Would You Be Happy Or Sad If I Reworded Your Discussion Topic?


(Richard Millington) #1

One of the topics that keeps coming up, especially when it relates to SEO, is whether it’s ok to reword discussion topics to ensure more people find it, respond to it, and it is most likely to attract the sort of responses the author wants.

Trying to get a read of what people here think.

Very often I see an excellent question or discussion that’s hidden behind a relatively broad, unspecific, or just unexciting topic. My temptation has always been to reword some of the good ones to ensure they get more traffic and become a bigger topic. But I’m concerned about how people will react to that.

Another option is to drop the author a note and see if they might be willing to do it. But that adds another step to this whole process.

What do you believe? Would this upset you if we did it? Do you do it in your communities?

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(Bas van Leeuwen) #2

I know you did it with a topic of mine once, that was a bit off-putting if I’m honest.

I think a compromise might be best: alter but notify (can be a stock notification).

Hey, I changed your title a bit because of reasons X, Y, Z. Hope you don’t mind. Feel free to revert this if you feel this is inappropriate.

(Alessio Fattorini) #3

I’m used to splitting such interesting answers into new topics with related replies. Don’t worry, members are suddenly notified by Discourse
"Reply as linked Topic" is powerful at the same, maybe more since you can extract just a part of the whole post

(ForumSentinel) #4

I’ve had this same thought on my own boards for some topics. IMO contacting the user before making the change, and explaining your reasoning (e.g. doing so will bring more attention to your thread) will often remove any offense they might take. They see the benefit of the change to them resulting in more eyeballs and posts and you empower them by giving them the option of saying no. In most cases, I don’t see the user objecting to the edits.

If I was the user in question, I probably would be a little unnerved. It would feel a little like trampling on sacred ground. If my post didn’t violate any rules, I wouldn’t be a huge fan of my post being edited without my consent and would also wonder how often that happens, removing some of that trust factor.

(Nick Emmett) #5

I wouldn’t have an issue with it, even less if I was notified later - if it goes against the point of my post in some way I can always let you know.

(Sarah Hawk) #6

Good topic Rich.

I’d feel a bit weird if someone reworded my topic without notifying me. I think it’s courtesy to do so.

My approach would be to respond to their topic under the guise of clarification (or similar) using SEO appropriate wording. As far as I know, the OP doesn’t get any more weight than content further down the page.

Post title is more important, but I relatively frequently edit people’s post titles anyway and send them a DM explaining that they’re likely to get better responses with a more descriptive title (or whatever is appropriate).

Another (potentially better) approach that would likely work well here would be to respond with SEO appropriate wording along with transparency over what we’re doing. That way we can work towards changing the behaviour of everyone else as well.

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(Bo McGuffee) #7

To me, this is a question about exercising power in the community, so I would start by asking permission. If you don’t ask, you are dis-empowering the member. By asking, you are empowering them by giving them control over your action. And I believe that members should feel empowered.

Asking also changes the nature of the relationship from “either you or I decide who crafts the title” to “let’s work together to craft a better title.” By inviting them into the process of re-crafting the title, you are working together toward a common goal. And, in the process, they may incidentally learn more about your own personal goals and adapt to accommodate.

Finally, it’s just a great excuse to start a dialogue with someone. Surely there would be a way to share a story or two in the exchange.

Of course, there is the danger of the author not responding. In a case like that, I would give her or him enough time to reply, and if they didn’t I would move on to “I decided to go ahead and make the change.”

(Joe Velez) #8

We alter but notify if content is fresh. If old we just change it.

(Margaret Bost) #9

I wouldn’t be happy or sad, I’d be mildly embarrassed and probably emotionally detach at least a little from the forum. I’m very new to community management but I have worked on busy forums for quite a few years. Here are the reasons I would tend not to reword a topic:

  1. You might think the topic isn’t worded properly to attract traffic but people don’t necessarily use the search terms you think they use. Unless you have time to do the research you don’t know. I would do what HAWK suggests…reply with SEO-appropriate text or text I think would prompt more replies.
  2. You’re creating bad mojo between you (or your community/brand) and the user. Is it worth it? It’s hard enough to repair an in-person relationship tainted by resentment, try doing that virtually.
  3. On a busy forum it’s very difficult to find the time for a lot of personal hand-holding. You might have time to write the first email asking for permission but then you have to deal with responses and possibly arguments. Those take time to deal with.

(rhogroupee) #10

We will sometimes tell the person who posted that we are rewording their topic title so it’s easier to find/vote up, and we do that inside our response (it’s a support community). Personally, I wouldn’t be offended as long as you let me know why it was reworded.

Side question…is there data showing that optimizing topic titles in a forum will have search engine rank benefits?

(Sarah Hawk) #11

I only have anecdata. The keyword Discourse has 6k avg. monthly searches. The thread titled Discourse vs NodeBB has an inordinate number of views for a thread with only 17 responses. It is about our third highest rated. Lots of threads have the word Discourse in them, but very few have it in the H1.

(Doug Agee) #12

I spend time on coaching community members on titles for discussion posts. I think the greater good is improving search results.

Giving the member a proper notification with a gentle explanation seems to be a good approach.

(Alessio Fattorini) #13

Wow, how do you extract such data? GA + Discourse? I can’t find out how to do this

(Nick Emmett) #14

Some interesting thoughts in here, my personal opinion is that if it’s for the good of the Community then I’m in!

I wonder how @dominic_woodman would address this, rewording posts was a segment in his great talk at SPRINT London this year.

(Travis King) #15

(Sarah Hawk) #16

I use the Google Adwords Keyword Planner to get monthly search volumes on specific keywords.
I use our own GA to see what keywords people land on our site using (Acquisition --> SEO --> Queries)
I use the Discourse heatmap to see views vs replies

(Sarah Hawk) #17

Haha. Best response ever.

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(Dominic Woodman) #18

+1 @Doug_Agee and @rhogroupee

I think there are a couple things here:

  1. You can change just the title, without it affecting how someone’s question appears in the site or on the page (although it does give more of a chance of a bounce.)
  2. Kinda bull, but I think it depends a lot on what kind of community. If you’re a Q&A site, then plenty of the normal edits/requests you’d make, to add clarity, clean up grammer and that sort of thing, will help without being SEO focused and would strike me as immediately acceptable if not mandatory.

Even if you’re not I think the clarity one is particularly big, often you’re not re-wording for Google but for clarity. Even when you’re just changing for higher search volume, you’re not just changing for Google, you’re changing for people on your own site search too, odds are they’re also using the same language on your site as they are in Google.

It’s also where you can run into problems though, I think the line (for me at least) is where you re-word someone’s question and subtly change the meaning.

I think a solid flow would be:

  • Does the post need basic grammer/ clarity edits? - Yes
    • Make it and notify with that
  • Could the question be re-worded for greater search volume (perhaps synonyms etc.) - Yes
    • Can you reword it without changing meaning? - Yes
      • Re-word and notify with (changed for visibility/searching)

Then with each notification link to a place that explains the choice. +1 @Margaret_Bost , I think on most large communities you probably don’t have the time for individual hand-holding that you do on the small ones. (although you guys probably know that better than me.)

(Sarah Hawk) #19

Agreed in entirety. I think that workflow is solid – thanks for your advice.

This is one that I find tricky, especially if the lack of clarity stems from language issues – someone posts in broken English (or whatever the primary language of the community is). Has anyone experienced this? Do you edit?

(Doug Agee) #20

I have added a clarifying word or two (in parenthesis) to help avoid confusion. Our platform shows that the post was edited and lists the author.