First Contentful Paint (FCP) measures the time between the user’s navigation and the first paint of content for the web page. Anything related to the DOM of the web page can be included in the First Contentful Paint such as Paragraphs, Navigation Bar, Images, Form Elements, etc. Iframe Elements are not included in the First Contentful Paint since the actual Iframes are the part of another web page. Also, First Contentful Paint is a “perceived load speed” metrics and it is a user-based performance metric.
What is a Good First Contentful Paint Score?
According to the Google Guidelines, a good FCP is under the 1 second. At least 75% of users need an FCP Score of less than 1 second for a website to be deemed by Google to have a user-friendly UX. Also, in the Google Search Console, most of the poor URLs in terms of Core Web Vitals have a bad score for First Contentful Paint and First Input Delay. Both of these metrics are related to the “loading responsiveness” and “perceived load speed”. Having a good FCP and FID score is crucial for creating a better UX and reliability in the eyes of users.
Google separates the mobile and desktop users from each other for Page speed metric evaluations of the web sites so that the measurement can be performed more precisely.
What is a Bad First Contentful Paint Score?
If a web page can’t perform “first contentful paint” before 3+ seconds, it means a bad First Contentful Paint. According to Google’s Research, more than 50% of the users can’t wait if a web page doesn’t show anything under 3 seconds.
What is the Difference between First Paint and First Contentful Paint?
First Paint includes any types of pixel painting in the web page loading process. On the other hand, First Contentful Paint only includes the page elements’ loading such as an image, paragraph, navigation menu, logo, or non-white <canvas>.
How to Measure First Contentful Paint Correctly?
First Contentful Paint can be calculated and measured in Lab. and also Field. It means that it can be simulated via page speed tools, and also it can be observed via databases that include user-centric data. To measure the FCP Score, you may check the tools and methods below.
- Lighthouse (Lab. Data)
- Pagespeed Insights (Includes Real User Metrics)
- Chrome DevTools (Simulation of Page Loading)
- WebPage Test (Simulation of Page Loading)
- GT Metrix (Simulation of Page Loading)
- Chrome User Experience Report (Includes Real User Metrics)
- Firebase Performance Monitoring (Google’s Beta Tool, Lived, Real-time Real User Metrics)
Benefits of an Improved First Contentful Paint
- A good First Contentful Paint decreases the Bounce Rate. Because of the passive waiting (waiting without seeing anything for loading of a web page), any website users can leave the web page before starting the interacting with it.
- Improved First Contentful Paint can increase the Conversion Rate. A user on a web site can lose his/her focus in only 2 seconds of waiting. This distraction decreases the conversion rate.
- Improved First Contentful Paint can create a better brand impression and it improves the reliability of the web page. No user thinks a positive thing about a brand web site that doesn’t give a response or show the first content of its page after 3 seconds.
- First Contentful Paint is related to the other Page Speed metrics. Without a good FCP, you also can’t have a good Largest Contentful Paint. Because of this situation, improving FCP will create a benefit for other performance metrics.
How to Improve First Contentful Paint?
Most of the useful methods for improving the First Contentful Paint are not unique for the First Contentful Paint performance metric. Most of those performance improvement methodologies are related to the general page speed. A method that is useful for First Input Delay is also useful for First Contentful Paint and the one that useful for FCP is useful for Largest Contentful Paint. So, in our Page Speed and Performance Metrics Guidelines, you may see the same methodologies with different angles. We write every page speed improvement method and factor in a directly relevant way to the main topic of the guideline.
To improve First Contentful Paint, the methods below can be used.
1.Server Response Time and First Contentful Paint Relation
Server Response Time or Server Speed is directly related to the Time to First Byte performance metric. Since Time to First Byte is directly related to every web page resource, it is also important for the First Contentful Paint. A faster server will give faster responses to the user-agent so that the browser can download every asset faster and First Contentful Paint can happen earlier.
To improve TTFB and Server Response Time, important sections are below.
- Avoiding Dynamic Content
- Using CDN
- Configuring Web Server
- Optimizing Backend Infrastructure
To improve TTFB and learn more about these, you may read our “What is Time to First Byte and How to Improve it” guideline.
2. Eliminating Render Blocking Resources and First Contentful Paint Relation
Render Blocking Resources are the resources that prevent rendering of the web page. Browser downloads and parses all of the HTML Document, then it starts to download the resources in the HTML page, after this step, it starts rendering. Every unnecessary resource blocks the rendering without providing a benefit. Specifically, for the First Contentful Paint, the “menu bar”, “featured image”, “main CTA” in the above the fold section can be rendered faster via the inlined Critical CSS.
To improve the First Contentful Paint in terms of Render Blocking Resources:
- Inline every critical resource so that they can be parsed faster without any delay.
