There’s a time for modesty, and it’s not when you’re writing about yourself on your own website. There are no extra points for mystery.
But time after time I see website bios (particularly from authors as I’m an author website designer) on website About or Biography pages that are just a few boring sentences, usually ending in something like, “[Firstname] lives in [hometown] with their spouse and children.” Often, they’re the same exact blurb that is shown on the book jacket. If someone ends up on your website and they click on a link to read about you why would you allow that opportunity pass you by? If you’re going to have a page about you, why would you make it so irrelevant that you might as well not have one at all?
I’m not suggesting you divulge your innermost thoughts in the name of creating an interesting biography, but with a little thought your website bio can attract more customers/readers/clients by answering a few simple questions about yourself that haven’t been answered elsewhere.
Before we jump into some guidelines, keep in mind that for all website content there are 3 questions website visitors have no matter what kind of web page they’re looking at:
1. What / Who is this?
2. Why should I care? / What will this do for me?
3. What should I do next?
So keep those in mind as you’re crafting your website bio — put yourself into the mindset of someone from your target audience visiting your site for the first time — what information might they be looking for that will help you make a sale or a connection?
There is no single correct way to craft your online biography, of course, but there are a few guidelines you should follow…
- Include a photo. Yes, this one isn’t about the words at all — but a good headshot goes a long way towards building trust and creating a tangible memory for your site visitor. If you can include one, make sure it isn’t terrible — headshots that are clearly snapshots that other people have been cropped from, or with awful lighting and/or backgrounds aren’t a good reflection of how seriously you take your profession. Consider investing in a professional headshot.
- Write for your audience. You may end up with a handful of different bios, each slightly different and each a different length because you need to make sure you have a bio for each of your use cases (see more on that below). For example, if you’re a Twitter user you might have your Twitter profile text (very short), plus your website About page text (longest), plus a short blurb that follows each article you write.
- Make it compelling. Not only do you want to paint a high-level picture of your experience & background, but you also want to provide examples of what you do. If you’re an author & a speaker, tell people about what you’ve written and where you’ve been a speaker. And, importantly, what you love about being an author & a speaker. If the story of how you got there is a good one, include it. This builds credibility, but also allows your reader to see what they may have in common with you and why they might want to work with you or buy your book.
- Make it personal. You’re writing about yourself but that doesn’t mean you need to be overly serious if you’re ordinarily a light-hearted person. Use your own voice & point-of-view.
- Include relevant links. If you’ve won an award, link to it. If you’ve got an article about you in a high-profile website, link to it. If you’ve got an active social media profile, link to it. If you’ve written a book, link to it. You get the idea.
- Make it sharable. It’s a great thing if people are writing about you because they like your work, so make sure it’s easy for them to cut-and-paste a few words about you to include when they’re writing about you. If you don’t do this they might come up with something on their own and leave out information you consider critical. You might even create a press kit for people to download that has a PDF one-sheet about you with critical information.
- Include a Call-to-Action. Your biography is basically an advertisement about you, so consider what you want people to do after reading your bio. If you’re a speaker and you want people to get in touch with you to ask you to speak at their event, then provide a testimonial right there on your About page and also provide a way for people to get in touch with you. If you’re an author and you want people to read your book(s) then put in a quote from a fan and a link to where people can purchase your book(s).
- Keep it fresh. As your career progresses, so should your bio. The bio that works for you now might not work for you in 5 years. And that’s fine, just remember to keep it updated.
HOW MANY VERSIONS DO I NEED?
You’ll at least need a short byline-type one which you can use where you either don’t have lots of room, or places such as the bottom of articles about/by you. And you’ll also want a longer version that includes all the relevant information mentioned above. For the shorter version, consider following this formula to create it: “I do ____, for ____, so that they can _____.” Framing your story this way allows you to capture lots of information in a very small amount of space. As an example, here’s mine: “I create websites for authors, small businesses & nonprofit organizations that are clean, easy-to-use, and goal-oriented so that my clients have a successful platform to support what they love to do.” You can even use the short version as an intro to the longer version. If you have both a short & long-form bio in your back pocket (that you update as needed), you’ll be in good shape for a life on the web.
Think about the people you admire. What are some things you’ve found out about them that inspire you? What’s most interesting? Were you able to hear them talk about themselves in a way that increased your admiration? Perhaps in an interview? Think about that while creating your own biography. While you may not be famous (yet), you can still share information about yourself that is compelling to those who read about you. So don’t sell yourself short.
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