When changing a post title is the right thing to do

Last December, I wrote a pretty scathing post about Dolphin Music in which I vented my anger at the company’s poor customer service. I entitled that post “Recommendation: Don’t buy from Dolphin Music.”

Today I added some new content at the beginning of the post and changed the title to “Update: Dolphin Music does care about its customers.”

This is the first time I’ve ever changed the title of a published blog post.

I’m happy to make the change which is simply a fairer reflection of what I feel about Dolphin Music today without changing how I felt at the time I wrote the post.

The fairness aspect of this relates particularly to the results of Google searches on the keywords ‘dolphin music.’

So if you were doing a search for Dolphin Music – perhaps thinking about buying something from them – my original and distinctly negative post would show up in the top five search results, every time.

As this screenshot shows (click on it for a larger version) that I grabbed about 30 minutes ago, there I am, in this search appearing as the third result.

I wouldn’t normally be concerned about this if my negative feeling about a particular company remained the same. But it doesn’t in this case, as I explained in the additional text I added today to the original post.

While I have changed the post’s title, I have not changed the post’s URL, its permalink.

My thinking about this is that if I change the permalink, then anything linked to it will fail because the post’s address will have changed. My thinking is also related specifically to search engine results – I want the post to still keep showing up so that anyone who comes to it via search, for instance, will now see the additional content and the new title.

I might still change the permalink but, with the help of a nifty WordPress plugin called Redirect Old Slugs, do it in a way that the change will be wholly transparent and not affect the post showing up in all the right places including search engine results. Actually, I can’t really see any value in changing it. Can you?

Finally, I chatted on the phone last week with Jake Seabrook, the Customer Services Manager at Dolphin Music. With Jake’s permission, I’ll be publishing that conversation as an FIR podcast. I think you’ll be impressed by what Jake has to say about listening to customers and joining the conversation.

Hope to get the podcast posted in a few days.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Keith Childs

    Hi Neville,
    I listened to FIR episode 242 in the car this morning and was actually about to send in an audio comment on your Dolphin question – but I’m more than a week behind on my listening so it’s a bit late now. I was going to say I think you should change it. It’s not like you are changing history. It was true at the time- but the conversation developed, the company responded and to have a historical snapshot so visible in Google search results is not really fair if things have moved on. Sure, if you read all the comments you’ll eventually get the balanced view but many will just see a negative headline and not delve deeper.

    Anyway, you have already changed it without my two cents worth. With influence there is a responsibility. I think you acted very fairly and you did the right thing.

    Keith

  2. Tom Keefe

    Hi Neville,

    I think that this situation and the discussion between Sally and you on FIR #243 show that certain perceptions about blogging may be changing. Here, you grappled with the question whether changing a blog title might violate some blogging principle. On FIR, you and Sally pointed out that an earlier disdain for “ghost bloggers” should be reconsidered–after all, what is different between writing a blog for a CEO and a speech?

    We don’t expect anyone to state who wrote their speeches for them; why do we hold bloggers to a higher standard?

    That said, I have always considered blog posts to have been written by the person posting it–unless told otherwise. If I start looking at blog posts and asking, “Hmmm, did s/he REALLY write this?” will my perception of that post change?

    It certainly shouldn’t from a factual standpoint: whatever statements are made, they should hold true regardless of the post’s author.

    But from a “trust” standpoint, I believe that I hold bloggers to a higher standard than I do leaders who use speechwriters. I don’t know why, other than the way we talked about candor, transparency and personal conversations when we pushed people into blogging.

  3. neville

    Keith, it’s never too late for comments to FIR ;)

    Thanks for your assessment. I also had some emails broadly saying the same, ie, changing the title and updating the post was the right thing to do. And I’m glad to see that the post still shows up in the top 5 or so of a Goggle search now showing the changed title.

    Tom, I agree, it is all about trust.

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