Once, before the world was nichified, before online bios—or online anything—existed, I had eight different résumés. I was a freelance writer and my skills and experience were all over the place, so I needed to separate them to appeal to each of my audiences.
My husband Bob suspected I had multiple personality disorder, but, actually, what I had gotten very good at was crafting my résumés to target specific markets.
If I wanted grant writing projects, I pulled out the fundraising résumé; if I was approaching school districts to write curriculum or asking teaching magazines for article assignments, I sent the education-focused one; and so on.
Your online bio should be constructed with that same kind of attention: with a focus on your blog’s goal and your audience. If you do that, your bio will become an incredibly useful tool.
My stats show me that my about page is my blog’s second highest viewed page. I have picked up many new assignments and clients from this page alone. And as I move more into writing, I see it as one of the first stops publishers, agents and editors will make.
Here are some tips for making your online bio a magnet for getting you new business, more readers, or whatever else you want.
1. Make your first paragraph count.
In copywriting, this is sometimes called the big idea. You will lead with this because it is your most important stuff, the reason your blog exists. Include only what is relevant. And how do you decide what is relevant—what to focus on?
Go back to that big idea.
What is your blog’s purpose? To get hired as a speaker? Put your experience speaking front and center in that first paragraph. To sell your books? Lead with the work you have published or the book you are working on (and any smaller credits, like magazine articles or literary journal stories). What you lead with will be what your reader remembers most about you. Make it count.
2. Carefully consider 1st person vs 3rd person.
Even the experts disagree on this one. Just remember this rule: 3rd person (talking about yourself as if you were another person ( Judy… she…) is more formal and puts distance between you and your reader. (Picture your visitor reading a book about you instead of sitting down on the couch to chat with you.)
First person (I this…I that) brings you closer to your reader and just feels more cozy.
The decision is yours. On blogs, I tend to favor first person because the very nature of most blogs is more informal and conversational. And we usually get a peek at the person and get to hear their unique voice.
Depending on the profession or field, sometimes a blogger will want to keep that separation between the person and the business. And there may be good reasons for that. Just know that you have a choice.
3. Decide on the ratio of personal to professional and make the personal part match the blogger your readers have come to know.
Many bios keep with the 80-20 rule (80 percent focusing on your industry and work and 20 percent fun, personal things). But keep in mind that your blogging style (and content) should be in some way reflected in your bio. I love making a point with humor (and also don’t take myself too seriously), so my bio follows that same style.
There are undoubtedly many facets to the personal side of you. Pull the ones that match your personality as a blogger and, if possible, some of your blogging topics. On my about page, I have created a list of words and phrases that best describe me at the top. The main text talks about what I do and why I blog. And I end with seven personal things that define me—I’m a teacher-at-heart, I’m a creative thinker and I’m someone who has always been in love with words.
4. Keep it simple, but include options for readers who want to know more.
No one wants to wade through your degrees or hear your life story from birth to now. If your training is important (as for instance, with a therapist), you can sum that up in one sentence, or have another button for a more lengthy description in your top navigation bar.
My friend Therese Walsh, another Top 10 Blogger, does a nice job of the simple, with options concept. Her main bio is just three short paragraphs, but notice how, at the end, she offers more links, so the readers who are interested can learn more about her.
5. Make sure all the links work.
Check that “contact me” link and be sure all the others—social network connection buttons, etc.— take your readers where they should, too. There is nothing more frustrating for a reader than to want to connect with you and find that those links and buttons don’t work. Remember, the purpose of your about page is to attract the people who want to build a relationship of some sort with you.
I use the premium plugin Gravity Forms, which has never failed me. (I used to have problems with my contact forms.) It also allows you to personalize your contact page, with check-off boxes of your own making, if you find you get reader questions and comments in several areas. You can find out more about Gravity Forms at the bottom of my “Products I Stand By” page.
Oh, and a short reminder: The deadline for voting for your favorite writing blog is this Saturday, December 10.
If you’ve been meaning to leave your nomination, but life got in the way, you can still cast your vote here. Keep in mind it’s a little slow in loading (mostly because 1,800+ comments have already been left!) Best of luck to every blogger nominated.
What about you?
What do you think are must-haves in an online bio?
Have you looked at yours lately?
Do you have other questions?