is the primary keyword for that page.
  3. You should not have really big images on your site. Images that go all the way across should not bigger than 1400 pixels wide. An image for a blog post should not be bigger than 900 pixels wide. Other images should be say 600 pixels wide or less.
  4. You should make sure there are no links on your site link to a page that’s no longer there.
  5. Each image on the site should have some text assigned to it, called “alt text,” which is text that describes what the image is and ideally should contain a keyword you’re trying to rank for.

There’s lot of other factors that sites like seranking.com measure for your site. But this will give you some food for thought.