Tim Gunn’s Top 5 Tips for More Stylish Content

Tim Gunn’s Top 5 Tips for More Stylish Content

Reader Comments (115)

  1. Erika:

    Thanks for sharing some good blogging tips. SEO tools are great, but they don’t replace a human subject matter expert. Scribe and Genesis Framework – both tools promoted by Copyblogger – are very helpful for SEO. But they work even better if you bring expertise to the table.

    You did bring up the element of controversy. A controversial persona or topic can generate much interest, if we’re not afraid of the heat. Look at Rush Limbo and Howard Stern. Both generate controversy (on opposite sides of the spectrum), and are filthy rich doing so.

    You also add being engaged in comments. I always like seeing that personal touch on comments, after commenting on a blog post.

    Finally, I like the picture of the suit wearing gentleman. It looks like he’s wearing a very pricey model.


    • Hey Randy – thanks for stopping by! And I’m no stranger to controversy at all. That’s why I say to face it, head-on. Burying will only place the power into the hands of others to deal with what you should be dealing with yourself. We have to own our content and be willing to take the praise with the criticism 🙂

  2. Somewhat OT here, but on the Genesis theme framework: this particular site, CopyBlogger, has never looked as good as it did on Thesis. Pearson got the proportions right on spacing and font sizes. Genesis just looks “off” to me, and a little ugly. I understand that business reasons compelled this change, but it’s too bad.

  3. A leader is unreasonable. And a writer is a leader. She does not need to be reasonable. She needs to communicate but she does not have to please everyone.

    Great content happens when we can express our own unreasonableness and make people stop and consider. I agree with you that we should not write only for SEO. I think we must write good content and use SEO as a tool to increase our readership.

    I can write for the same good content for an audience of one or one hundred thousand. What is important is I write something that will make me happy when I read it again.

  4. As always great stuff even without a bitch slap or two.

    Derek stole my favorite line, “People share great content, not great keywords.” Right as Rain. 🙂

    Content, engagement, accessibility, and persistence are all keys for building a blogging community and its all about engaging the community but I still don’t have a taste for Fresca. 🙂

  5. I hate to say it (well, I don’t actually, I love to say it) — but these rules apply to LIFE as well. Isn’t that often the case with PR? Carry On, embrace the buzz and engagement is the key to style are tips anyone can use. Talk about making it accessible!


  6. Great post and I appreciated what you said about SEO strategy and conversation. By the way, Tim Gunn does blog on occasion and he’s incredibly engaging.

  7. Getting more “engaged” is great advice, but much tougher for some of us than others. I think it’s a great lesson that the reward is worth it for those of us that have to go a bit beyond our comfort zone in order to do this. Definitely good advice and definitely something I need to work harder on… I think that’s one of the big key elements I am missing at the moment. Thanks for the article!

    • My pleasure, Jeff. Can you clarify something for me, though? Why do you feel that getting more engaged is tougher for some people? My thoughts are that if you’re blogging, you’re asking people to read you. Why would you not read and weigh in with others in the same fashion?

      • Haha, I knew that question would come up in people’s minds as they read my comment. “You can blog, but you have a hard time engaging with other people?” Yea, maybe the two don’t normally go together. I have only been blogging for a few weeks, and I learned that there is more to it than just putting out some articles for people to read. It just requires a bit of a perspective shift for those of us that typically view the internet as a solitary experience and haven’t been in the habit of interacting with it as much. But I’m working on it! 🙂

  8. Another good tip is, go with the dress that fits you best. Don’t attempt to wear a pair of of trousers when a sari looks fabulous on you (Off topic but every woman, no matter how out of shape she is looks great in a sari).

    Be genuine. Don’t attempt to ape your favorite blogger’s style. People will know when they read and you will look bad. And they are never going to come back

  9. I love Tim Gunn and I love this post. I actually ran into him while on vacation in Vegas a few weeks ago. It was 5:30 in the morning, I’d just gotten off the elevator, and we were on our way to the airport to head home. I’d spent the whole week in these cute, perfectly planned outfits, only to run into Mr. Gunn in my “baggy jeans/it’s too early to look good” ensemble. He of course, looked classy as hell, and there’s no way I could’ve gone up to him or taken a picture with him looking the way I did.

