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Does my home page H1 tag with a "background-image" hurt SEO?

     
3:44 pm on Jun 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I would like to know if the way I am handling the H1 tag on my site is correct. This is a wordpress site with Thesis theme.

Because I use a header logo rather just just printing the title and tagline on the page, I end up with the following generated code, according to viewing the source:


<div id="header">
<h1 id="logo"><a href="http://www.mystie.com">Free online college courses by mysite.com</a></h1>
</div>


And this is my CSS for #logo:


.custom #logo {background-image: url('/images/logo.jpg'); background-repeat: no-repeat; width: 600px; height: 62px; text-indent: -9999px; }
.custom #logo a {width: 600px; height: 62px; display: block; outline: none;}



So, this is placing my site title or tagline (depending upon my settings) wording in the H1 tag. But it doesnn't display on-page since apparently the background image blocks it.

So, my question is, how do search engines treat this H1 tag as done above? Do they treat the text in "Free online college courses by MySite.com" with the power of an H1 tag that has its text displayed (without the background-image)? Or is it of less value somehow since the text is not actually displayed?

If it's not of less value, than this current method works for me. If, however, I actually were to display that text in an H1 tag with without the background image, and the search engines liked that better, I would find a place to actually display the H1 tag's wording.
9:13 am on June 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I have had a similar issue where my H1 was not immediately visible on the page. To my mind it may cause an issue if you outrank a competitor who may then complain about your Hidden H1 tags in an attempt to get you penalised.
1:59 pm on June 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

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That's an interesting take. So, possibly no Google penalty unless they get a complaint.
3:01 pm on July 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Guys I think you will find that any hidden text or extremly small text is indeed frowned upon by Google and most other search engines.

As for the power of a H1, the H1 tag actually attracts less value than bold text these days & it would appear from what I have read, that it has been devalued due to abuse by spammers. The H2 & H3 tags actually attract far greater value in terms of SEO. If you do a search for "SEO Pitfall" the guy that runs that blog did a very good article based on tests he had personally carried out. It is well worth reading. ;-)
10:25 pm on July 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

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>>Guys I think you will find that any hidden text or extremly small text is indeed frowned upon by Google and most other search engines.

i completely disagree, i often have hidden text inside a tag with a background image that is a graphic representation of the text - eg a branded logo, i haven't had any problems so far.
11:05 pm on July 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Google's webmaster guidelines [google.com] are very clear:

Hiding text or links in your content can cause your site to be perceived as untrustworthy since it presents information to search engines differently than to visitors. Text (such as excessive keywords) can be hidden in several ways, including:

* Using white text on a white background
* Including text behind an image
* Using CSS to hide text
* Setting the font size to 0

Heed the advice of Planet Patrol's song and "Play At Your Own Risk" but don't get mad when you get penalized because it was posted "DO NO DO THIS" in plain B&W text.
6:51 am on July 19, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Thankyou incrediBILL, that is exactly my point !

Furthermore I am curious as to why the H1 text cannot be placed over a logo image, or even directly below it, this would then make sure there were no issues that would risk picking up a penalty for.
I find it is always better to play safe than to wander into grey areas, after all picking up a penalty can be so easy, yet getting it lifted and restoring trust in your website can take a hell of a long time. ;-)
7:04 am on July 19, 2010 (gmt 0)

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It's 50/50 really. You're helping a search engine robot understand the content of your page, and at the same time you're maybe pushing the envelope a little much.

Why not change the background image to just an image on page with some title text? Alternatively, make sure the <h1> text is visible.

The text being invisible just raises eyebrows, even if it's totally related to the content on the page and the content is excellent.
7:28 am on July 19, 2010 (gmt 0)

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there is a fair amount of relevant discussion in this WebmasterWorld thread:
accessibility and <h1> header images:
http://www.webmasterworld.com/accessibility_usability/3844966.htm [webmasterworld.com]