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I have a dynamically constructed page that automatically pulls specific page content and applies it to the meta description.

There are <br> tags that end up in the meta description. Should I write the extra code that will remove and store this cleaned-up version, or is it ok/safe/bad-for-SEO to leave the tags there?

  • I've added a <br> tag to a live site, just to test how the description renders in the search results, but now I'm waiting for the new description to be crawled (2 weeks). – americruiser Aug 26 '14 at 19:22
  • Out of interest why would you even want to add <br> to a meta desc? – Simon Hayter Aug 26 '14 at 20:28
  • Ah, I see... I just read the question again. To be honest you should just use regex to find and replace br tags and other tags like <span> - <p> - <strong> etc etc. – Simon Hayter Aug 26 '14 at 20:32
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    What version of HTML? Presumably these special chars >, < are not HTML encoded - is this valid HTML? – MrWhite Aug 26 '14 at 23:27
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I don't think there is any harm in doing this from an SEO perspective as this tag is not used as a ranking factor anymore. As far as Google using it to display the snippet for your pages in their search results, they can choose to simply ignore the <br> tag or choose a different snippet to display such as your ODP description (if it exists) or a snippet of text from your page's content.

Having said that, if you have the ability to remove those tags you should do so. If you suspect it may be problematic, and it serves no purpose in your meta tag (and it doesn't) you should remove it.

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    In PHP it's barely "extra code", you just call the strip_tags function. – DisgruntledGoat Aug 27 '14 at 7:20
  • @John, agreed on ranking impact as opposed to results appearance. – americruiser Aug 27 '14 at 15:30
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If there is a string "<br>" included, it’s exactly that: a string of text (and not an HTML element).

That’s probably not a SEO issue (it’s just text, not different to anything else in the description), but it might be a problem for people reading this description.

Only you can decide if it makes sense for your content’s description to contain such a string. I’d say it makes sense for an article about the br element (like this Webmasters question), and probably for nothing else.

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I have inserted a <br> tag on a personal page of mine, and it finally got crawled by Google. And while I don't have any hard data on the before and after rankings, I do have more of an answer on the meta-description => search result snippet:

The tag was removed, and the description was displayed as a snippet; however, it also appended page content after the meta-description. And in a domain-restricted search ('site:*.com'), the meta-description was not displayed, just a bit of page content.

  • It is common for Google to vary the description that appears in the SERPs depending on what the user searches for. So, even when the meta description may appear to be perfectly valid, it might not be used. So it would seem that your test is working "normally". – MrWhite Aug 27 '14 at 20:45

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