Now, how to make the “About us” page?
First of all, why do it?
- The “About us” page is usually one of the most visited pages of a web site. The reason for this? You want people to enter a “real” state (see the link at the beginning of this blog post). Not only this, but people themselves often feel the need to see the “real” part of your business / web site.
- The aim of the page is to present to the visitors what is the web site about and to help them connect things (connect things such as – the web site, the owner, the company, or other parties involved).
- The main aim for the page is to capture attention (it shouldn’t drive you away as you visit it; it shouldn’t have elements which basically make you wonder “What am I doing in here?”). Then, it should also do its main purpose – to deliver the requested message (I will visit an “About us” page on a blog in order to read about the author/authors and to find out some general principles of that respective blog; you need to provide me with this information). Finally, even an apparently static and boring page as “About us” should convert visitors. OK, the page should increase the trust in the web site, but what would the aim behind this action be? It is good to answer this question (examples include subscribing to a newsletter, ordering some product, or contacting the e-shop).
OK, we have established a reasoning. How to do it?
What are the general principles in creating the page?
- The first phrase of the page should make clear the essential information. Who are you / your web site / your business? What do you do / what is the aim of the web site / what is your business? Since when are you on the market? How do you do what you do? And some information about the location. First answer the most important bits, then get into details later on.
- If you find it hard to follow the principles below, you should externalize the service of copywriting. Or, at least, after you write the text, don’t forget to contact someone which should check the proper spelling and right usage of words.
- Use elements for formatting dedicated to the web. Help people to quickly scan your page. Use bullets • (like the current article does), write whole sentences with bold characters (like you see here), or use italics. You should divde a large page into several sections, each with its own title. You should put photos (there are plenty of reasons to do so, “scanning” the page is just one of them).
- Be human. Avoid being an abstract thingy, without an image and a face, with no personality and representation. Don’t be a virtual image. Enter reality and choose a real image for your company and yourself. Write that you like chocolate and your company does something which other companies don’t. Say you do mistakes and you have things you like. Admit you favor some things for others. State that you have unique tastes and qualities which others don’t. You can even admit small faults.
- Present yourself (especially true for companies which only have one person doing the work). If you have a small company, and you are an important player, don’t brand your company with the name “Acme International Ltd.”. Instead, say “Acme, held by George Davidson, who does this and that”. You can even say “George Davidson, owner of Acme”. This principle even applies to larger companies. Going from a level to a higher one, it becomes harder to distinguish anyone else than the CEO. People know about Steve Jobs from Apple, but who does marketing at Apple – this isn’t quite as clear. Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google. But who is the vice-president for search at Google? It’s not obvious. And this is the natural thing to happen – you want to know who offers you a service. And, most likely, you feel the need to “engage” with the CEO. The person behind the brand matters. Don’t just be “Acme company”, be more than that.
- When you write, use a simple vocabulary, avoid complicated terms. Avoid to use any other terms than the ones used as a standard by your clients. Don’t get into technical terms (of any kind), if they are unfamiliar to your audience (on the other hand, if you have a web site about research in medicine, targeting doctors, you may use medical terms; this is a rather atypical situation, though).
- You have two options of writing a text – you can be concise and structured (“We started in 1994. We have 320 employees. We do…”) or you can tell a story (“It all started in 1994. In that year … In time, we got to 320 employees. What makes their story special is that … Among the services we offer, … But, to get to these services, we had to go through many stages, we learned from mistakes and we have never blamed ourselves for making those mistakes. We have given up doing …, but we have been doing, for the past two years, a thing which is …, for the local market …”). There is no universal solution, yet I can tell you that stories have the advantage of getting the reader’s attention, while the concise texts are useful for providing the message in a more efficient way.
- It is optimal for an “About us” page to include a video. They are very good with increasing conversion, they engage the viewer, it’s an easy process (click&watch versus reading&clikcing&reading). Is it too hard to make a video? How about creating a SlideShare presentation or just putting a slideshow of images?
- How long/short should the page be? Regarding content, it’s best that you answer all the mandatory and essential aspects (you should be able to define these yourself, specifically for your web site and audience). If you can express a sentence in a shorter form, then do it – cut it to the essentials. On the other hand, have a look at the length of the page of the featured product on Amazon – Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. Very very many pages of scroll, and, if you decide to also read the comments for the product, the page goes one (its long, and, still, they find other things still to be said). As an alternative to the length of the page – you can either write in a concise form, or you can make so that a click on a link would make the text expand automatically (see an example plugin for WordPress – Text Expander « WordPress Plugins), or – and this is my favorite option – you can make a summary and, at a click for an element from the summary, you can “teleport” automatically the visitor to the desired section (sample page on Wikipedia – see the “Contents” functionality – Web design – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).