    So I guess there’s a blogging lesson in there somewhere? Maybe: don’t think you can pull of looking like crap on an off day, because you never know when you’ll get put on the spot.

  10. Erika, Hadn’t watched PR in a few years, but these are great tips. Love the point about SEO.. it’s an accessory, not the outfit I guess. My fave Tim Gunn line is still “Make it Work” which totally applies: taking the time to read, comment, engage, to be accessible not just on your own blog but others, it IS work. Won’t happen on it’s own, you have to make it happen. FWIW.

  11. While Tim Gunn annoys the crap out of me, these are five very good points. I have to keep reminding myself of a few of these.

    I’m focusing in on engagement at this point. Getting out, interacting with other bloggers. I think this is where I’m seeing the most success.

  12. “if no one can figure out what you’re trying to do with your content, you fail”

    Been there done that bought the apparel store. Sometimes it does take time to devise your brand and your goals but it’s so worthwhile once it all comes together.

  13. Great post Erika! Two points I don’t quite agree with, but that’s the beauty of the internet. SEO isn’t just about keywords. I agree that not every post needs to have them but every post should at least be reader friendly. This adds to your point of not making the reader work too hard. And second, some critics are only that, critical. Trolls are only out to bring people down and shouldn’t be listened to (DFTT.)

    • That was my point about not making it all about the keywords – your content will drive more SEO awesomeness than a bunch of keyword stuffing, and great content is readable and colloquial.

      And sometimes ya gotta smack the trolls down. Your blog is your ‘hood and it’s okay to get out the water hose on occasion 😉

  14. “Showing genuine interest…” As I enter this blogging world this is critically important to me. The first thing I used to tell people in person was to look at themselves first.

    Ask, what are their hot buttons, what are their interests and what are their passions?

    It’s no different in the online world. I can tell when someone is just trying to sell me something, whether it’s a product or idea. I get engaged when the person is genuine and shows their passion, even if it isn’t my passion.

    “Your content needs to be shaped around their interests and desires.” Since I examined myself, my interests and desires, it makes it much easier and “genuine” to do this for my community.

  15. Oh Erika, now that was just good, fun content. Who can’t relate to fashion and being sure to always stand out. This is why they keep inviting you back over here on copyblogger!

    I especially like the part about SEO, more people should get this about a good social strategy. It’s on computers but it’s not all about them, it’s about people… stupid. lol When are people going to get it through their heads that the people come first, write for them, then optimize where you can as it fits within your SEO strategy.

    Oh yea, and all of the seo buffs will cringe, but page views, interactions, sharing, backlinks and the like will go so much further with Google rankings than trying to trick the bots with keywords.

    P.S. – “four-inch purple metallic platform shoes with the mustard yellow tights” now that one deserves a picture. lol

  16. Thanks for the post.

    I think I spend too much time worrying and editing rather than following these simple rules. Some day I will be great (I hope).

    If only I could be as coy online as I am at home. My comfort level is developing slowly; it’s a matter of sticking to it, day in and day out!

    Thanks Again,

    • Don’t worry – becoming comfortable in your own online skin isn’t something that just automatically happens. It’s an exploration process and we all reach a point of acceptance at our own pace. Appreciate you stopping by today 🙂

  17. Erika,

    Just discovered your Web site and blog and of course, this post! What can i say that the others haven’t already said? So, in two words, Erika: You rock!

  18. As a fashion blogger, I find this post especially valuable. I am actually thinking of my posts as a collection I’m assembling – part lookbook, part culture, part concept. This reminds me why to keep it simple and why I should put the bulk of my effort on the blogging, rather than on the gimmick.

  19. Ahh pearls… who doesn’t love pearls? Of ALL kinds. :O) Great post Erika luv, per usual. I’m off to play with that cliche finder, who fracken knew?

    Shh.. I have 10 minutes to squander before I must pick up children, I can play! 😛

  20. Loved this post!!!! It first caught my eye because I love fashion and I had to see how the article was going to integrate the topics and then as I read on, it gave me some new perspectives for our company blog and my personal blog. Erika is fun to read 🙂 Thanks!

