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Perennial Favorites: About Pages 101

In both the Blogging 101 and 201 challenges, lots of your are working on your About pages — here’s one of our all-time favorite resources on writing an About page that stands out from the crowd.

Post originally published by Michael Pick on The Daily Post.

Without an About page, you’re nobody. It’s not only one of the first places new visitors will head if they like what you’re serving up on your blog, it’s also your calling card. The problem is, most About pages are about as enticing as putting your hand into an alligator’s mouth. In fact, to be fair, at least that would have an element of excitement, which is more than can be said for your garden variety About page.

So how do you make your About page worth visiting? Luckily, there’s a ten step program for that (twelve is so 1995). In this 101 post we’ll focus on getting the basics right with five things to keep in mind when carving out an introduction to yourself and your blog that doesn’t scream “nothing to see here, move along.”

1. Know what you want to do with it. Your blog or site exists for a purpose. If you don’t know what that is, and don’t set about making it abundantly clear, your chances of having people stick around to read your content are on the fast track to nowheresville. Imagine you were running a roadside BBQ emporium. If the sign for said emporium had pictures of yoga poses, moustaches, kittens, and hotdogs on it, you’d probably be failing to connect with your potential audience.

Your About page is that sign. It’s your chance to inspire them into action. Know what it is you want to inspire them to do. Do you want people to get in touch? To realize that you’re an expert in fossilized monkey dung? To hire you? To follow your blog? To seek you out on Facebook? To laugh until they pee? Have a goal, and everything else falls into place.

Action time! Set a timer for 90 seconds. In that 90 seconds, jot down 1-3 things you’d like your audience to feel, think, and most importantly of all, do, when they read your About page.

2. Meal vs. shopping list. A shopping list and a delicious meal have a lot in common (okay, ingredients), but they’re not the same thing. Imagine a hungry friend comes over for dinner. But instead of serving them your signature dish, you read them a list of ingredients. “Pasta” you say. “Cheese” you say. “Tomatoes” you say. Half an hour in, they start to cry.

That’s exactly what most About pages feel like. “I come from blah blah” you say. “I like dogs” you say. “My best friend Winnie thinks it’s cute when I blow my nose trumpet” you say. But none of it holds together. It’s a shopping list. Your job is to put those parts together and make them into something greater than their sum. Tell us a story, connect the dots: “Living in the mountains of Switzerland as a teenage shepherd, I learnt the art of playing the nose trumpet to communicate with the first of my many canine friends, Winnie. My love of dogs, mountains and nose trumpeteering has continued to this day, only now I play nose jazz in Seattle while Winnie’s son Mr Ruffles dances a doggy tarantella. For cold hard cash.”

Action time! Get that timer out again. Give yourself 60 seconds this time, because you like living on the edge. Scribble down, at breakneck pace, any words that spring to mind to describe you (“book nerd,” “cat fancier,” “walrus trainer”). Take another sixty seconds and do the same for your blog (“hilarity fiesta,” “doom machine,” “cat photos”). Take on one more bout of sixty second scribbing, because, hey, what’s three minutes between friends, and do the same for important events in your life (“dog bite,” “cheese aversion,” “psychokinetic prom fire”). Now you have all of your ingredients on the page, give yourself 90 decadent seconds to draw lines between all of the above and see how you can connect them all into something greater than the sum of their parts.

3. Front load it. The first sentence of a good About page is there to get the reader to the second sentence. The second sentence’s job is to get them to the third sentence. If people aren’t getting to the fourth sentence without letting out a gut-wrenching yawn, you’re probably veering off course from your goal. Which is to make people do something. The right people. Your people. The others you don’t mind. They don’t belong here. “Get off my land!” you might say to them. But the people you’re addressing, the ones you hope will stick around? Make sure you’re reeling them in from sentence one.

Action Time! Imagine for a moment that you’re one of those poor deflated looking people on the street trying to get strangers to take fliers from you. Only, instead of fliers, you’ve got your blog. You have half a second to get their attention. What are you going to say in that half a second to make them stop in their tracks? Set a timer for, say, two minutes. Jot down as many opening lines as you can come up with.

4.Elevator pitch. Nobody’s saying you need to boil your About page down into haiku-like super-brevity, but it IS a good idea to have a short, scannable, one-liner version of it to complement the fuller-bodied story of you. Think of this as your way to get a foot in the door of your reader’s rapidly dwindling attention. How can you boil down everything you’ve said in your bio to a single, inviting, enticing soundbite you can use to reel them in?

Action Time! The timer’s off for this one, because being concise is challenge enough. Try to capture the essence of your About page in a single sentence, like the tagline for a movie.