- If you use photos, use real photos. Avoid stock photos.
- When you present data, get inspiration from inographics. Google [infographics], and try to present figures in ways which are attractive to the Internet users.
- Avoid adjectives / adverbs, and, instead, use things which you can demonstrate. For example, don’t say – “pick us, we are the best”, go into details – “pick us, because we have a lot of success”. Go into even more details – “pick us, because we have been chosen by X magazine to be …”, or “pick us, because we have the best technological equipment in the area” or “we have the greatest offer of products” or “we deliver in the shortest time” (even better is to specify that time frame – “we deliver in a maximum of 4 hours from receiving and confirming an order”). Do your best to avoid things which are unsustainable and general, and focus on concrete things – not “beautiful products”, but “products which 30% of our visitors consider the most beautiful they have ever seen in an online store”.
- Avoid passive sentences (“The products which are sold so successfully by our company” versus “We sell products with great success”), the gerund (“doing” / “making” / “creating” – when you use a verb with gerund, you already have a phrase with two sentences; this should have been better written as two separate sentences, with no gerund), and corporate-style sentences (see sample web sites of things to avoid – Corporate B.S. Generator and Corporate Gibberish Generator). Use short sentences, avoid phrases.
- You can take into account writing from a 3rd person. Instead of “We have”, you can write “Acme company has”. Instead of “On my blog”, you can write “On George’s blog”. This is not mandatory, and, personally, I don’t find it very attractive.
- I have doubts for the following advice. Sometimes you can be very serious (Microsoft are generally very serious), mildly funny (you can make small jokes, but within some boundaries; there are limits to the humor; Google has, sometimes, some interesting/amusing images on its homepage – the famous doodles; you can make your Google search page be in klingon; they make April 1st jokes; MailChimp does some small jokes, but within boundaries), and there are outrageously funny jokes (out of boundaries – examples – The Onion, which makes false news). I used to like the third option best. Then I grew up, and I like the second option better. Nowadays, I’m more inclined to be serious on the Internet. What’s the best option? I’ll first say that there is a very small line between making a good joke, growing trust and making a pleasant atmosphere (on one hand) and doing things wrong and ruining the trust & atmosphere, by making a poor and embarassing joke. There is no universal solution, it all depends on the owner of the business and its audience (you communicate differently if you’re a humor online source – this allows you to do more things – than when you handle SPAM messages, security of emails and private information – like MailChimp; sure, you can make jokes, but the boundaries are clearly stated; you even have an option – “disable MailChimp humor – because I am a party pooper”). If I were to pick humor for a company, I’d go for Google/MailChimp solution, and never Onion. Microsoft has its upsides, and is a viable option at some point (can you really imagine IBM making jokes? Citi insurance being funny? On the other hand, Budweiser can make funny ads, it’s in their target).
- Balance past-present-future. You should avoid constantly talking about the past (“up until now, we have done …”). Also speak about the present (“We now have the following equipment, we provide the following services, and have the next products on our web site …”). And do promise me things (“Psst! We have a secret for you – in the next three months we will launch …” / “We plan in the following years to develop …” / “We have set an objective that, with the help of users such as you, to …”). Avoid any excess. If you don’t express your future, you lose the trust of your visitors that you are capable of having a vision. On the other hand, if you only express the future, without the past, you risk to promise without having a previous base. Politicians tend to do so. Avoid it. Balance the future, with the past, passing through the present.
- Avoid being all theoretical, give examples. In this article, I have made this mistake – too much theory. How can you avoid it? Use images. How would it be that every single of my affirmations would be strengthened by a concrete, “live” example. This would have made my affirmations more powerful.
Questions you could answer in the page – what can you include on an “About us” page, generally (a broad example, with all the possible elements)?
- Who is behind the business? On the Internet, things tend to get virtual. You should reverse this and bring things to reality. Prove you have a real business, with real clients. If you can also prove the success of your business, this is even better. If you can, details the business model (people wish to understand how do you manage to live, since they are aware that you probably do so on their money on on their private data; and they need to know this).
- What are the offered guarantees? In here, the things are very different, ranging from the safety of personal data, to what kind of responsibilities you take on with the web site and which are my rights, if I were to be the client of your store.