  21. Well written, Erika. I like how on Copyblogger you guys relate whatever with blogging.

    Tim Gunn actually has a book “Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making It Work” it’s not specifically about blogging, it’s advice in general.

  22. You absolutely optimize each piece of content you develop.

    Semantics, I know, but “optimization” goes far beyond SEO and lightyears beyond keyword stuffing. But more on SEO in a second.

    Optimization gets into audience, sales cycle/funnel, calls to action, layout and about search. And yes, you do bring all of those to the table with every piece of content you develop. The amount of time dedicated to content demands it. Why are we writing in the first place?

    It’s not about community, it’s about being relevant. Over and over again.

    Consistently being relevant to a target audience (i.e. becoming a resource) breeds desired conversion. If this blog started talking about why we love turtles (and who doesn’t), none of us would be back and none of us would click on the affiliate links.

    But back to SEO, and more specifically keywords. The most eloquent prose is useless unless it can be found at the moment your prospect is looking. Whether the content is on Facebook or on your own site, you won’t be found when conversion is likely the highest unless you write about what you to be found under.

    When thinking about your own keyword universe, in what situation could you consider having a post, headline, story etc. that wasn’t using the terminology you want to be found under?

    If you can’t fit long-tail keywords into your copy, it’s because:
    A) The content is completely off topic for your target audience
    B) You haven’t identified the correct keyword universe (and should)
    C) You need to be a better writer (myself included, badly)

    Again, this comes back to the value of content and the long-term value we often disregard. If we want to increase the life of content, we need to think about its relevance outside of today and how we’d like to convert over a long period of time, e.g. don’t stop driving people to that blog post or stop driving links.

    At any rate, thanks for the post and reading my egregiously long comment (and don’t want to know how many errors are there). I’ll write a post entirely on the subject for tomorrow.

    • Well, I’m going to lob a softball back over your fence, Dominic. It IS about community. If you build it and nurture it, they’re the best SEO/backlink generating tool you have. Honestly, I don’t care how many of my posts are found, as my community shares them far and wide, bringing me even more of my target audience. So maybe…JUST maybe…you should rethink that community thing.

      Every blog/website has its own goal and the strategy is going to differ. If you SELL STUFF, sure. Your on-page strategy is going to differ significantly from a blog like mine where it’s a community building tool (among other things). And I’ll tell ya – keyword rich sites are oftentimes hard to swallow, especially when crafted by a crappy writer. But leave community at the curb, and I’ll lob one of my patented Bitch Slaps in your direction. To blog without community is akin to a bullhorn. Hates it, precious. Haaaaaaaaates it.

      • Not sure that I ever said that community wasn’t important. My point was that you can’t build a community without first showing your audience relevance. Relevance is that foot in the door (cliche alert), and sometimes that relevance is built via search.

        I think our largest disconnect is I view content well outside of just blogging. It’s my fault entirely, as your post discusses blogging solely. But I stand by my definition of optimization (and again, not keyword stuffing) and where it fits within content development.

        For example, if you’re going to develop a video, email, commercial, tagline, whatever, you’re going to take a lot of the optimization stuff I mentioned above (audience, sales cycle, branding, SEO) into account. You have to, especially if you’re a big brand.

        Not a frequent visitor to the comments section, or your posts, so I am not familiar with your patents. I do, however, appreciate your feedback.

    • Dominic, take a look at the post Is Your Tribe Holding You Down. That post, when it was written, had no search value whatsoever. But we built an extraordinarily profitable (and meaningful) business directly based on it.

      Search is an attraction strategy. It’s a magnificent way to find new people. It’s important, and we don’t ever tell people that search & SEO don’t matter.

      But until you convert that attraction into sustained attention, engagement, trust, and then eventually into product sales, it’s just attraction. LOLCats is not a more successful business than Copyblogger, despite the fact that they get vastly more traffic than we do.

      We build content that people make a point of coming back to. We do get lots of traffic from search engines, but I thought Erika’s point was a great one. Keywords should serve your business, not drive it, at least not 100% of the time.

      That’s how I see it, anyway. 🙂

  23. Thanks for a nice article. I checked out Scribe’s website and watched the video. Would love to hear more about this. Does it go well together with “All in one seo”?

