How fast does your website typically load for visitors? You can publish countless pages of high-quality content, but if your website suffers from long load times, visitors may abandon it prematurely.

Improving your website’s speed will make it more attractive to visitors so that it generates more traffic and conversions. However, rather than focusing strictly on average load times, you should optimize your website’s First Contentful Paint (FCP).

What Is First Contentful Paint (FCP)?

First Contentful Paint (FCP) is a page-specific performance metric that reveals how long it takes a web browser to completely render the first piece of Document Object Model (DOM) content. DOM content can consist of images, text, and even colored canvas elements. iFrame-embedded content isn’t considered DOM content, and thus doesn’t affect FCP.

The time it takes for the first piece of DOM content on a page to finish rendering and loading will dictate the page’s FCP. If the header image renders in 1.2 seconds, and all other pieces of DOM content take longer to render, the page’s FCP will be 1.2 seconds. If a block of text renders the fastest at 700 milliseconds, the page’s FCP will be 700 milliseconds. The faster the page’s first piece of DOM content renders, the lower its FCP will be.

There’s also Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). LCP and FCP are both page-specific performance metrics. The difference is that LCP measures the rendering time of the largest piece of DOM content on a page, whereas FCP measures the rendering time of the first piece of DOM content on a page.

How to Analyze FCP

You can analyze your website’s FCP using one of several tools that support this performance metric.

Google pioneered FCP, as well as other metrics like LCP, in 2019. Therefore, it’s offered in Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

Using PageSpeed Insights, you can analyze the FCP of any given page on your website. Just enter the page’s URL and click “Analyze.” PageSpeed Insights will then return performance metrics for that page, including its FCP.

In addition to PageSpeed Insights, you can use Catchpoint’s WebPageTest tool to analyze your website’s FCP. This alternative tool even allows you to select the geographic location and web browser from which the test is performed. PageSpeed Insights doesn’t offer these customization options.

How To Optimize Your Website For First Contentful Paint (FCP)

Now that we’ve covered what FCP is and how to analyze it, let’s take a look at four specific steps you can take to improve this metric on your website.

1. Leverage a CDN

You can use a content delivery network (CDN) to optimize your website for FCP. A CDN is a supplementary web hosting service—you’ll still need a regular web hosting service—that’s designed to serve cached copies of website content to visitors from the closest server in a network of servers.

All CDNs consist of many interconnected servers. When a visitor attempts to load a page on your website, the CDN will send them the page’s content from the server that is geographically nearest to them. It will essentially reduce the distance that data has to travel to reach the visitor. The end result is faster load times for your website’s content.

Some hosting companies, such as Kinsta, offer their own built-in CDN solutions.

Alternatively, it’s quite simple to set up a third-party CDN like Cloudflare:

If you use WordPress, you can integrate Cloudflare with your site using the Cloudflare WordPress plugin.

2. Enable Browser Caching

Browser caching can lead to lower FCPs for your website. When enabled, it will allow visitors to store your website’s content locally in their web browsers.

Browser caching won’t affect the FCPs for first-time visitors. Instead, it will lower the FCPs for returning visitors. During their initial visit, visitors will automatically download selected pieces of content from your website, which will be stored in their web browsers. When a visitor returns to the same page, the content will be pulled from their web browser rather than your server.

You can enable browser caching by creating header responses for your website’s content with an expiration date. The expiration date tells web browsers when they should re-download the content.

If you use WordPress, you can enable browser caching easily by using a caching plugin. WP Rocket, WP Super Cache, and W3 Total Cache all support browser caching.

3. Compress Images

Image compression can result in lower and more favorable FCPs for your website. Uncompressed images are a contributing factor in many cases of slow websites. They have a larger file size than their compressed counterparts, so visitors must download more data in order to render and load them.

Compressing an image won’t change its dimensions. Rather, compression will only make the image file smaller by reducing the amount of data it contains. Visitors will be able to download your website’s images in less time if they are compressed.

There are two forms of image compression: lossy and lossless. While they are both designed to reduce the size of image files, the former comes at the cost of visual quality, whereas the latter does not. With that said, lossy image compression is still worth using. Lossy image compression tools typically save more data than lossless compression tools, and unless you magnify a lossy-compressed image, you shouldn’t notice any major difference in its visual quality.

To compress your images automatically while maintaining quality, we recommend using a tool like TinyPNG:

TinyPNG also offers a free WordPress plugin that can help you compress images you’ve already uploaded to your site. After activating it, you can go to Media > Bulk Optimization to start optimizing the images in your media library:

4. Minify Code

You can optimize your website for FCP by minifying its code. Minification involves the removal of unnecessary characters in your website’s code—things like line breaks, white spaces, etc. The idea is to remove anything that isn’t required to maintain the functionality of your website.

Unnecessary code such as this will consume server resources and slow down your site, especially at higher levels of traffic.

By minifying your website’s code, you’ll free up server resources so that content can be delivered to visitors more quickly.

In addition to caching, WP Rocket and W3 Total Cache also support minification. Alternatively, you can use a standalone minification plugin such as Fast Velocity Minify.

Final Thoughts

While it’s not part of Google’s Core Web Vitals, FCP is still important.

This performance metric shows how long it takes the first piece of DOM content on a page to render. When optimizing your website for FCP, consider using a CDN, enabling browser caching, compressing images and minifying your site’s code.

If you have any questions about First Contentful Paint (FCP), let us know in the comments section below!

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