When building out your website or blog, one of the most important—and frustrating—tasks at hand is creating your bio page. We can write for days about our topic of expertise, but when it comes to writing about ourselves, it’s tempting to cower under the desk and hope the need will pass.
Your bio page, however, is arguably the most important page of your site. It’s where you define and contextualize yourself to an audience of strangers in a concise and accessible format—it’s your landing page, and it’s where a big chunk of your traffic will end up. Understandably, the fear of not getting it right can be paralyzing. But rather than being daunted by the blank page with no idea how to proceed, here are some questions and tips to help structure the creation of your bio page.
Before You Even Start Writing
- The most important thing to do is to think about your audience. Your bio is not an exercise in self-esteem building for you; it is a tool for your audience to determine if your expertise and interests align with their needs. You want to signal to your reader early on if your bio is relevant to them.
- Think about the impression you want people to have upon reading your bio and the action you want them to take. How can you craft a page that will shape these goals?
Writing About Yourself
- The biggest goal your bio can accomplish is to communicate what makes you distinctive. Of all the people out there in your field, why should someone keep reading your bio? Do you have a prestigious award or ranking to your credit? Are you an innovator in a particular respect? Do you have an impressive product (e.g. a book) to your credit? Consider leading with what makes you special.
- To that end, remain credible. The best way to do this is to make sure you remain specific. If you make a claim, back it up with the facts (via hyperlink, if necessary). For example, if you say your company is “award-winning,” clarify which award or hyperlink the term “award-winning” to the award announcement.
- A bio is not a CV or a resume. While you may certainly summarize your professional history, you also want to give a sense of your professional philosophy, your areas of interest and expertise and your personality. Be human.
- One of the best ways to be human is to tell a story. In this case, it’s your story. Consider all the things that make a story compelling. Engage your audience in the tale of how you became who you are, or how you do what you do. Even if it doesn’t end up published in that format, approaching your bio as a story may be a helpful exercise.
- Remember, having someone read your bio page may be the beginning a relationship. This is where story and personality are critical, as those are some of the building blocks of relationships.
- Incorporate some of your non-work life into your bio. If you are a triathlete, a Humane Society volunteer or a member of an improve comedy troupe, share it at the end of your bio. It adds another dimension to your personality and gives your audience a fuller sense of who you are.
Tone and Style
- Third person vs. first person is a big debate when it comes to bios, but I don’t fall on one side of this argument. I think it will be different for each person, depending on goals, audience, tone and comfort level.
- Be honest about your accomplishments without coming off as self-congratulatory. One of the easiest ways to do this is by watching your adjectives and adverbs. Your work and accomplishments should speak for themselves. You don’t want to call yourself the best, the most XYZed or the ABCiest in your field. A bio that reads as a giant pat on your own back will be a huge turnoff.
- It may be tempting to try to be clever and humorous, but your first consideration should be your audience. Is this the tone you want to present? Depending on your line of work and the personality you want to convey, it may be very fitting. But unless you are skilled at that type of writing, it can be very difficult to pull off.
- Make sure you keep your bio fresh. Schedule a quarterly, if not monthly, review into your personal calendar. As a failsafe, avoid phrases like “last month”; say “June 2010” instead. The reader may be encouraged by a bio that feels alive and current, but if it smells stale, they may bail on your site.
- Use your words meaningfully. Don’t use words that mean little and say nothing concrete (e.g. “goal-driven”). Avoid jargon that may confuse or alienate people who are unfamiliar with its meaning.
- Including a quote you feel is relevant to the way you think about your line of work can be a nice personal touch, but steer clear of an overused or generically inspirational quote. Depending on your audience, a song lyric may come off as trite. Avoid quoting a controversial figure who may polarize your audience or give an impression about you that may be inaccurate.
- Seek honest feedback from a trusted friend or associate before publishing. It’s also a good idea to get a thorough copy edit for your bio (and any other page on your site) from a skilled editor. Even the most skilled writer and communicator needs a good editor.
- Including an up-to-date photo with your bio page can draw people into the page and help them make a connection with you. Avoid using a random snapshot from your vacation or a camera phone shot and get a headshot or environmental portrait professionally taken. (The type of photo you want may depend on the nature of your work or the tone of your site.) The investment will pay dividends if other needs for a photo (e.g. a conference program) arise down the line.
- Third-party reviews and recommendations can be powerful to feature on your bio page, be they from LinkedIn, Yelp or personally solicited from clients, customers or colleagues. Just be certain you are curating the positive comments and not drawing from a raw feed that may contain negative feedback—unless, of course, you want to provide a very open and accessible portal into what others think of you, but do so wisely. Relatedly, have you been quoted or referenced in an article or blog post? Either include those mentions here or link to them prominently.
- Give people pathways to connect with you. Even if you have a contact page linked in your site navigation, link to it again here. Hyperlink any website or organization you mention; if you have a personalized page on that site (e.g. an author byline page), link to that. Include icons that link to your social media accounts (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn) if applicable, but think twice before embedding your social media feeds on your bio page, as to avoid potential clutter.
- Just as with any web content, make the text scannable with headers, bullets and paragraph breaks. Consider boldfacing key terms, but do so in moderation.
- After you write your bio, consider aligning it with other bios you have on LinkedIn, other websites (such as Flavors.me), even Twitter. Of course, you may need to vary your bio depending on the context.
- While it’s always important to keep search engine optimization (SEO) in mind while creating pages on your site, don’t err on the side of having your bio read like keyword bait as opposed to a personal summary.
What else have you found helpful when crafting a bio page?