  24. Love and agree with the part about engaging with your fans (your readers, people who comment, etc.). I’m not a fan of automated response emails that say: Thank you for the comment, blah blah blah…

    What I try and do however, is when someone comments for the first time on my site, I send them a video email using Eyejot.com to thank them. I don’t always do this as I’m always on the go and will respond to comments via my blackberry, but when I do have the opportunity, I shoot out a quick 20-30 second reply. For the most part, it gets a great response!

    Taking the time to engage with the people that care about what you have to say, care enough to comment and care enough to share is the best you can do to lay a good foundation and grow your blog (in my humble opinion).

  25. Erika, I love your post, anything having to do with Tim Gunn and I’m all in. You tip about engaement is right on. I engage with commenters on my blog, and I see you do too. Prior to starting my own blog, I was an avid blog reader (still am). The blogs I love the most, are the ones where the writer interacts with the commenters. I’ve been turned off, by what I though were some of my favorites, simply because they never respond to comments. If you only have a few comments, why in the hell can’t you take a few minutes to check your comments. Even if you have many comments, get in the conversation already—you started it! I’m just saying.

    • I simply couldn’t have said it better, Hillerie. Heck, I’d re-enable comments just to say hello to someone like you with a wickedly cool name! It’s their loss, I say. When comments are turned off, they move from being a blogger to an op-ed columnist.

  26. I wholeheartedly agree that you shouldn’t optimize every piece of content for SEO. I learned this first hand running my client’s social good campaigns. If you look at their blog there are maybe 5 or 6 posts about the actual business. The rest are about people and organizations that have come into our community.

    Sure, I use Scribe and make sure I get sufficient keyword coverage in for my client’s needs, but the community, no matter how small, that I’ve developed has been crucial in the development of what is a successful campaign for a tiny company.

    Before they had me blogging for them they were paying an obscene amount to an SEO “expert” who couldn’t get them off the second page of Google. I added a blog to their site, developed interesting content focused on others (not trying to sell their product, which at first really threw my client for a loop) and without focusing on SEO got them to #1 on Google, Yahoo and Bing in three months.

    Granted that was a happy by product from all the engaged Twitter followers and Facebook likes they received. Still, it demonstrated to me that solid content followed up with engagement will win every day of the week.

    Nice post, I don’t watch PR, but the points you make are excellent even without the context of the show. That said, I’d love Tim Gunn’s wardrobe.

    • I don’t watch PR either (no cable for me, and I rarely have time to watch the TV I do get), but Erika’s points made perfect sense to me. 🙂

      And thanks for that great example. As you say, when the whole thing works, that tends to be great for SEO too. Which is excellent.

    • Great to see you pop over here PJ – and it’s a great point. Sometimes simple SEO strategies lend a whole lot more visible value than the in-depth ones. Working with several kickass SEO firms on a regular basis has taught me to see through the jargon and into the results. I’m lucky that I have those relationships for an “inside education!”

  27. I like the “conversation never goes out of style”. It’s a good reminder that you CAN be controversial or whatever you’d like, as long as it’s interesting and not boring.

  28. Hi Erika,

    Thanks for the post, I have gone for a slightly different angle in my blog. I am going to mainly be using video in the article post of real things going on in London. So instead of just writing about it we will be getting actual footage and combining good material with good video. For instance just recently we did a post on the homeless and we got this awesome footage of a guy who is homeless but served in the army for 17 years.

    The one thing we are seriously struggling with is managing the marketing side of our blog effectively. No matter what we do numbers just don’t seem to be picking up! If you do happen to check out the site don’t judge us on our latest post as that is just there for a laugh but if you had some suggestions I would greatly appreciate it.



    • Well, it sounds to me like you’re looking for more eyeballs on the site. If that’s the case, why not build a content distribution network? Get colleagues and friends together in the social mediasphere to mutually share one another’s links and bookmark them in social bookmarking databases like Digg and StumbleUpon?

      • That sounds like a really good idea! I will definitely look into that, thanks! I have also been told that guest blogging is the way forward but I feel a bit at sea as to how to go about asking if I can just write a post for a more popular blog. I mean I think our content is good but you never know, I am sure everybody thinks their work is amazing! Assuming our content is good I would love to guest post for some sites, do you know of any that are generally open to the idea?

