In the “Build A Better Website” series, we’ll dissect a website page by page and put it back together with purpose and great content so that each page of your site can build trust, earn credibility and drive revenue for your business.
The lonely “About” page – so ubiquitous and so neglected. When was the last time that you considered this pillar of good website content, let alone updated it? Is it more than a mere timeline-style book report of dates in the history of your life or company? Be honest – if you didn’t know you, would you want to hire you based on that page?
The About page has become “one of those things” that we all put on our websites, without any particular intent, usually agonizing over how to make our bios sound precisely perfect yet missing the point of the page entirely.
But wouldn’t you prefer to put together a page that helped you? That inspired people to do business with you? That encouraged people to contact you, get to know you, visit your page again or learn more?
Would you like an About page that matters?
If the answer is yes, read on! Here are some practical, actionable ways to turn your book report bio into a compelling About page that can actually get people to call, contact and even hire you.
1. Figure Out Who You’re Writing For
This, of course, is the foundation of all good website content. Before you write a single word, you need to know who you’re writing it for. The details of your company won’t change; your telling of them will, depending on who you’re telling.
We’ve talked before about defining your target audience so get to work figuring out who your visitors are.
Imagine one of your current customers reading your About page. Pick your best customer, your worst customer, your most critical customer. Imagine each of them reading your page and what they might want to know.
Then imagine a perfect stranger reading your About page. Imagine what he might want to learn and what information would be valuable.
If you have the luxury, ask a few of your customers or prospects what they’d want to know if they were reading your About page.
Whatever you do, try not to think like yourself! You are inherently biased and you already know everything there is to know about your company so you might overlook important points or dismiss them as “obvious”. But what’s obvious to you from “inside the bubble” of your company and familiar world may be completely foreign to someone else.
Recently I read a study conducted by Google’s Matt Cutts of who found that 80% of “everyday people” have no idea what SEO is. As someone enmeshed in the world of SEO I found that statistic shocking. From inside my bubble, I’d assumed that anyone who had ever turned on a computer knew what SEO was. You can imagine the disservice I’d do to my audience – and my business – if I wrote about that on my website under the assumption that people knew what I was talking about. This applies to you, too. Be mindful of what your customers know vs. what you *think* they know.
2. Choose Your Voice.
Once you know who you’re writing for, you will be able to inject your content with the appropriate personality.
Remember, the details of your company will remain the same. It’s up to you to decide how to tell them. When you know who your audience is, you’ll know how to approach the writing process. Are you trying to appeal to the serious businessperson or the fun-loving one? The sober investor or the spirited entrepreneur? The risk-taker or the security-lover?
Finding your voice doesn’t have to be hard, complicated or scary. It simply means that you choose how to approach your business and customers. If the tone of your page is light-hearted, casual and humorous, don’t count on attracting the most staid engineers and accountants. On the other hand, if those people aren’t your audience, it doesn’t matter what they think of your page.
Based on your audience and your business goals, choose your tone and style and write from that point of view.
3. Start With The “Who” And The “What”.
When people visit your About page they have 2 primary questions on their minds: who are you and what do you do? Answer both of these questions first and clearly.
Start with a single headline or a summary statement.
“The AlphaOmega Company builds custom pink elephants for your front yard so that you can make a statement in your neighborhood.”
That about sums it up! The details can follow but someone who is looking for a pink elephant, or to raise some eyebrows in the neighborhood, will immediately know they’re in the right place.
Lots of people have trouble describing what they do either briefly or clearly. I had this problem for a long time when we first started our business. I wanted to tell people everything about everything and in my mind there were so many nuances to what we did that I couldn’t possibly describe them in less than an essay.
Wrong wrong wrong!
It doesn’t matter how fascinating your business is to you. Or how many nuances you think there are. Here’s what matters: your web audience has an attention span of 5 seconds and diminishing. Tell them what they want to know and make it fast before you lose them. Spend extra time figuring out how to sum up your products or services into a single sentence if you can, or one short paragraph at most.
4. Give The “Where”.
If you’re a local business, it’s especially important to let people know where you do business. Have you ever stumbled on a contractor’s website and wondered if he installed kitchen cabinets in your area, or a restaurant site and wondered if you could swing by for lunch and been frustrated by a distinct lack of address?
Your “where” can be a permanent fixture in the header or footer of your site, or it can be on your contact page, but it should also be on your About page. People gravitate toward that page for information, so give it to them. It’s important to provide context and your location does that, whether you’re hyper-local or international.
5. State The “How Long”.
Let people know how long you’ve been in business. This can lend itself to your credibility and reliability. It can be a double-edged sword though, if you’re a relatively new business. If that’s the case, finesse the “how long” to include years you spent doing related work, studying or otherwise perfecting your craft. I said finesse, not lie! Better to tell people you’ve been in business for 2 years, with 5 studying/freelancing/interning than turning it into 7 in business.
If you’ve been in business long enough, use numbers to your advantage. If your company is family-owned and has been around since the early 1900s, a startup year is nice but it’s also powerful to tell people you’ve been “supplying the pinkest elephants on the east coast for over 100 years.”
6. Make It About Your Customers, Too.
Mostly, people really don’t care about you, at least not at first. Before they can care about you and your company, they need to learn to trust you, and one of the ways to gain trust is to tell people what’s in it for them.
