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Practitioner Marketing How to Structure Author Bylines and Bios for a Technical Audience

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Chris Riley

March 27, 2018

In technical markets, the target user pays attention to details. It might seem like it’s enough that your contributors’ bios show up, and that the bylines are trivial. But they are not. It’s important to structure your author bylines and bios correctly.

When I tell people that how their bios and bylines are created can directly impact bounce rates and readership, I’m usually met with surprise. These are important aspects of a blog, and the content has the resounding priority in the hierarchy of significance. But bylines and bios matter more than people think.

Bylines and Bios Matter

Here is why you should put in the time to structure your author bylines and bios:

  1. Internal vs. external: When readers visit your blog, they are not clear about the author’s organization. Is the author an internal employee, or an external practitioner? The assumption is that they are an internal employee—and regardless of quality, internal employee content is always met with skepticism. Internal authorship creates a first impression of “no matter what this post says, it’s trying to sell to me.” The benefit of external authors is huge, but if the reader assumes the author is an employee, then that benefit is lost.
  2. No names: Additionally, if an external author’s content shows up as something like “external contributor,” then their name, which should hold credibility, is lost. if any posts show up as no author or authored by the company, then the posts are interpreted as mere advertising. Sometimes, this makes sense, especially for press releases, but this should not be done for practitioner-authored content.
  3. No bios: All posts should have a contributor bio. Readers want to know in what context they should be reading the content. They want to see the role of the contributor so they know if she is a marketer or a coder, and they will read the content with that voice.

Proper representation impacts the credibility of content even before it is read, and it highlights external practitioner content so that you can extract the most value from it.

Dates Matter

Sometimes vendors will not include dates on posts under the mistaken assumption that by omitting the date, the post will somehow have a longer lifespan. Instead, it makes it hard for the reader to understand the relevance of the information to the current state of the art. It also creates frustration and skepticism, not just directed toward your content, but also your company.

Dates should always be visible, because technical readers will automatically question the validity of the content based on the fact that things change so quickly in technical markets. So dates also impact credibility. They can build or break trust with your customer.

These are the things you should consider doing

The challenge we face with our clients is that our clients use different content management solutions (CMSes) and themes. We do not operate vendor blogs, but it is important for us to know how our practitioner network is represented on their blogs. So we give direction. These are the tips we give our customers:

  1. Contributor names and “titles” should always be visible. They should be on tag pages, archive pages, category pages, and the blog home, in addition to the blog post. They should also be at the top. For external contributors, you should include (for example) “Chris Riley, External Contributor & Bad Coder.”
  2. There should be dates (and names) on every page of content. They should be easy to find. Placing the byline and date close together is advised.
  3. Bios should be three to five sentences long. A strong bio should focus on what the author does, not amazing accolades and fluff. The reader wants to know why the author has expertise—chiefly, what the author does and what he or she knows. Don’t be too cute, and include social links and an image. Bios are best located at the bottom of posts or in a sidebar on a webpage.

The credibility is in the details

Your blog and each individual post’s credibility and bounce rate have a direct relationship to first impressions. A reader’s first impression is usually based on the title, the credibility of the author, and the publish date,  in that order. Before your amazing post even gets a chance to be read, it will be judged on these criteria. Without these elements, you might get an immediate bounce, and a user that will ignore all future posts. Ignoring bios and bylines is a mistake. They are an important component that will influence your content’s performance, and ultimately, your share of voice and share of conversation.