- What do you do and others do, also? Write about the specifics of your business, even if any of your competitors can claim the same thing. Coca-Cola sells great refreshment drinks. So does Pepsi. Mercedes offers a great experience with a car. But you can also get this in a Ferarri. Both P&G and Unilever make your daily life better. Any of these companies should also speak about the general things within their business. Start with the basics – “OK, we sell refreshments” / “Yes, we do sell cars in which you feel great” / “Sure, it’s us the ones who help you get a more convenient life”. Answer the basic things. This is VSP (Value Selling Proposition).
- What do you do and it differentiates you from the others? What does Coca-Cola have and Pepsi doesn’t? Similarly, what does Pepsi have and Coca-Cola doesn’t? Why should I buy a Ferrari and not a Mercedes? What differentiates P&G from Unilever? Possible answers – “We are the biggest company selling refreshment drinks” / “We are the refreshment drinks company with the highest growth in the last 30 years” / “German quality since …” / “Italian tradition since …” / “The widest range of products” / “The biggest rate of satisfied costumers”. Notice that the second place is not fine. If you are “among the biggest companies which …”, this means nothing. But nothing at all. On the other hand, you can be first on a niche. Maybe Mercedes doesn’t fulfill the criteria of “the best cars in the world” according to every possible standard (reliability, customer satisfaction, luxury accessories, power, design, flexibility, colors availability). Yet, for certain, any company in this world is the first one at something. Fiat maybe the biggest Italian producer. Or they maybe the car producers on which the clients say they are most friendly. Or they have a very long history in making a certain model. Or they are considered the most loved brand in Italy. Or is the car every Italian knows best. The examples in here are theoretical. What sticks is the principle to pick a niche (on which you should be #1) and hold on to it. This is USP (Unique Selling Proposition). On a given web site, you should have both a VSP and a USP (“it’s safer and more convenient to order online” is an example VSP and “we answer to every email within 15 minutes of receipt” can be an USP).
- What is your past? You can detail your own personal past, the past of your company, of your employees, of other stakeholders.
- Where are you now, what do you do? Even if you have a dedicated “Services” page, you should also list here, briefly, what do you do. Even if you have an online store, and to you is obvious what you sell, you should state the general products you sell. Even if you have in the sidebar a list of the categories of blog posts, you should say a few things about your blog articles. Or give a list with the most sold products (for online stores) and most read articles (for blogs).
- How will your web site look in the next 6 months / 2 years / 5 years? Try to also answer questions about the future. “5 years” is, on the Internet, a very long term. It is a long-enough perspective that you aren’t asked to answer to the question “How will my site look like in 10 years?”. But it shows a perspective. Don’t be exclusively in the past in the present. Also show what you hope for.
- What is the intended reaction? Let’s say the visitor reads your page. What do you want the user to. Have an intent for the page. It may be very abstract – you wish to increase trust in the web site – or it may be a very pragmatic action – you may want to visitor to subscribe to the newsletter, or call you, or email you, or become interested in your product offerings and go to the store.
- What do you brag with? Have you won an award? Has someone voted you as …? Do you have the … (some quality) range of products? You have the services which are most …? Others have told about you that …? You can prove that you are the …? Brag, but without saying false things. Brag within the boundaries of the affirmations which you can sustain.
- What are your ethics? You should explain here all or part of:
- Values – example for SEOmoz: “Transparent and Authentic, Generous, Fun, Empathetic, and Exceptional.” (What We Believe and Why: SEOmoz’s TAGFEE Tenets | SEOmoz).
- Mission / Aim / Vision – example: “Our mission is to be the world’s premier consumer products company focused on convenient foods and beverages.” (Pepsi). Unfortunately, Guy Kawasaki would probably say that it is text with a too fancy way of saying things, and would look for methods to simplify it (How to Change the World: Mantras Versus Missions). Pepsi could make an abstract and say “We provide convenient food & beverages” or it could work on delivering a result (“We make you feel good”) or even take this one step further (What do you get out of happiness? “We make you deliver happiness by your own happiness”). If you are a small company, I would pick just one of mission / aim / vision, and I would keep it. If you are a big company, you have probably externalized this to a PR service which will warn you about the differences between the three and you don’t need my article. I don’t think that a company with 5 people needs a very detailed statement for all of these – mission / aim / vision. I would pick one and use it.
