br, hr, p and pre Tags and SEO


<br>,  <p> and <pre> tags are used mostly to visually structure the text content of a web document. They have almost no known semantic value and can’t influence the value/ranking of a document by themselves. However, what’s inside –  text content) of p and pre tags can influence the document’s theme and rankings.

<hr> seems to have some influence on what weight search engines put on headings in relationship with the horizontal rule. There’s a US patent on the subject by Daniel Egnor who currently works with Google on search ranking algos. Paragraph [0040] seems to imply that more emphasis is given to text just before or after the <hr> tag, which usually should be the headings .

Definition and Usage

This text contains<br />a line break.

<p>This is some text.</p>

<hr />

<p>This is some text.</p>


Text in a pre element

is displayed in a fixed-width

font, and it preserves

both spaces and

line breaks


For designers

There are two common mistakes designers do:

  1. Using <br /> to adjust the length of your text lines. This will insure that your pages look great on your browser, but not necessarily on another browser. This is because the browsers will automatically put in word wrapping and then when it comes to your <br /> will wrap the text again, resulting in short lines and long lines and choppy text. Solution: Use style sheets to define the width of your pages. (source)
  2. Using <p> </p> to add more space between elements.This is a common practice of some editors, and while it is not technically wrong, it results in awkward looking HTML and can often get really confusing to edit later. It also can result in unexpected spacing in different browsers, as they all seem to interpret this differently. Solution: The best solution is to use style sheets to get the amount of spacing you want.(source)


  • you could probably design content separation without using the <hr> tag but my recommendation is to use it if it makes sense (i.e. you separate pieces of content using a thin line).

For SEO professionals

  • <p> is one of the most important tags used to improve rankings, but not by itself, but rather by what’s inside it: the text CONTENT; I don’t need to remind you that content is the king; search engines are looking for this tag because most of the time this tag is used in the parts of the page where the real content is
  • <br>, <hr> and <pre> can’t be really used to  alter the semantic meaning of a page, and therefore its theme and rank in SERPs
  • use <hr> then <hx> when introducing a new subject on the same page
  • it is important to know how search engines are caching text, but I will let this for you to experiment: create a page using these tags and wait for the page to be cached, then take a look at text only version of the cache. Hint: read below

For programmers

  • <br> doesn’t add a space between the separated entities, in other words, if you use <p>writing a single<br>word</p>, search engine will read and cache this:writing a singleword; so use this wisely, make sure you leave the appropriate space

For copywriters

  • Use the <br> tag whenever you have a line break with a semantic value: i.e. poetry, song lyrics, in a postal address, etc
  • use <hr> when the content before the line is semantically different that the content after the line, but a better approach in terms of SEO is to create separate pages instead of a page with different semantics
  • when finishing a subject matter on a page and continue another subject on the same page, use the keywords targeted at the end of that paragraph, then continue with a heading containing the targeted keywords for that section
  • <pre> tag means the content within it will keep the original’s formatting and sometimes can be used instead of <br>

Pitstop Media offers ROI focused SEO services. If you need a SEO company to help you rank #1 please contact us for a free, no obligation quote. We’ve helped companies rank first on Google in short periods of time, for highly competitive terms.

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Traian is Director of Search Marketing at Pitstop Media Inc. He has more than 11 years experience in helping small and medium businesses generate and convert organic traffic from search engines. Connect with Traian on Google+. He is also the author of the Ecommerce SEO book.