Nerd alert – what you’re about to read started off as a fun experiment, and ended up with me analysing over 2,000 author bios to find the perfect formula. I decided to take these from a single niche, and organise them into the top 10% and bottom 90% according to their site’s Moz Domain Authority score.
My aim is to show you how author bios are written on the top 10% of sites:
- Should you write an author bio in first or third person?
- How long should an author bio be?
- How many links should an author bio include?
These are just some of the questions I wanted to answer. Here are some of the key findings.
Overall statistics based on 2,171 author bios:
- 34.5% were written in the third person
- 65.5% were written in the first person
- 1.3 average links per bio
- The word ‘I’ appears on average 2.3 times per bio
- The words ‘you / your’ appears on average 2.9 times per bio
- The average length is 54 words
Bios that featured on the top 10% of websites in the sample:
- 72% were written in the third person
- 28% were written in the first person
- 2.2 average links in each bio
- The word ‘I’ appears 0.6 times per bio
- The words you / your appears on average 2.8 times per bio
- The average length is 76 words
Bios that featured on the bottom 90% of websites in the sample:
- 32% were written in the third person
- 68% were written in the first person
- 1.2 average links in each bio
- The word ‘I’ appears 2.5 times per bio
- The words you / your appears on average 2.9 times per bio
- The average length is 52 words
If you would like to skip to a particular insight, use the table of contents below.
Table of contents
What the key findings show
There are some significant statistics differences between the overall results, and those bios which appear on the top 10% of websites.
The stat that jumps out to me is that around two thirds (65.5%) of overall bios are written in the first person – i.e ‘I am a full-time blogger’
On the most successful 10% of sites, this number totally reverses and nearly three quarters (72%) write their bio in the third person – i.e ‘Adam is a full-time blogger’.
The other statistic that really stood out was that the authors on the more successful websites featured on average 2.2 links per bio. This compares to an average of just 1.2 links in the rest of the sample.
Key insights of the author bio study
Here are the key insights from my author bio study.
1. 65.5% of author bios are written in the first person
When writing an effective and memorable author bio, this is probably the biggest decision you’ll make.
Should you write it from a first person perspective, or a third person perspective?
I’ve seen great examples of both, including these two:
A first person perspective on a bio:
A third person perspective on a bio:
Almost two thirds of the bios I analysed (65.5%) opted to write it from a first person point of view.
But 72% of author bios on the websites with the highest Domain Authority were written in third person.
Well, one answer might lie in the fact that the top 10% of websites are likely to be large institutions, with a greater number of employees. It seems logical that their bios would be written in the third person.
On the flip side, sites with very low DA are often blogs run by one person. This would make them more likely to write in the first person.
However, this isn’t the full story. Firstly because the term ‘digital marketing’ is so ultra-competitive, that any site ranking for it is likely to at least have a small measure of success. The vast majority of these websites are businesses with multiple writers.
Secondly, there are plenty of examples of successful one-person websites and blogs, which still choose to speak in the third person. Here’s a great one which I’ll analyse in more depth later.
The data suggests that the smart choice when writing your bio is to write it in the third person.
It sounds professional, which adds credibility. It also allows you to make the most of your experience and cite third party brands in a factual way.
For example – ‘David has delivered key insights for brands like MasterCard and Audi…’
Reeling off all the brands you’ve worked for when writing in the first person can put you in danger of sounding arrogant. It also sounds like you’re selling yourself harder – less like a bio and more like a resume.
For example – ‘I have delivered key insights for brands like MasterCard and Audi…’
Key takeaway: Write in the third person
2. The average number of links in an author bio is 1.3
I found this a very interesting statistic.
When analysing websites in the bottom 90% of my study, the average number of links was 1.2.
This shoots up to 2.2 in the top 10% of sites.
That’s a huge leap – almost double the number of links.
One explanation could be that more successful sites are a hotbed for guest blogging. Most guest bloggers are desperate to put as many links back to their own sites as possible.
However, there is also a relationship to take into account between more successful bloggers and appearances on sites with high Domain Authority.
Successful bloggers are more likely to appear on sites like Digital Marketer and Search Engine Journal. It seems logical that these bloggers have a greater understanding of online best practices, and therefore the decision to include extra links is entirely deliberate.
Key takeaway: Include more links in your bio.
3. The average bio has 54 words
Interestingly, this shoots up to an average of 76 words for bios on the top 10% of sites, while it’s just 52 words on the bottom 90% of sites.
That’s a huge difference – nearly a 50% leap.
This seems less likely to be because of suggested word limits, and is a much clearer indication of personal choice.
In fact, unsuccessful sites in relative terms are more likely to be individual blogs, where the bio length is entirely the writer’s decision.
It seems that writing more is a decision likely to come from experience. More successful bloggers know the value of real estate on other people’s websites, and are trying to make every word count.
More words allow for a greater number of accomplishments to be listed – and each one adds credibility.
Just look at this author bio from renowned digital marketer, Neil Patel.
This is crazy!
In a little over 80 words, Neil tells us that:
- Forbes thinks he’s great
- The Wall Street Journal thinks he’s great
- Entrepreneur Magazine thinks he’s great
- The New York Times thinks he’s great
- Obama thinks he’s great!
- And the United Nations thinks he’s great
Is that good enough for you yet?
Oh, and we also learn he is:
- A best-selling author
- A top 10 marketer
- A creator of brilliant companies
- A top 100 entrepreneur
Nobody is going to need much convincing when you’ve rattled through this list of achievements.
It’s worth noting that Neil uses SIX third party brands to add credibility: The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Entrepreneur magazine, The New York Times, Obama and the United Nations!
