Hiding H1 for SEO Homepage

Last updated on March 2nd, 2024 at 03:30 pm

Case Study: improved Organic Traffic and no ranking deficit or penalties when hiding H1 for SEO Homepage of brand.

SEO Case Study: Hiding H1 for SEO Homepage

The client is a large multinational corporation working in software and technology services, operating both in b2c, b2b and governative market. We are working on SEO for several web properties for this group trough Fuel LAB.

Meeting SEO needs and design / branding needs is sometimes challenging, especially when it comes to the brand’s homepage.

This client’s homepage had as H1 a marketing-oriented sentence that said something like “All that you need for your day to day life etc”. I have expressed the need to have the main keyword in H1 (old SEO, I know, but.. keep reading), and the best result I have achieved was to edit that sentence writing “All that you need for your day to day life, thanks to [Brand] innovation”. Something like that, don’t take the example as an exact match to what we actually did.

The improvement on the homepage ranking and impressions was visible, yet this new title was making me even more uncomfortable. First of all, as a SEO you need to be able to do what you have to do, without compromising user experience, while actually bettering it. Secondly, I’m stubborn.

seo apple website h1
Check out Apple’s website. Right now they do have the word “Apple” on homepage, because it’s black Friday promotion time; but notice, that sentence is not the H1. It’s actually an H2.

I mean, this is my point: let’s assume the brand was “Apple”. You wouldn’t expect to head over to Apple websites and stumble upon a big hero image on the above the fold that states <h1>Apple</h1>, right?

It would be counterproductive from every standpoint, and surely a known Brand doesn’t need to put their name on their homepage. Especially when it comes to a Brand that is so popular, probably one of the most popular brands around. We would all agree that Apple doesn’t need an H1 on their homepage stating “Apple”, especially with that whopping Domain Authority and the general echosystem and search volume Apple has.


Well, think again.

After noticing how this was a widely spread technique by the major brands online, we have decided to implement this technique on two websites.

  1. Our Client’s website, which we won’t disclose for NDA reasons
  2. Fuel LAB’s website, the company I funded, which is a much smaller, insignificant website in the SEO Echosystem.

H1 and main keyword

Any SEO in the world knows that, despite John Müller misleading words on the topic, Heading Tags (and especially H1 tags) are necessary and an important part of page structure when it comes to telling the crawler what the content of a page is about. H1, in the specific, should explain directly the main topic of the page.

The playout is pretty straightforward when it comes to internal pages and subpages, but what about the Homepage? Normally the homepage should have no other “topic” if not being the “homepage” of, in these cases, a business.

So, how come that not only Apple, but also Logitech, Zappos and many other don’t show the brand keyword in the homepage? Where is that h1 that seems nowhere to be found?

The H1 Tag is there, but it’s hidden.

Hiding the H1 Tag

The H1 tag on all of these websites appears to be visually hidden via CSS, in some case in a very telling way (class is SEO_Title and such). This allows the brands to tell the Search Engine that that’s indeed the homepage of that brand’s website, while not showing it to the users.

This avoids design compromises, huge copywriting headaches for the homepage, which is often a hub of link with high relevancy, which easily produce sitelinks extensions.

See for yourself these hidden H1 tags in all of these websites.

<h1 class="visuallyhidden">Apple</h1>
.visuallyhidden {
    position: absolute;
    clip: rect(1px, 1px, 1px, 1px);
    -webkit-clip-path: inset(0px 0px 99.9% 99.9%);
    clip-path: inset(0px 0px 99.9% 99.9%);
    overflow: hidden;
    height: 1px;
    width: 1px;
    padding: 0;
    border: 0;
<h1 class="seo-pagetitle">Logitech: Mouse, tastiere, cuffie con microfono wireless e accessori per videoconferenze</h1>
.seo-pagetitle {
    position: absolute;
    clip: rect(1px,1px,1px,1px);
    clip-path: inset(0px 0px 99.9% 99.9%);
    overflow: hidden;
    height: 1px;
    width: 1px;
    padding: 0;
    border: 0;}
<h1 class="rb-z">Zappos Homepage</h1>
.rb-z {
    clip: rect(1px 1px 1px 1px);
    clip: rect(1px,1px,1px,1px);
    height: 1px;
    overflow: hidden;
    position: absolute;
    width: 1px;

One might think to achieve this purpose by setting this rule:

  • h1 display:none

I think that this would trigger a cloaking signal to the AI. Instead, in general, there seems to be a trend about the technique, aside from the css class name: they all share the same way to hide the H1 tag:

  • Position is set to absolute
  • clipping is implemented
  • the size of the element is set to 1px x 1px

Is hiding the H1 Tag considered cloaking?

