Body_QAannhadley.jpgA compelling About Us page on your website gives you a great opportunity to really connect with customers and explain why you’re different—and better—than your competition. So says Ann Handley, the chief content officer for MarketingProfs, a company that provides business marketing know-how for than 420,000 subscribers. She recently spoke with business writer Susan Caminiti about ways to make this page stand out—and what language small businesses should avoid.


by Susan Caminiti.

SC: Why is the About page so important for a small business?

AH: The way I look at it is that it’s an opportunity to tell your story. It’s the one place on your website where you can really talk about who you are, what you’re all about, why the company was founded, and why you’re different.


PQ_QAannhadley.jpgSC: Where in a small business’s story should an About page start? Is it a timeline?

AH: I wouldn’t approach it as a timeline at all. But there are ways to approach your story and the time that you’ve been in business that may not even be text. If your business has been around awhile, or if it’s a long-standing family business, there may be archived photos that you can use on the About Us page so that you’re not giving a blow by blow of every year and event. One thing that all businesses owners should remember is that the page is not a CV. It’s not intended to be your resume.


SC: What should the tone of the About Us page be—conversational or a little more formal?

AH: That all depends on the type of business you’re in. There is no one-size-fits-all type of strategy. At the very least, you want your website to be accessible. Write in human terms. I know it sounds odd to say it that way, but I can’t emphasize it enough, especially for a tech company. I find they tend to fall into what I call ‘Franken-speak’—jargon that no one understands. It’s an easy trap for companies to fall into since they’re used to their own language and terms, but for a customer coming to their site for the first time it can be strange. Avoid the jargon and communicate in very human terms.

SC: What are some other interesting ways to create a compelling About Us page?

AH: Focus on the people who work at the company, whether that’s the founders or partners. Rather than text, make a video to tell your story. I think that’s a great way to show the human side. One company that does it well is Levenfeld Pearlstein, a law firm in Chicago. They basically put a video camera in front of their partners and asked them to tell a story. By looking at their Google Analytics, they found overwhelming evidence that people were going to their About Us page first, so it made sense to focus on the partners. When you’re hiring an attorney you want the essence of who these people are. If you can hear and see them speak on video that goes along way in letting the audience know who you are. [Ed. Note: Also, check out this article to see how some small businesses are using Pinterest to tell their company story.]

SC: Do you notice a common mistake that small businesses make on their About Us page?

AH: I think the biggest mistake is that companies don’t pay enough attention to it. They view it as boilerplate information—who, what, where—and don’t really take any time to think outside the box. There are lots of ways to make this page much more compelling and to tell a story that will set them apart from their competitors. Small businesses spend a lot of time on the look and feel, the design of their website, but not as much on the content. Are you just sounding the same as any other company? And if you’re not comfortable doing this yourself, hire someone to do it for you. 


SC: What other advice can you give small business owners to make the page stand out?

AH: By all means, avoid words like “revolutionary,” “mission-critical,” or “impactful.” Avoid the words that make you sound like everyone else. A lot of companies use that kind of language as a matter of default, or because it sounds impressive. But that’s not the language of your customers. Again, avoid the Franken-speak. “Customer-focused” and “customer-centric” are other phrases to avoid. Isn’t everything you do supposed to be customer-focused? I read mission statements of companies all the time and with some of them I have no idea what they do because the language is so murky. Make it clear and use human language so that anyone coming to your site understands quickly what it is you do and why you’re different.


This interview has been condensed and edited.