5. For realsies. When we sit down and write it’s very easy to slip into English Class 101 pretentious writing mode. You break out your best adjectives. You toss around flowery verbs. Before you know it, you have the most stilted, unnatural chunk of snooze-text you’ve ever seen. Write your About page as if you telling this to a friend over coffee, beer, or a less stimulating but no less refreshing beverage of your choice.

Action Time! If you really want to put it to the test, go and do that — pitch your About page to a friend. Rehearse. And tell them about your blog. If you see them wincing, you probably need to rewrite your About page so that feels more natural and down to earth. Bonus points if you try this on a stranger at a bus stop.

Hopefully that gives you a little something to shake up your About page. Coming up, in About Page 201: The Meat Grinder, we return like champions to a feast to make minced meat of the most important page of your blog, and ratchet that beast up several more mixed-metaphor notches to excellence.

Until then, link up your own About pages (or those that have inspired you) in the comments and show us how it’s done. Or if you’re hungry for more ways to personalize your site without alienating your audience, check out our earlier post on three ways to make your blog your own.

 

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  1. Great post, and I initially wrote mine haphazardly just to have “something” in there because I felt I had to, not because I valued the page that much. After reading this article, I’ve gone back over it and tried to give it a real focus without being too long.

    I’m still not sure if it tells the reader early enough what they’re going to get… I would love some opinions.

    http://criminologyinoz.wordpress.com/about/

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    1. Your “About” page is doing a fine job for me, and without delving deeper into your blog, it seems to be very clear about what I will be reading. I’ve seen way worse jobs … well actually yours is pretty good. It makes me – a mystery ‘expert’ – curious.

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    1. Heidi, I think the rest is clearly better than just so-so. However, it tells me a lot about you but not so much about what to expect from your blog. If that is the way you planned it, that’s fine.

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      1. Your point is appreciated. I think once I have some actual posts, things like “genealogy” and “DNA” will be links, so that might help. I’ll think about what to say about my blogging, too. Thanks!

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  2. While I was not sure if I wanted to enlist for either the 101 or the 201 courses, I do enjoy following both. And I found this particular entry so inspiring that I tried my hand at a new “About” page. Thank you for that!

    While I do not like giving away too much that’s personal, I tried to be quite clear about what to expect from my photo blog. You’ll find the new page here: http://empireoflights.com/getting-the-picture/ – and I should like to know what you think of it: Would it invite you in if you were interested in photography?

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    1. If I may? I think it is not too weird. In fact, I can follow and sympathize. Only the second sentence in the second paragraph had me thinking: Hey, you need a degree in the humanities to follow this. Kidding aside: This sentence might ask too much attention (concentration) of a casual reader. However, if you want to keep your readers on the tip of their toes, that’s fine.

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      1. Thanks – I appreciate you taking the time to give me your honest feedback on this! Ever since I obtained that humanities degree I’ve tended to dip into flowery passages. However, many of my blog posts are written like that, too, and so I wonder whether I should give readers a preview of that in the About page, so that the whole thing isn’t a bait and switch. I figure a lot of people drop by the site and wander on out again after realising it’s a bit academic? Maybe I do want a more academic readership (if that’s who I am), but I’m not sure. I’m still trying to work out my ‘voice’ as a writer. At the end of the day, I do want to write in an accessible way. And even articles in The Guardian, as sometimes-lofty as they are, may be more accessible in the way of language than mine.

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  3. Since everyone is sharing their About Page’s here is mine. My page is really short and I made mine to the point. I have been blogging since January and I keep trying to get more people to stop by! My blog is primarily about eating disorder recovery and spirituality, but I do like to throw a few fun posts about my Southern heritage, yoga lifestyle, and poetry in the mix.

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  4. Such a great post. I am always having a short concern on what to do in my About page.. that’s why I don’t have one right now. Now I need to do more serious thinking… Thank you so much and this is really a big help.

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    1. Lovely! One slightly negative comment: I guess you’re writing in a second language if you’re from Finland, and you’re doing a masterful job of it, but “touch to Africa” isn’t precisely the way a native English speaker would express that. You might try “Africa first touched my heart” or something similar instead.

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  5. I’m participating in #blogging201, but I’m observing 101 from afar and I must say, you guys over at WordPress are pretty awesome. Thanks for helping us seriously think about all this stuff so we can be better bloggers.

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  6. This has really helped me! I have been unsure of my about page and knew it lacked something (or everything) it sounded so plain and generic, yawn. With this article help I am now quite happy with the complete change I have made 🙂 I would love feedback if anyone has time? X
    http://wp.me/P4ctxH-1

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  7. I’m probably swimming against the tide, but I don’t use the About Page to decide whether I’ll be back. I scan through the last few posts. If they interest me I’ll be back. Your blog is only as good as your last post.

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