I'm looking at your business website.
It has a nice design: the interface isn't bad and it's clear from text on your landing page (the opening page of your website) that your business provides the kind of services that I'm looking for today. What I really need to know now is whether you're for real, whether we can have a quality, trusting business relationship. I want to know who you are, so I punch up your About page.
You do have a sharply and appropriately written About page, don't you?
Integrity And Your Self-Concept: Who Are You?
There's an old joke: "On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog."
These days, however, it's often just easier to assume that there's some matted fur back there somewhere. The barrier to entry on the Web is very low, and almost anyone can build a basic website with minimal costs. With the number of strays running around out there, reputable
businesses operating on the Web have to work that much harder to maintain their credibility online.
If you expect results from your business website, your About page (also called a Bio page) is second in importance only to the copy on your landing page. This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you are a real person and a real business, rather than simply someone who can afford the $7 per month for website hosting.
When a prospect visits your website, they are often in search of something specific - valuable information, or a necessary service or product. A compellingly-written landing page leaves the reader with an initial sense that they may have come to the right place. Now the issue is credibility: are you a trustworthy source, or are you a dog? The reader begins to seek out hard and real reasons to either trust you or to go somewhere else.
Without a strong About page to make your case, you lose by default. The rest of your website is effectively wasted because the reader now has nothing to go on but the prejudices they brought with them.
We judge people in terms of self-concepts. You're not the same person to everyone you know - your spouse knows you differently than your clients, and your oldest friends know you differently than the grocery store cashier you met this afternoon. You behave differently in various contexts, when faced by varying expectations. Every relationship you participate in involves different concepts of who you are, both to yourself and to others.
Take a moment and consider your business from the eyes of your clients: what concepts define you? Are you a valuable ally, a reliable provider, an inexpensive alternative? Are you a fixture of the establishment, or the aggressive vanguard of the cutting edge? Are you a major brand or the best-kept industry secret? Are you a friend, an advisor, a strong shoulder in time of need?
How would you describe your overall business self-concept, using only six words or less?
Successful relationships of any kind depend on awareness of and the willingness to maintain the self-concepts that define them. People trust consistency and integrity, the very elements that your website visitors want to find in your presentation. They want to know exactly who you are and how willing you are to admit it before they will take a risk on you.
Understanding the self-concept of your business is the first step to writing a powerful About page.
Getting It Across
Once you know who you are, the next step is to effectively communicate it.
Keep your About page relatively short. Your readers don't want to read your life story or learn about every significant event involving your company since it was founded. Unless the situation desperately calls for it (very rarely), keep your About page below 300 words, preferably in the 125-250 word range.
Don't hide from the reader; take personal responsibility. List accurate contact information, including a street address and phone number. Provide the names of contact personnel in your company. An About page is not the place to worry about privacy - get specific and make it clear that you are a real business staffed by real people, providing real products and services. Make verification as easy as possible. Don't be shy.
Save the sales pitch for your landing and secondary marketing pages. Aside from not including an About page at all, the next most common mistake businesses make is to confuse it with a sales brochure. Don't use your About page as your landing page, and resist the urge to use that space to talk about the reader or the great qualities of your services. Remember: your About page only gets read once the reader has been sold and is looking for reassurance. It's about your credibility and nothing else. The About page is purely support.
Don't include anything that doesn't directly contribute to the overall About concept. Most of the time, your readers don't need to know your pet's name, or where you were born, or who you voted for in the last election. When in doubt, leave it out.
Make absolutely sure that your spelling, grammar and style (including punctuation usage and capitalization) are flawless. Your About page is not the place for your literacy or professionalism to be called into question - and, believe it, errors do get noticed. Your website copy should be edited according to the Chicago Manual of Style; if necessary, hire a professional copywriter to either write or proofread the copy.
The Most Important Tip: Walking The Talk
Of course, it's not enough to simply say good things about yourself. Trust is an ongoing process; an effective About page is only one step in that process, and is itself useless if your business doesn't back up its words with actions. As you craft the perfect case to argue your credibility, remember that the most you can hope for from that copy is to encourage the benefit of the doubt. If you are not willing to walk it, you shouldn't be talking it.
Clients aren't stupid, and they notice when self-promotion doesn't equal the reality. And then they talk, and then your reputation goes downhill, and then you go out of business. So be honest in your About page, and be truly trustworthy: hold yourself to a high standard. Walk the talk.
The best way to appear credible is to be credible. When your actions match your words, people take notice and refer you to others. That's when a well-crafted About page truly makes your case.