- Objectives – they are not necessarily mandatory, and not in a form of a business plan which may present to the competition what you wish to do in the following years. If you do write them, though, write them SMART. I would put the objectives in a friendly way (instead of “We will increase sales by 5% using a technology called …, by … date, at the approximate cost of …, which will allow”, I would put “We will have a new technology – … -, which will help you, our users, to … You can imagine yourselves, 6 months from now, using …, and you will feel like … Isn’t it wonderful?”).
- Motto. Regarding motto, you can either choose something concise, which can express in just one sentence the main idea of your company (Renault creates cars – “Créateur d’Automobiles”; Nokia – “Connecting People”), but it can also be a thought/emotion, a suggestion, an atypical thing, a philosophy (Adidas – “Impossible is nothing”; Nike – “Just do it”; LG – “Life’s Good”). All the above examples “sound” good. “Car makers” in French sounds better than “we make cars”. Adidas changes the order of words in the sentence for a special effect. LG plays with the letters L and G, and the expression “Life’s Good” has something interesting in it (it sounds nice). Nokia focus on the final result, of connecting people, bypassing the fact that they make the phone. The result is more important than the method. Nike go even further and start with the assumption that all you need is a motivation.
- What relevant financial data can you make public for the visitor? If you make such data public, make sure they’re relevant. Don’t go into cryptic acronyms, irrelevant for the end user. But, yes, you can present the profit. Or the annual turnover increase. Or the market share. There are two aspects here. Let’s say we have these – Apple made profit, a bank made profit, a car maker made profit. The Internet user can look differently at the above things – “Oh, you have a lot of success and you do good sales? Then I will buy from you, if others bought from you! You will use your products. I need trust” versus “Oh, Apple, you have a lot of success and sales? Well you make your profits based on my expenditure. I won’t buy from you, I don’t need a big trust for a smartphone, I need a best buy product”. Similarly, a bank can either turn you away (“big commissions?”) or it can attract you (“I trust a bank with lots of clients”). There is a balance between proving that tomorrow you will be on the market (profit is good) and paying a premium for the trust (profit is bad).
- Who else has a relation with you? Here there are more aspects – people which Liked the page on Facebook. People who left comments. Satisfied customers. Case studies and success stories testimonials. Put such elements in the page.
- What is the past of the people which run the company? For this, it is necessary to have either their CVs (it is easy to do, if they have already been made, and you only need to upload them) or their biographies (they need to be written individually). I would go for the biographies, instead of a CV (I would only put the essential elements, and perhaps some surprising aspects from the CV – “And, I have to admit, I like watching soap operas”, as a ending note). What biographies/CVs to include? First of all, top management. Then, you can consider including sales people or customer service, with whom the visitors can interact. If it were my company, I would put data with every team member, even those in the back-office, which will probably never meet most customers. You can include a small bio, with key elements (college / master / top jobs / top performances). You can include less important things, which help the chemistry (“Hey! I just love lemon ice cream. Mmm” – this is fine).
- If I’m for the press, do you have something for me? A list with previous media coverage, photo gallery, special contact data, press release section?
- At the end of the page, a clear call-to-action? What do you want the visitor to do?
What could you include in the page, as a general rule, for specific situations?
- If you’re a blogger – your bio (and that of other blog authors), contact data, perhaps press details. At least one photo and perhaps a video. Describe the blog, what have you done until now and what you intend to do. Use your personality and write a powerful message. Choose from the things above those which would fit you.
- If you have a simple presentation web site – describe your business, and say what you intend to do. Bio of the management and, I recommend, of the entire team. Photo (at least) or video (I recommend) in which you describe the business. A list with the top products and services. Press details. Your values. USP and VSP. Pick from the above other things which would fit you.
- An online store – social proof (we’re on the Internet because …). Top products. Details about you and your company, with photo and video. Press section. USP and VSP. Values, mission, motto. Case studies with happy clients. Financial data (just those relevant to the visitors). Your top achievements. What do you intend to do from now? What warranties do you offer? Other things from the list above.
Finally, you should constantly improve the page, if you want it to evolve as time passes.
If you are interested in specific advice on how to create the “about us” page if you are a blogger writing about personal matters, read this:
- Why (also) be stupid in the “About us” page for a *personal* blog?: Olivian Breda and this:
- Despre mine, bloggerul X. Cum să faci pagina aceasta?: Olivian Breda
- The 5-Step Process for Writing an About Page that Connects (and Converts) – Copyblogger
- The Difference Between Content and Content Marketing
Note: Also see the Yahoo! Group on which I present similar issues:IMRo. To join, email email@example.com and reply to the confirmation email.