The "About" page -- also known as the "About Us" page -- is one of the most clicked-on webpages on a business website. It's right up there after the home page. Yet some website owners pass up opportunities to write killer About pages that will help sell services and products, and turn one-time visitors into newsletter subscribers or regular readers. 

I've compiled a list of do’s and don’ts for a compelling About page for small and mid-size business websites:

About page do's

Do be brief and credible -- The basic information in an About page should be brief, yet offer enough detail to add credibility your business proposition. At a minimum it should address who, what, where and why:

  • What:  Give a brief summary of what the business does including products and services
  • Why: Address the visitor’s needs -- why should the Web page visitor choose your business, your product, your services, your site?
  • Where: Provide location and contact information (or link to a separate Contact Us page)
  • Who: Provide information about the business owner or team behind the business (more on this below)

Do emphasize what’s in it for the visitor -- Of all the information on your About page, the most important is relevant information supporting why the Web visitor should hire your company, buy your product, or use your website.  For instance, the Copyblogger points to a particularly good About page  in a blog and writes it was a good example because it “demonstrated exactly the reason why I would want to read his blog, and at the end, he asked me to subscribe.  That’s what the ‘About’ page of your blog is for.”  I would add that the same goes for any kind of site -- it’s really about appealing to the visitor’s sense of “what’s in it for me.”   

Do give a glimpse of the people behind the business -- Somewhere on your site, perhaps on a separate "About the Team" page, or on a biography page linked from the About page, be sure to tell visitors enough about the people behind the business so that visitors to your site will have faith doing business with your company. People build business relationships with other people. This is especially true for small businesses, where the business owner has such a huge influence on the business. And it’s downright crucial for freelance entrepreneurs and self-employed professionals, where the business owner -- and his or her expertise -- is the business. 

About page don’ts

Don’t be boring -- Make it memorable and make your business stand out. Tell a story, as this article suggests about the founders or the one crucial decision that made the business a success. Or, present your business story with flair and humor as noted in this forum thread so that people care and are interested.  Above all, let your personality break out, says Jim Kukral, an online marketing consultant. “I’m a big believer in personality marketing.  Let your passion and your thoughts show through,”  Kukral says. He points to some of the biggest names as branding themselves through their personalities -- names such as Seth Godin, author of Permission Marketing, and author/evangelist/former Apple fellow Guy Kawasaki.  

Don’t forget to update your About page -- What’s as bad as, or worse than, no About page at all? An About page that is obviously out of date. Let’s say you are a consultant and speaker. But the last press mention or speaking engagement listed on your About page is dated 2003. A visitor looking to hire a speaker might jump to any number of false conclusions, assuming that you: do not speak publicly anymore, or have not been very successful at public speaking, or are no longer in business but just have not gotten around to taking the website down.  After seeing nothing reasonably current, the visitor quickly clicks back to a search engine and continues looking. An outdated About page could actually lose business for you. Whatever you do, your About page must appear current. If there are date-specific mentions, make sure some are recent.

Don’t neglect the rest of the site -- This final advice comes from Kukral, who notes that the About page should reinforce your sales strategy -- not be a replacement for it. "While you want an effective About page, in the end, don’t make too big a deal out of it," he says.  "People come to a website because they want to solve a problem, or to have fun, or to get information. Step back and evaluate the rest of your website to ensure it: (a) gives visitors what they are looking for, and (b) is good at converting visitors to sales, or capturing leads, or getting subscribers, or otherwise doing what you want it to do.”

For more information about creating About pages in websites, see usability guru Jakob Nielsen’s "About Us -- Presenting Information About an Organization on Its Website.” 

Anita Campbell is a writer, speaker and radio talk show host who closely follows trends in the small business market at her site, Small Business Trends.