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Does having a class inside the H1 tag reduces the seo weight?
Not as far as I've ever been able to detect.
instead have our H1 class defined in global css.
I think that's a sensible idea anyway. Keeping style information outside of the markup and content is generally a good thing. Taking this approach with all markup will lead to lighter weight pages and more content, less markup.
Are you sure they were specifically referring to SEO, or was this just general advice/suggestions?