To many, author bios are an afterthought. An easy way to give some significance to the creator of a certain piece of content—nothing more, nothing less.
Pushing forward to an age of authority and authenticity, it would seem that author bio features must have some importance past mere vanity. In fact, CodeinWP made sure to add prominence to theirs in order to fix a major SEO issue. In a transparency report where they reveal that a mix of issues (including host reverse proxy, no-indexing on content, and problematic affiliate links) culminated in a major SEO penalty that led to a loss of 50% of their business overnight.
It’s weird to think about published content that lacks an author bio of some sort. You might even go as far as to say that an article lacking any information besides the author’s name feels just a bit sketchy.
Adding detailed author bios wasn’t the singular reason for CodeinWP eventually fixing their recent major SEO issues, but it’s interesting to note the fact that they even played a role. Google’s search engine spiders may not be human, but they’re working to figure out exactly what humans respond best to on the internet.
As such, the human user experience lies at the center of almost every major new Google initiative: Mobile-first search, Google AMP, and even their newest super tool: Google Optimize. It seems to make sense that they’d preferentially index pages attributed to authors who contribute authority and authenticity by putting a face behind each topic.
At the absolute minimum, an author bio feature has to communicate the article writer’s name. But the best author bio features add a layer or two of context to the person behind the article. Besides a name, the best author bios share elements that include things like:
- The person’s title
- The person’s credentials, like high-quality publications they write for, or huge projects they successfully launched
- The person’s interests and relationship to the industry represented on the blog
- A link to their home online
- A link to relevant social profiles
A byline is considered a perk when it comes to writing. Most authors charge more per word to take it off (also known as ghostwriting). Conversely, most authors are actually willing to charge less for the ability to write under their own name for your blog. The more attention you give to the byline, the better quality writer you’ll attract. This is especially true if your blog offers guest blogging opportunities that don’t necessarily pay but provide the author with an opportunity to promote themselves and their business.
Working with a well-known writer in your industry is a win-win for both parties: you benefit from exposure to their audience and association with them, they benefit from the ability to make money doing what they love, and to be recognized for it. Many writers have a passion project they’re working on in addition to writing, and building an audience is important for that passion project to really take off.
Knowing all of these nuances when it comes to working with writers, it becomes easier to understand the importance in providing a prominent author bio for the people you hire to write articles for your website. So, if you’ve decided to add more visual interest to the author bios on your multi-author WordPress site, the next step is to choose the right design to showcase them properly.
How to Make Your Author Bio Look Good
Your existing WordPress theme will help to define the style of your author bio feature, but you can also customize elements within the plugin settings, or with a bit of custom code.
While you’re in the process of designing your author bio feature, consider the following:
Author Bio Features You Should Include
The design of your author bio feature will be in some way a function of the contents within. Here are a number of elements to consider for satisfying your writers and readers:
- Headshot: A custom upload or an image pulled from Gravatar. Gravatar is a WordPress.com project that shows a picture of you that shows up on any blog you write for when it’s enabled. In order to use Gravatar, the email on the connected blog has to match the email on your Gravatar account.
- Social Links: Social icons with a consistent color scheme (as in, all one color) look especially daft. If you decide to allow authors to share only 1 or 2 social links, make sure to first survey your team to see which ones are the most common/important to your writers.
- Backlink: A link back to an author’s website that specifically provides SEO benefits in terms of passing on the authority of the referring domain (no-follow links can’t offer these benefits).
- Short Bio: A place for readers to get to know the author. As a best practice, let the author draft this and let them know if any changes need to be made so they’re aware of them before article publication.
Two additional features to consider:
Allow Contributors to Edit Their Own Bios
Trust writers enough to not use this special perk to harm your website, or do something weird. Writers appreciate the opportunity to refresh their bio as they take on new projects or explore new niches, but hate having to bug the editor to make these changes. If necessary, provide guidelines regarding what’s allowed, and what won’t be tolerated.
Incorporate a Sidebar Display in the Design
An author bio feature typically occurs at the bottom of a post, or potentially at the top. But if your blog pages have a sidebar, offer the added perk of the author bio repeated there. Authors will appreciate this additional exposure opportunity, and readers will have easier access to information about the author as they read. Meks Smart Author Widget makes it easy to implement this functionality on a multi-author WordPress website.
Once you’ve decided what you want to include in your author bio feature, consider the following design trends before actually building your author boxes:
Author Bio Design Trends
Author bios are an interesting study in term of design. Most online publications don’t give them the attention that they deserve, so the following design trends can help you to give them the respect they’re craving:
- Author Page Feature: Most author pages just link to an archive of posts written by that author. A step up from that is an author page that also displays that person’s bio, as well. But the best of the best author pages provide a nice showcase and add additional context to the author, separate of the author bio and their post archives. Search Engine Journal provides a nice example of this latter mentioned type of author page.
- Circular Avatar Images: These make almost any picture somehow look more interesting, and they stand out more than the standard square design. They also help to standardize your author bios.
- Focus on Twitter: Even if it means forgoing other social media icons. Twitter is considered as one of the best platforms for writers building their audience and will help drive readers to the most appropriate outlet to keep up with their favorite authors.
- Social media icons with a specific color theme: As mentioned above, a consistent color scheme helps to standardize your author bios, and adds some design flair past just using each social network’s standard associated colors.
- Total Minimalism: If the outlet has a bigger presence than its writers, it’s fair to adopt a completely minimalistic design to focus on the content. Sprout Social incorporates this type of author bio feature on their blog, though they also draw more attention to it on each person’s author page.
Before you eventually decide on an author bio design, you’ll want to first decide upon a plugin to assist your efforts in displaying your author bios.
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Author Bio Plugin Recommendations
You could certainly custom code your own author bio plugin, but why bother before giving these tried and tested options a chance?
As mentioned earlier, some plugins have widgets that allow you to display the current author of an article’s bio in the sidebar. In case you forgot or completely skipped that section, that plugin is the Meks Smart Author Widget.
Every WordPress installation comes out of the box with a basic area on the WordPress dashboard for managing each user’s information. An author box plugin essentially adds additional fields on top of the ones collecting information under the user area in the dashboard, while also making it easy to format this information in a more aesthetically pleasing way.
Here are some of the top author box plugins on the market as of this article being published:
Starbox offers a fairly functional free version, with many customizable fields to add author information. The number and nature of these fields are limited in the free version, but you have complete control and numerous options to choose from when you buy the premium version of the plugin, which costs $39.99, as a one time purchase. The premium plugin also offers a number of themes to choose from, incorporating HTML5.
Simple Author Box lives up to its name in that it allows you to create a beautiful minimalistic design without having to break into the code. The free version incorporates mobile responsiveness and is fully customizable to match your existing theme design.
Sexy Author Bio supports single and multiple authors (more on that in a minute). It’s a sexy looking plugin with multiple sets of social icons to choose from, mobile-responsiveness, and lots of social networks supported.
Co-Authors Plus isn’t an author bio feature in that it helps to define the design and structure of this page element. Instead, the plugin makes it simple to credit more than one person for the creation of an article. As such, this plugin is great for an article with two or more authors, giving both equal credit for their contributions. Another interesting feature is the ability to add bylines without having to create a user account for each author.
Designing a Sexy Author Bio Feature
When it comes to designing an author bio, make sure to:
- Keep the article’s author and readers satisfied by choosing specific design elements
- Consider up and coming trends to make your author bios really stand out
- Incorporate elements of your company’s branding (like color choice) to bring it back to your publication