commanderW - 1:56 am on Aug 24, 2010 (gmt 0)
For SEO, I believe the wisdom and experience running through many threads here on Webmaster World would guide me to pick the text of Option 1.
Nix Option 2 - An h6 above an h1 is improper code syntax.
Options 3 and 4 are images. Text is better for SEO. But the use of a background image in Option 4 is a neat trick. If, that is, you ever want to make a line of text completely obscure to machines yet visible to humans.
I have never read that the h1 should be absolutely the first text on a page.
And so my instinct (But not solid years of experience playing with and studying the search engines) says to take your text option and work it. Give it p tags instead of just putting it in a div. If you want the search engines to notice and pay attention to the text in your Master Heading placed above the h1. The more words the better. The more detailed and specific the html wrapping those words the better (using bold and italic and underline around particular words or phrases, even more better). Search engines are desperate for indicators of meaning.
Maybe someone on this forum has special knowledge of the priorities and interest search engines give to different html elements, like p and div. I have read posts here on this subject. You can tailor the code you wrap this text in according to your wishes.