Key takeaway: Use several third party brands to add credibility.
Is it a coincidence that Neil’s bio follows our trends?
Interestingly, Neil’s bio is actually incredibly representative of the overall stats of the top 10%.
- It’s 82 words long (the average for the top 10% was 76)
- It has three links (average for the top 10% was 2.2)
- It’s written in the third person.
As one of the top marketers of his generation, it seems an unlikely coincidence that Neil’s bio ticks all the exact-same boxes as the most successful examples in our data sample.
Maybe we could be on to something…
Key takeaway: make your bio around 75-80 words long.
4. The word ‘I’ appears on average 2.3 times
I would say there’s nothing to see here.
The word ‘I’ appears 2.3 times on average, which seems to follow the overall logic, especially since 65.5% of all author bios were written in the first person.
It’s likely that if you wrote your bio in the first person, at least the first two sentences would start with ‘I’.
See example below:
Including the title, Ryan uses the word ‘I’ three times.
In sites which were in the top 10%, the word ‘I’ was used on average 0.6 times per bio. This low number makes sense when you consider that 72% of these author bios were written in the third person.
What is more interesting, however…
5. The words ‘you / your’ appear on average 2.9 times per bio
In the top 10% they appear 2.8 times, and in the bottom 90% they appear 2.9 times.
Why is this interesting?
I would have expected them to appear at a far higher frequency in posts written in the first person.
This is because it’s entirely natural to write ‘I / you‘ together. For example – ‘I’m here to teach you the tricks of the trade’.
Even taking into account that the top 10% have longer bios, I’m still surprised to see the words ‘you / your’ appear so often where 72% of them have been written in the third person.
It could be that these people understand the importance of talking directly to their audience. Using ‘you’ is a way of developing a closer relationship with readers.
A great example is Adam Enfroy, who writes in the third person but still manages to sneak in the word ‘your’ twice.
- ‘…scale your influence’
- ‘…run your online business’
His bio is also worth looking at for all the other points I’ve illustrated in red.
It’s literally crammed with power words and social proof. And yet, he still manages to make it about his readers – ‘learn how to scale your influence‘. It makes me want to join his journey.
Adam also manages to include his own name no fewer than FIVE times. Given that his website is built on his own name, this makes a lot of sense – it’s s a great example of the power of repetition in personal brand building.
Key takeaway: Even if you write in the third person, use words like ‘you’ and ‘your’ to speak directly to your readers.
Author bio study – the method
I had to make a number of decisions and assumptions when defining the method.
- I decided to scrape the bios from one niche. This is because different niches may have unique trends, such as bio length for example. I wanted to compare like-with-like in order to get some conclusions about how the most successful people in a particular niche talk about themselves. The niche I selected was ‘digital marketing‘.
- I simply typed this search term into Google and analysed the top 3,000 websites, minus any duplicates. I inserted a rule that I wouldn’t collect more than one author bio per website. This is because if I accidentally collected 500 bios from the most successful website on my list, and that company asked all their writers to write in a certain style or length, it would totally warp the statistics of the top 10%. From the top 3,000 results I successfully gathered 2,171 author bios.
- I used Moz Domain Authority to define the most successful 10% of websites. This isn’t perfect, but I believe does give a good idea of a website’s authority. For this I relied on Moz’s Google Chrome plugin.
- The next part was the data itself. My first idea was to use a scrapping tool. It seemed logical that I would be able to find names on a webpage by searching the author tag, then go to url/author/name.
- This did work in a lot of cases. However I ran into difficulties where different sites formatted it differently. For example: url/author/fullname vs url/author/firstname-surname.
- I also ran into difficulties with the way that the actual bio descriptions appeared in the code, especially where links were included etc.
- In the end I used a combination. I used a script to give me websites, Moz DA, and a list of names that appeared in the author tags. I organised the websites according to their DA. Since I gathered 2,171 bios, I separated the top 217 bios according to their website’s Moz DA score.
- To gather the data I outsourced the job of manually following each path using an excellent virtual assistant I found on Fiverr. Once we had all the names, this was surprisingly quick. Each bio was pasted into a spreadsheet as it appeared on page. Ultimately I believe this was the quickest way to make sure none of the bios accidentally had any code or errors in them.
Do you want to know what the most infuriating part of the entire method was?
I wanted to analyse the average number of links per bio.
Unfortunately when you paste to sheets the hyperlink disappears – grrrrr!
It also appeared that others were having the same problem:
I eventually found out that if you paste in the copy it shows no links, but if you hover over the cell then they drop down. Annoying but useful to know.
In terms of analysing the results, it was much easier.
How I analysed the results
I assigned each cell a Moz score, and used that to organise the doc. Then I analysed the top 10% and bottom 90% separately.
I could easily have decided to analyse the top 50% and bottom 50% to compare them.
However, my ultimate goal was to provide actionable advice and insight into how author bios are written on the top 10% of websites as this seemed the most useful for my readers.
How to write an author bio: a conclusion
Our results do seem to point to a number of key takeaways.
There are large differences between bios on websites with the highest Domain Authority and the rest.
These individuals are writing on bigger, more successful platforms, so the style in which they write their bios reflects their knowledge and experience. It’s therefore worth imitating wherever you can.
The main takeaways are:
- Write your bio in the third person
- Make it around 75 words long
- Include 2-3 links
- Use ‘you’ and ‘your’ frequently.
- Use third party brands to add credibility.
Feel free to send the best examples you’ve seen. I hope you found this study useful – show me your author bio in the comments below and let me know what you’d have done differently.
For the record, after writing this article I was inspired to rewrite my own author bio – I’ll finish up by showing you how it sounds. See below!
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