The first thought I had was considering if the hidden h1 seo technique was in some ways considered cloaking. The definition of cloaking is pretty straightforward: cloaking is a black-hat practice in which the SEO is trying to show the users a different content than the one actually shown to people.

It’s a serious red flag for Search Engines that will recognize this signal as:

  • potentially dangerous, compromised or hacked website,
  • hosting hazardous or prohibited content
  • it will trigger Google’s rules contained in the SPAM update

Therefore cloaking is an absolutely discouraged technique, like all black-hat SEO techniques (does black hat even exists as a term anymore?). And yet, how comes that brands such as Apple use this technique for the homepage?

Is it permitted because of the exceptional Domain Rating, history, and reliability of the brand? Or is it maybe that Google’s intelligent enough to understand that if you’re doing it only on the homepage, you know exactly what you’re doing, and therefore you’re not using SEO policies against Google Search Central’s terms and conditions?

Is hiding other pages content considered cloaking?

Hiding heading tags, willingly showing to users a different content than the one we are actively suggesting to the Search Engine, is definitely considered cloaking and will contribute to negatively affect your rankings.

Here is Google’s “Cloak of visibility” research led by the North Carolina State University, written in 2017 by Luca Invernizzi, Kurt Thomas, Alexandros Kapravelos, Oxana Comanescu, Jean-Michel Picod, and Elie Bursztein.

With all these technologies set in place, you are guaranteed to receive a penalty as soon as Google realizes what you’re trying to achieve.

Results of the SEO Experiment

The main objective of this experiment was to avoid having drops in rankings, CTR and impressions, while implementing the correct heading tag for the homepage.

Not only the website didn’t receive any sort of penalty, but while the average number of impressions of the site’s homepage were stable, the CTR and traffic volume scaled significantly, staying stable ever since (and with a positive delta due to further SEO work in the months past September 2022.

Google Search Console homepage and brand name queries results after hiding h1 for SEO homepage
Google Search Console CTR and Clicks ramped after the deployment of hidden h1 on homepage, for branded searches on the homepage.
Google Search Console homepage and non branded queries results after hiding h1 for SEO homepage
The same phenomenon is observable on the non branded searches that led traffic to the homepage; CTR and click volume grew exponentially.

So, this means that:

  • Hiding the H1 on your homepage, where the H1 is the sitename, doesn’t harm your SEO.
  • Providing a correct H1 tag for your homepage is capable of improving your organic traffic also for non branded terms.

Final thoughts:

Despite what Google likes to tell to the public, Heading tags and traditional technical SEO are still fundamental for strategic ranking. When John Muller as a spokesman of Google tells you that you don’t need heading tags or H1 for that matter, and they are simply useful, he is telling this:

“here at Google we are investing immense amount of money on AI, and we don’t want SEOs to try and manipulate rankings sending technical signals to our machines; we want our machines to freely index and rank things on their own, so just don’t worry about it.”

While on one hand I absolutely support the need of letting Machine Learning and AI work, because this is what the future of digital and search is going to be all about, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need Tech SEO. Actually, you need that even more.

Providing the correct information and context to the machines that are concurrent do determine ranking signals that overall are going to output into SEO performance, is even more critical now than it was before, because we have a less extended amount of freedom in how much to affect how AI is going to interpret our content and its value.

Specifically, Heading 1 Tags are very important to determine how the crawler is going to understand the topic of that page, and consequentially understand your Heading Tags strategy, and the relevance of links and content within the paragraphs under your heading tags, especially on your homepage.

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