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

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?

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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.

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.

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

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.

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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

Haha. Best response ever.

+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.)


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?

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.

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Ours does also, but it doesn’t show exactly what was edited. I know that some platforms allow you to put a note or edit reason in which is publicly visible.

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Great topic. looks like most people lean toward edit the topic title and notify.

We debated this in my team. We decided to run a pilot and edit titles when needed on a few boards in English, German and Japanese. We are a few months into it. The key for now is: if we edit the title, we add at the top of the post a short note, visible to all.

The community is primarily on tech support. The thinking behind this pilot is that the community needs to serve the needs of many (slightly) over the authorship of one. A title that says “I need help!” is useless, for ex.

So far, no backlash. We will very likely formalize this in a guideline doc soon.

I think the issue is more how to handle the notification rather than whether to edit or not.


Agreed, although that perhaps depends on the reason for editing. Your example is perfect – you edit for the good of the community members (ie so they get more responses to their question) rather than for the good of the business (ie SEO).

I like your solution of adding a note.

I like the thinking behind why you want to do this. I’m on the fence on this topic. If I was to notice that someone altered my post, I think my first response would be on the negative side…thinking that my contribution wasn’t good enough or wrong. This might be enough to stop community members from posting in the future. On the flip side, if you are able to increase the responses to my post because better SEO key words have been added, that would be great! I definitely feel that you should contact the author first and let them know that you feel that they have a great question and want to make sure that it gets the maximum exposure by adding/replacing a few terms. I think this would reinforce that someone is paying attention to posts and trying to get results. I don’t think anyone would object to that.

Good point – that would be a very good way to frame it.

It’s been about a year since this thread was active, and I’m curious to know if anyone who implemented post title edits has seen measurable results?

We’re looking into starting to change post titles to improve search results - we know that most people arrive via Google search right now, and we have lots of post titles such as “email question” that just don’t get good topics to turn up.

Right now I’m working with our SEO team to identify keywords we want to implement and then identifying posts that we could change the titles of for better results.

We’re also thinking about how to roll this out to the community, and are leaning toward a “notify first” process, with a “if we don’t hear back from you within X days, we’ll go ahead and make the change.”

So what do you think? If this is something you’ve done, has it improved things for your community?

Annoyingly I can’t speak to measurable results because it wasn’t something that we did enough to really move the needle, but unless you’re talking about investing hours and hours into updating titles, I don’t see the downside.

Perfect. That’s what I do on the odd occasion that I change a title and I’ve never had a negative response.

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This would be my initial response as well. I think deeply about titles (not in here b/c I’ve yet to start a topic) but elsewhere. Logically, I would understand that the change wasn’t personal and not meant as a criticism of my style and preferences, but it would still feel personal. In this community in particular, it might sting a bit more if it was changed with no comment because it would feel like I’m being corrected. It would feel a bit belittling. That being said, if we worked together on a new one as @irreverance suggested, it would feel more like a learning experience, which I would appreciate a lot more.

Ultimately, it might lead me to refrain from posting as much in the future, but I’d probably still read and lurk.

Reading through my response again after typing it up in a flurry… I didn’t realize I was that sensitive about my words being changed! :joy:

Ha. I appreciate the candour. :slight_smile:

I guess the upshot is that (like everything) communication and managing expectations is the key. I think I’d also be slightly wounded to just come in and find that my title had been changed, but if I understood that the change meant I was likely to get more responses (or even just eyes on the post) then pragmatically I’d be ok with it.

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