- Defer every non-critical resources.
To learn more about Render Blocking Resources and Critical CSS, you may read our guidelines.
3.Unused Codes and First Contentful Paint Relation
You may read our related “Unused Codes Cleaning and Coverage Report for Performance” guideline to learn more.
4.Client-side Rendering and First Contentful Paint Relation
5. Lazy-loading of Images and First Contentful Paint Relation
6. Inline Images and First Contentful Paint Relation
How to use inline images in an HTML Document and what are the inline images? Inline images are the images that don’t require an HTTP Request to be downloaded. They are in the HTML Document with “Data URLs” and they are being drawn by the browser. There are two types and formats for inline images. These are SVG and Base64. Inlining all the images that are important for the First Contentful Paint will increase timing since there is no need for HTTP Requests.
For the above the fold section, inline images can be logos, background images, banners, ads and icons.
Base64 format is an encoding algorithm that converts every type of web page asset into text, including images. SVG or Scalable Vector Graphics are the vectors that can be drawn by the browser to create meaningful icons or logos for the users. Both format can be inlined for better First Contentful Paint metric.
To learn more about Image Formats and Inline Images, you may read our related guidelines.
7. HTML DOM Size and First Contentful Paint Relation
Every web page with more than 1500 HTML DOM, every HTML Node with deeper than 32 Nodes, and every HTML Node with more than 60+ child notes are being seen as a problem for Google. A smaller DOM Size means that the browser can show the actual content faster. DOM Interactive event is the name of the HTML Parsing Process’ end. Before, DOM Interactive, a browser can’t show the content, so for a better First Contentful Paint, DOM Size Optimization is helpful.
To learn more about DOM Size and Performance Relation, you may read our guidelines.
8. Font Visibility and First Contentful Paint Relation
Browsers don’t show any font before finishing the download of every font file in the web page. This situation creates a delay for the appearance moment of the text on the web page. Browsers also have default font-family for the documents that don’t have any special font-family for themselves. This situation creates Flash of Invisible Text (FOIT). FOIT means that the text on the web page has been showing suddenly after the downloading of font files have been finished. To prevent this situation, “font-display:swap” attribute and value should be used in “@font-face” section of the CSS File.
Thus, text on the web page will be shown immediately with the default font-family of the browser. After the font files’ downloading process, it will swap the font-family to the web page’s font type. If you use Google CDN for font-files, you may add the “&display=swap” parameter into the end of the font-family URL as below.
<link href="https://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Loboto:500,600&display=swap" rel="stylesheet">
First Contentful Paint and FOIT are directly related terms to each other. To learn more about FOIT, you may read our related guidelines.
9. Redirect Chains and First Contentful Paint Relation
Every redirect chain delays the First Paint, First Contentful Paint, or Largest Contentful Paint. A redirect chain means that there are several web pages that redirected to each other for a web page that will give 200 status code. Because of this situation, both users and Search Engine Crawlers need to travel through every redirected old web page for seeing the First Contentful Paint. This situation happens a lot if there are lots of redirected URLs in the content of the web site. Because of this situation, every internal redirected URL should be cleaned from the content and switched with its destination URL that gives 200 status code.
To improve First Contentful Paint and Crawlability, Crawl Efficiency, understanding the status codes of internal URLs are important.
10. Resource Load Order and First Contentful Paint Relation
Resource Load Order means that which types of resources will be downloaded first and which ones will be delayed. Optimizing Resource Load Order will help the browser the prioritize the critical assets for the First Contentful Paint and faster interaction with the user. Also, the Transmission Control Protocol Slow Start term has a role here. Most of the browsers can read only the first 1460 bytes of the HTML Documents in the first second. Because of this situation, you need to put the most critical assets into the top of the HTML Documents so that they can be fetched, downloaded, and showed earlier to the user.
To learn more about Resource Hints, you may read our related guidelines.
Last Thoughts on First Contentful Paint and Holistic SEO
First Contentful Paint is one of the most important “user-centric” page speed metrics. It is directly related to the “perceived load speed”. If a web page can show an element on the web page faster to the user, it will help to show that the web page is being downloaded fast even if the Largest Contentful Paint takes more time. First Contentful Paint is directly related to the Time To First Byte, First Input Delay, Total Blocking Time, Largest Contentful Paint. To understand Page Speed Science and improving methods, a Holistic SEO should know the relationships between those metrics and which page speed improvement method helps to which metric more.
Some of the page speed and performance improvements are directly related to some metrics while indirectly related to the others. In this guideline, we have focused on First Contentful Paint’s definition, concrete examples, improvement methods, and its importance along with its relations with other performance metrics. Our FCP Guideline will be improved with time.
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