Your About Us Page is Not Just a Placeholder

I’ve read the “About Us” pages for a lot of companies, both professionally and as a curious consumer. Some of them piqued my interest, others made me laugh, but the vast majority put me to sleep. Why would a company blow a great opportunity to close a deal?

I mean that seriously. Anyone who is looking at a company’s "About Us" page has more than a casual interest in the firm. One of the items I read while researching this article said that customers who read a company’s "About Us" page have a slightly higher conversion rate than those who don’t. It’s almost like those "About Us" readers are saying, "okay, here’s one last shot to convince me to buy from you."

But if you’re going to convince them, you’d better make it good. I’m not talking about a hard sell, though. Save that for your product pages, if you must. An "About Us" page is not about selling, per se. It’s about communication. Granted, it’s a sort of one-sided communication, since you can’t really have a dialog with your customers on your "About Us" page. But you can imagine your customers’ end of the conversation and answer the kinds of questions they’re likely to ask.

As with any form of communication, it’s not just about the content. Certainly, the actual content is important, but how it’s presented plays an important role. If you’re a member of any social network, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Every member profile is a personal version of an "About Us" page. Plenty of people are into the same things and are trying to tell the world the same kind of information, but different personalities convey it differently.

I hope I don’t have to tell anyone that companies have personalities too. If they didn’t, why do the "PC and Apple" commercials appeal to so many people? They clearly illustrate how many of us think the two companies would act if they were people: the somewhat stodgy and business-like Microsoft versus the laid-back but competent Apple. (No doubt a version of the commercials created by Microsoft would be very different; after all, there are tons of parodies of the commercials on YouTube!).

There are certain things that everyone expects from an "About Us" page. First, it needs to be consistent with the rest of the web site. The user shouldn’t feel like they’ve suddenly gone to a different company’s web page, which can happen if the company is a subsidiary of another company and the user is sent to the "About Us" page for the parent.

Second, it needs to answer the user’s questions. They’ve come to this page because they want to know not only what you do, but who you are. Who started your company? Why did they start it? What does your company stand for?

When you start writing about these things, try to avoid falling into the classic trap of spitting out generic pablum. If I read one more "About Us" page that explains the company’s mission is "to provide global business solutions customized to suit the needs of…" well, you get the idea. "About Us" pages don’t need to be boring!

If you’re afraid that your "About Us" pages can be used as a cure for insomnia, here are a few points to think about as you recompose them. Brian Eisenberg noted in one of his articles for the Clickz Network that a company’s "About Us" page should do the following:

  • Let customers see a more human side of your company. Google’s site is a great example of this; it comes through in everything from their writing style to the fun staff pictures.
  • Tell your company’s story. Eisenberg recommends using a time-line to celebrate your company’s achievements without sounding like you’re bragging.
  • Reflect your company’s passion. Nike’s "About Us" page drips sports; Intel’s features a robotic claw holding a colorful computer chip. These are just two examples.
  • Reflect your company’s personality. What is it like to work for your company? Show, don’t tell. This is especially important because most "About Us" pages link to job postings with the company.
  • Let the customer inside the company. If you’ve ever been to Google’s web site and clicked around their "About Us" section, you’ve seen some great Google staff images. Think of the impression it leaves on people to see that Google’s employees really enjoy their work!
  • Reiterate your company’s competence to serve its customers by using all of these tools.

That’s a pretty tall order, but it can be done. If it helps, pretend for a moment that your company is a person. Now, write its "profile."

No, I don’t mean that you should write your "About Us" page in rhyme. A sonnet is a pretty specific poetic form, but the writer has complete freedom within the form to say what he wants to say. In the same way, visitors expect an "About Us" page to follow a certain form and convey certain information. But how you say it is up to you.

I’m going to take Google as my example again. If you look at the search engine’s "About Us" page, you can see that it’s really gone above and beyond as far as how neatly organized it is and how much information you can reach easily – not really surprising, given the size of the company. I’m going to focus in on the parts that I think are the most important, or at least the easiest to generalize to other companies. Here’s a screen shot of those sections:

 

Okay, let’s start with the third item on the left: Corporate Info. By any other name, that’s your company description. When was it founded? Who owns it? Provide an overview. Yes, talk about your product and service offerings too.

Some think the mission statement should be separate from the company description. If it is, you can use it to explain your long-term vision for the company’s future. You might think people are cynical, but if they’re going to be dealing with your company they certainly want to know what it stands for!

The investor relations section is where you’d usually find biographies of the management team. Even if you don’t have lots of investors, you should still post biographies for your important personnel. And you should include their pictures. These people are the human face of your company. They help visitors feel like they’re getting to know you better, and that they can trust your company. You can keep the main bios short and link to longer versions if you wish.

You must have a "Contact Us" page. Whole articles have been written about how to compose one. Basically, it’s a good idea to give your customers as many ways to get in touch with you as possible, and don’t make them all electronic. Some of us prefer telephones; others are still archaic enough to send real letters through the postal service on real paper!

You’ll notice that Google’s first link under Our Company is to its press center. Needless to say, I’ve spent a lot of time in that particular section of many company web sites. Companies often use the press center to link to stories about the organization that have been picked up by the press. You can also use your press center to link to your company’s press releases. If you also use it to link to stories written about your company by others, you should of course distinguish between the two.

In the screen shot in the previous section, you’ll also notice a link to jobs. Google includes a brief paragraph in this section that talks about what it’s like to work for the company. But from this page, it also links to more complete information about life at Google, office locations, diversity, and more. That’s in addition to the actual links to job descriptions. If your company really prides itself on its work environment, you might want to consider this approach. Or you can keep it simple; it’s entirely up to you.

Finally, I want to mention the link to the Google blog. Actually, there are several Google blogs; that link goes to the main, official Google blog. If your company has a blog, you should definitely link to it from your "About Us" page. By now you’ve probably figured out that this page lets users get to know your company as if it were a person; there’s no better way to show your company’s human side than with a blog. So if your company does have a blog, you want your potential customers to be able to get to it easily.

Oh, one last thing: make sure you keep your company’s "About Us" page up to date. Link to new stories about the company in the press, update biographies as necessary, add press releases, and so on. Like a blog that isn’t updated regularly, an out-of-date "About Us" web page can make your site look stale and neglected; you definitely don’t want to convey that kind of image!

I hope I’ve convinced you that your "About Us" page should be more than an afterthought. If you put it together well, you’ll give your customers a good feeling about your company. You’ll help them to know who your company is and what they can expect from it. You’ll give them a sense of trust. And building a sense of trust is an important step in getting them to convert.

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