A prospect visiting your About page goes with the surface intent of learning about your company but with the deeper intent of learning whether you’re the one who can help them. Should they call you? Contact you? Bother finding anything more out at all?
This is where it becomes doubly important to take that book report bio and turn it into an invitation.
“AlphaOmega Company can help you create the statement you want to make so that your neighbors will see you as the trend-setter you want to be. As a provider of pink elephants on the east coast for the last 50 years, we can get the exact shade of pink that will complement the color of your front door.”
In one sentence you’ve told people what you do, where you do business, how long you’ve done it, and what’s in it for them. You’ve also established a tone and audience (trend-setting, risk-taking).
Find the intersection between your products and services and your customers’ needs and desires and spin your content around it.
7. Use Good Headings.
This applies to any page of your website, but sometimes the About page is relegated to some sort of “other” that doesn’t get the same treatment. Don’t be afraid to be “ordinary” when ordinary works in your favor. In the case of headings, ordinary is your friend.
“What We Do” may not be the most brilliant or unique headline you’ve ever read but it’s pretty clear what information a person can find under that heading. Simple, straightforward and descriptive headings will help people scan your page for the information they want and will break up your content into appropriate chunks instead of turning your page into a laundry list of whats, wheres and whys.
8. Split It Up
Some people want the basics. Some want all the juicy details. Once you’ve gained the trust of your readers, they may indeed want to know more about exactly how your company started, what stumbling blocks you hit along the way, how many nights a week you work at your desk eating takeout.
These details add to the personality, culture and credibility of your company but that doesn’t mean they should all be crammed into your About page. It doesn’t mean you can’t tell them, either!
Tell away, but do it by splitting your page into multiple pages or sections. People who want to read more will do so, and people who don’t won’t be overwhelmed. If you really want to tell the story of how your company moved into its first office, tell it, and provide interested readers with a link to a separate page.
Double bonus: not only do you have more content for readers, but you’ve got more pages that you can use to hook search engines and get your site listed in them to be found by more people.
9. Use Social Proof
When you visit a blog and 200 people have tweeted, 371 people have liked, 82 people have shared it creates the impression that the content is worth something. The more people share content, the more people are likely to share that content in the future because they have the social proof that the content is valuable, even if they’ve never even read it.
While tweeting and sharing may not be relevant to your About page, you can provide this important social proof in other ways. Testimonials are a great way to do this. You can include snippets or even full testimonials and videos right within the content on your About page.
If you’ve won awards, tell about them. If you’ve been mentioned in the news, quoted as an authoritative source, written a book or otherwise been represented in the media, put it out there!
Do this carefully – you don’t want to sound like a pompous braggart. Find a balance between showcasing your accomplishments and putting them in context so people understand that your awards mean better products or services for them.
10. Make It About The People, Not Just The Company
It’s important to give people enough information about your company so you can start to build trust. It’s also important to make sure people know that they’ll be working with people – not just a building or a logo or a web page.
Your company is made up of people, so put them on your site… whether it’s just you, a dozen or fifty. If your company is small enough, put the bios and photos of your full staff. If it isn’t feasible to put bios of everyone, then be sure to include at least the primary “faces” of your business so that your readers can connect with a real person.
The same rules apply to bios as to your company information: speak to your audience, pay attention to tone, include key details and additional pages for “more” if necessary and let people know what special thing about you can help them.
I was once surprised when a prospect referenced our shared love of mojitos. I wondered how she knew that I liked mojitos, and she told me that she’d read it on my website. That detail is buried somewhere on my website so that I don’t think even I could find it! But she found it, it sparked a conversation, we connected and eventually did business together. Most people would not know that I like mojitos (now you do!) but she was motivated enough to read more and that one small detail created a connection we otherwise might not have made. Take advantage of the power of people.
11. Forget What “The Pros” Do.
Unless you’re totally famous, have flocks of admirers or can win business with or without something as commonplace as an About page, then ignore anyone who does. I take issue with some of the About pages that popular sites hold up as great/ideal/the best.
It’s true, there are fantastic About pages out there that are incredibly beautiful, clever, unique, edgy, and they get attention because of that.
But they get attention for another reason, and that’s because the people who wrote them are already well-known and it’s more likely that people are visiting those pages just to see how clever, unique and edgy they are, and not to find out if they want to do business with that person.
Most of us just need to keep eyeballs on our website for the 5 seconds it takes to get someone to read more.
But it’s very easy to get distracted by these pages, because they are so interesting and we want to be like that, too. We want the stand-out page. We want people to come to our websites just to read our clever About pages!
When you get rich and famous, you can be clever and eccentric, too. Until then, follow the tried-and-true wisdom of effective marketing. Tell people what they want to know, give them information they need to make a decision, make sure they know what’s in it for them, then lead them to your desired action.
Make Your About Page Work For You
Instead of looking at the About page of your website as just another one of those “must haves”, think of it an opportunity and an advantage. You can use it to generate interest, build trust, even convert visitors into customers.
Take it seriously and treat it with respect and it will repay you many times over.
How does your About page measure up? Can you think of a way to make it better? If you have any questions about yours, feel free to share it with me and ask!