It's one of the most important elements on a company's website and also one of the most undervalued: the ubiquitous "About Us" page—that section on your site that has been collecting virtual dust because you haven't bothered to read it since, well, you first wrote it.

You may not be paying it much attention, but visitors to your site are. And considering that your About Us page is where the world clicks to learn about your company and the services you offer, which can mean the potential loss or gain of a customer, it deserves a little more consideration and a lot more respect.

"Most of our clients don't realize how much their About Us page is visited," says Thomas Harpointner, CEO of AIS Media, an award-winning marketing and interactive media agency in Atlanta. "It's among the first three pages consumers go to when they visit a site. We've worked with both small businesses and Fortune 500 companies, and we spend more time consulting clients on the About Us page than any other. Companies are so focused on the design of their site, their products, and how they're going to market them that they simply overlook it. It's an afterthought."

How to Design a Great "About Us" Page: Make the Human Connection

The primary purpose of your site's About Us page is to provide information about your business and what it can deliver, so it should include the basics, such as who your company serves, how long it's been around, and its long-term goals and mission. Don't forget to include your address. And if your company has multiple locations or does business globally, this is the perfect place to mention that information, or at least link to a page on your site that does, such as your Contact Us page. But don't stop there, which is a mistake a lot of businesses make. What results is a stale, unoriginal, and downright boring About page.

Fortunately, spicing it up is easier than you think. By incorporating a few strategic components, you can go beyond the yawn-inducing jargon. Simple tactics can make your About Us page a more exciting read and your company seem more accessible, says Lorrie Thomas, aka The Marketing Therapist, a marketing strategist, educator, writer, web marketing expert and speaker, and that can ultimately drive business and increase sales. Avoid writing a soliloquy (too much text is a turnoff) and focus on connecting with your site visitors.

For example, Thomas, who just returned from a 10-day speaking tour on better Web marketing, told her dozen or so employees to write their own bios for her company's About Us page. Her only mandate was that in addition to providing a snapshot of their professional history, they include personal information, such as hobbies or their favorite activities. Some even set up links to their blogs and personal websites. This might also be a good place to include e-mail addresses for your staff. Readily available contact information shows customers that you want to hear from them and that you have nothing to hide.

"The About Us page needs to reflect the organization," says Thomas, CEO of Santa Barbara, California-based Web Marketing Therapy. "It's the story of how a company started, but it should also be the story of who's behind it. Is the CEO an avid skier? Or a yoga guru? We're no longer in the world of B to B, or business to business; we're in a world of what I call P to P, people to people. Relationships are the name of the game. Your clients want to know you, like you, and trust you."

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How to Design a Great "About Us" Page: Show, Tell, and Brag (A Little)

If it's all about trust and relationships, there's no better way to build both than by posting testimonials or listing big-name clients you've partnered with. That will lend your business a good amount of credibility. You might consider incorporating your clients' logos somewhere on your page as an added visual element. Mentioning awards and recognitions your company received, as well as community service work, green initiatives, and interesting facts, will also make your business more appealing. And timelines, company history, and major milestones are attention-grabbing.

Harpointner said he once worked with a Philadelphia-based business looking to undergo a media makeover. When he went to the company offices and talked to the owners, he found out that the establishment had been around since the Great Depression, a fact that he says demonstrated its staying power and loyal customer base. Harpointner says he became adamant about publicizing the company's long history not just on its About Us page but also on all its promotional material.

"I see a lot of well-established companies that have decades of business history, but for whatever reason they're not sharing it," says Harpointner, who has appeared CNBC and CNN Radio as an interactive marketing and e-commerce expert. "They tend to be shy about tooting their own horn. They think it's not graceful to brag about themselves, but your About Us page is the one place where you should be tooting your own horn. For small or new companies, this is especially important, because consumers are just becoming familiar with their business. And if the About page comes up short, then the company looks like it doesn't have much to say about itself. It's really a missed opportunity."

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How to Design a Great "About Us" Page: Incorporate Social Media 

If the digital age has taught us one thing it's not to underestimate the power of promoting yourself across multiple platforms. Using your About page to post videos of you and your company, link to your blog, and place share buttons to your Twitter feed or Facebook page is not only a good business practice, it's a smart one.

Social networking sites basically provide free advertising, and they can help attract customers you might otherwise not have had access to. Elizabeth Hannan, president and founder of Blue Blazing Media with offices in New York City, Scottsdale, Arizona, and San Francisco, calls marketing your company through LinkedIn or Foursquare your business's "soft sell." You many not see results immediately, she says, but over time, networking sites will become an invaluable tool for your business.

"It's important that you or one of your employees serve as the social networking ambassador," says Hannan, who has links to her blog and Twitter feed on her About page. "Potential consumers may come to your site to view your product but not buy the first time around, but they will look at your About Us and connect with you on other sites, such as Twitter, to see what topics you are discussing. It fulfills a need to connect with you and your company. We all want that warm, fuzzy feeling before we buy."

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How to Design a Great "About Us" Page: Consider Hiring a Professional

Although it's crucial to integrate all the tech bells and whistles, if your About Us page has wimpy content, it will send the wrong message to your site visitors. Don't be afraid to turn to friends and clients for help. Ask them to peruse your page and be honest about what works and what doesn't. Once you've gotten feedback, the next best thing you can do, says Thomas, is to nix technology for a while and sit down with a pen and paper. "Getting away from your computer will clear your head. You'll be focused on the task at hand rather than what our new About page will look like," she says.

If you find yourself in need of professional help, think about hiring an expert. A good writer can make your About Us page pop with witty copy, catchy headlines, and SEO keywords.  It will be money well spent, says Harpointner. "If a company spends money on direct-mail ads, billboard ads, and radio ads, then investing in an About Us page will probably the least amount of money it shells out. It's up 24 hours a day, so in the big picture, it's really worth it."

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