        BTW thanks for the reply, I take my hat off to how committed you are to your posts in responding to comments.


        PS: Watch the video interview of the homeless guy we did on youtube let me know what you think… I would post a link but I would probably be spammed out then! 😉

        • A great strategy for guest posts is to find blogs you think your content would be a great fit with and then pitch. Tell then what you bring to their blog (audience, subscribers, Twitter followers, FB fans, etc) and offer them 3 ideas for potential posts, title and 2-3 sentences describing them. And I’ll be sure to check out your video this weekend…

  29. Erika,

    I like the point about not optimizing every piece of content you put out. I ran an experiment with my own blog looking at the traffic from optimized posts compared to posts just written. First result: traffic was about the same. Second result: the non-optimized posts clued me in to better keywords and other niches I would have missed if I only focused on SEO-ing my posts!

    I am attracting readers and clients that I otherwise would have missed.



    • Hey Erroin! Great to see you over here 🙂 And you’re right – I made a similar discovery when I realized some of the search terms bringing folks to my blog to find existing content. WOWZA!

  30. I completely agree… So many bloggers are working too hard to try to get rankings for their posts, that they forget about the human aspect of blogging. Engage your visitors and build relationships. Build relationships on other blogs. Grow your twitter and facebook following. Those are true methods which will drive subscribers to your blog…

  31. Erika,

    I like great and successful blog just does not happen, they are built. What worked for someone else, may or may not work for our blog. Being authentic and providing value sure does.

    On side note, Sonia, your gravatar does not do justice, as you are more prettier and younger looking. (I just saw your video on pro-blogger latest post).

    Yes, I noticed even Erika’s red hair too. I am observant like that 😛

  32. No matter what, SEO is important for any websites if you want to rank high on search engines. Scribe SEO is really useful and I have got a copy.

  33. My trouble is with “4. Make it accessible.” I tend to read a lot about my subjects so I sometimes use big words when it’s really not necessary. It makes me sound pompous when really I am just trying to be more accurate.

  34. Hey Erika,
    I love your no BS approach. So many of my students want to know SEO more then anything and I will be directing them to this post.

    There have been a lot of great comments and so many people really complicate things and I think this is the biggest obstacle of success

    I have been doing all kinds of things on the internet since 94′ and I have seen so many people trying to be some one they are not. Why wouldn’t you be yourself?

    The other thing is people always compare themselves to others and when we do this, both parties fail.

    If everyone one focus on being themselves and really sharing their unique personality it might surprise themselves

    Thank you for your contribution and I look forward to your next article,
    Jeff Faldalen

  35. So many of our clients will be disappointed to hear that seo is no longer the new black. All that investment and effort to make one aspect work and they you have to ….. blog. ug.

  36. Thanks for all the great tips! I’ve started a new blog for our company and I’m relatively new to the idea of blogging. I get the basics and I try my best to engage, but at the end of the day I find myself asking “why hasn’t anyone commented yet?”

    So with the help of a double espresso and hours on the web researching, I find myself here trying to improve engagement!

    Thanks so much for the suggestions and if you ever get the chance check out our blog and if you have any advice or feedback please let me know!

    Looking forward to reading more from you!

    • Well, I stopped by your Posterous site and LOVE the last-minute Halloween costume ideas 🙂 Nice job. Good luck with the espresso and thanks for stopping by today!

  37. I just joined Copyblogger two days ago and received an email message about this article. What a welcome treat 🙂 Thank you so much for your great and daring post Erika. It’s a big sigh of relief for me. Now I can concentrate more on writing and stop worrying about SEO. It’s not because SEO is not important. But, as you implicitly say, it’s the excitement in you that makes an article “alive”. I look forward to reading your another great post.

  38. You have posted great information about SEO tools and content.
    I must say that content is king in every field and king should always look good.

  39. Great article! Very interesting how you compared it to fashion. Great quote from #3 “Perhaps the real secret to style is filling yourself to the absolute brim with engagement.”



  40. I know this post has been up for a while now, but I’m just coming across it. Great summary here and for me it reinforces my desire to sometimes just write what I want to write and not analyze SEO impact etc. There are times when structuring around keywords and the right thing becomes blah blah blah for me, so I try to find balance.

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