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I have a website that sells music artists posters. Each artists has a page containing a small bio, and a list of posters we are selling representing the artist.

Currently our HTML looks like that

<h1>{Artist name}</h1>
bio
<h2>Posters</h2>
<ul>
  <li class="poster">...</li>
  ...
</ul>

We are redesigning this page, and we have a new template that we really like. Problem is that in this new version the <h2>Posters</h2> does not appear anywhere on the page.

As you might expect, a significant part of our traffic comes from people typing something like : "{Artist name} poster" on Google.

I fear that, by removing the word "poster" from the page, we will reduce our chances of getting these people to come to the site, since Google might down rank us.

I see several options here :

  1. Give Google a slightly altered page that contains the H2 tags. But I think this falls into the "Black Hat SEO" category. And I don't want that.
  2. Put the heading. Hide it with CSS. Everyone wins, including accessibility tools which can determine the structure of the page using the "invisible" heading. But I do not know if this is considered a good practice.
  3. Forget about the heading, and find other ways to tell Google that we really are about posters. (via keywords, but do they really have the same "weight" as an H2?)
  4. Adapt the design to our SEO need, and find a way to put that heading nicely.

Are there webmasters out there that have been facing the same issue, how did you resolve it?

2

Give google a slightly altered page that contains the H2 tags. But I think this falls into the "Black Hat SEO" category. And I don't want that.

You are correct, that is considered black hat by Google. They call it "cloaking".

Put the heading. Hide it with CSS. Everyone wins, including accessibility tools witch can determine the structure of the page using the "invisible" heading. But I do not know if this is considered a good practice.

That is also considered black hat by Google. They call it "hidden text".

Forget about the heading, and find other ways to tell google that we really are about posters. (via keywords, but do they really have the same "weight" as an h2 ? )

Meta keywords carry no weight at all with Google. You should be putting important keywords into the <title> tag. Google values text in the title tag more than anywhere else on the page, including headings.

Adapt the design to our SEO need, and find a way to put that heading nicely.

Before you do that, let me say that the need for heading tags is much less than it was three years ago. Three years ago the formula for ranking for a keyword was to build a page about it with the keyword in the title, headings, and used several times on the page. You would then link internally to the page heavily to boost the page's pagerank. You would always use the keyword as the anchor text. You would also build external links to the page using the keyword as anchor text.

Since Google has rolled out the "Panda" algorithm, using that formula is a recipe for disaster. Now to rank for a keyword you need to create several pages about it covering several aspects to the keyword on each page. You need to use title tags that include the keyword, but also include other text about the keyword. You need to use the keyword naturally a few times on the page. If you go overboard with the keyword, especially in headings, Google will actually rank you lower because you are keyword stuffing. When you link to the page, you should be very careful not to use just the keywords as anchor text. Especially on external links.

In short, Google is paying much less attention to on-page factor than it used to, and penalizing much more often for keyword stuffing and getting spammy links. I'd go so far as to say that heading tags are optional now. They may help some when used in moderation, but they are much more likely to hurt when you put your keywords in them.

2019 Edit: At this point heading tags are even less important than they were when this answer was written in in 2013. Google now renders pages and it will give more weight to any prominent, large, bold text at the top of the page. It doesn't matter whether or not that text is marked up with heading tags at all. For SEO, heading tags just don't matter anymore.

Using heading tags can still make your page better accessible to blind users with screen readers. Screen readers usually have functionality to read headings first and jump to the specific section of the page under a heading. Using heading to give structure to your page is important to visually impaired users. Use headings for users, not for search engines.

  • Thank you very much for the clear and concise "point by point" response and the analysis of the implication of panda. – almathie Mar 1 '13 at 13:18
  • Google does not consider ALL hidden text as black hat and context plays a role in determining that. Nor do they think headings are optional or unimportant. Headings give structure to the page. – Rob Mar 1 '13 at 13:58
  • Headings do add structure to a page, and may help for SEO. I use them in my own pages. However, they no longer carry the weight that they used to that made them an SEO requirement. – Stephen Ostermiller Mar 1 '13 at 14:53
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Google does not consider Headings as the only ranking factor but still, it is a ranking factor, and if your content does not have the word poster, it will not be relatable to the poster keywords! The main solution for that, just simply use the poster word in H1 heading, Like this <h1> Artist Name Poster </h1>

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