Remember when your car broke down and had to be hauled off to the nearest repair shop. How important to you was it that the mechanic shared your passion for French wine? Recall your last-minute trip to the grocery store to buy rice for your dinner guests that night. How concerned were you with whether the cashier was a fellow vegan?
We go through most of our days without regard for the values of the people we interact with—we’re just searching for solutions to our problems. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about people. Trying to get to know everyone we meet personally would simply hinder our ability to get tasks done.
You might be inclined to think the about page on your website is about you. You’re not a narcissist for believing that. But you’re not right, either. Your about page is about your readers, their questions, and your answers.
Why it’s all about your readers
Imagine (hypothetically) there’s a global pandemic, and you’re waiting in line to get tested for the rapidly spreading virus. Everyone around you is getting nervous, and so are you. You start chewing on your lower lip, just wanting to get this over with. But at the front of the line is an older lady talking to “the nice gentleman” who just took her swab. She’s asking him how he’s been dealing with the current situation, whether he’s taking care of his parents, and if he’s heard of this lovely chocolate they’re now selling at Whole Foods. All genuinely nice questions—for a dinner conversation. But our world only works because most people don’t do what this endearing fictional woman just did. And it’s how we behave most of the day. We do our jobs and address our problems, looking for solutions like a metal detector craving its final lucky punch before the dramatic death of its batteries.
That’s what your readers usually do as well. And they’re far too distracted and driven to do otherwise. The more urgent their issues are, the less inclined they’ll be to chitchat or peruse your website. And while it’s nice to provide entertainment, what you, as an expert in your field, want to do is to solve their most pressing problems. That’s how you attract and retain readers; that’s how you build your platform.
Readers want to know what’s in it for them. They don’t have an abundance of time, so they need this information in a concise format. People are usually not looking to build a relationship with every author on the internet. At first, they only care about why your articles are helpful to them and why they should trust you. I’m sorry to have to break this to you, but they don’t care about you—they care about their own interests.
What should your about page contain?
While your about page can be creative, it should also feature certain elements that have proven successful in connecting with readers.
1. Tell them what you have to offer
The single most important part of your about page is the answer to one question: What do you have to offer that is of value to your readers? Show them how your content can lead them out of their predicaments—that this is not just your creative outlet.
Of course, you want your website to serve your own interests as well. Few people can spare the time to write solely for writing’s sake. But it helps to assure your readers that their concerns maintain priority over yours.
If possible, demonstrate how your solutions are superior to other experts’ solutions. Why do your articles address your readers’ concerns better than do those of other blogs? You don’t need to reinvent the wheel; identify minor ways in which your blog is different (and better) than others’.
2. Explain why your content is relevant
Human beings can look for solutions to problems we didn’t consciously know we had. We also tend to look for answers to questions we shouldn’t even address.
Your job is to convince your readers that they’re experiencing the troubles your articles are addressing. That if they follow your advice, their lives will improve significantly—even if only in a small sub-segment. After all, not everyone needs to be involved in the development of vaccines. Your readers have plenty of other challenges that need to be solved just as urgently.
3. Show them why they can and should trust you
The internet is teeming with experts. Everybody thinks they can write about any topic if they’ve consumed at least two blog posts on it. Those people are the reason why online sources are so widely distrusted. If you want your readers to take you seriously, you’ll have to win back their trust (despite having lost it through no fault of your own).
Displaying your competence is more crucial when discussing some topics than others. When giving medical, legal, or financial advice, you must ensure that your recommendation is based on a solid foundation. If you want to establish yourself as a chef, however, people might venture to risk trying out your recipes if they look appealing.
Nonetheless, providing compelling evidence of your knowledge and skills will hook your readers from the get-go. People are thrilled to know what actual experts have to say. That said, you don’t necessarily need to be an expert in the traditional sense. Deeply rooted passion can often outshine even the most reputable education. But show your readers why it’s a good idea to listen to you rather than the thousands of similar blogs on your topic.
4. Deliver your value proposition early on
Companies use value propositions to show their customers why their products are relevant and valuable to them. They are promises you make to persuade potential customers to buy from you.
By the same token, your about page can (and should) feature a unique value proposition. It consists of the following three main characteristics:
- Customer Benefits. How exactly will your readers’ lives improve by consulting your articles? List the main benefits and paint a clear picture.
- Your Offer. What precisely do you offer, and how is that linked to the aforementioned benefits?
- Differentiation. Who is your target customer? How are your articles tailored to their needs? And how is your content different (and better) to that from other sources?
It shouldn’t take your readers longer than 5-10 seconds to read and understand your value proposition. It should communicate the three key factors as clearly and concisely as possible. Creativity will make your proposal more memorable, but prioritize clarity over fancy or witty language.
Introduce the value proposition early on. If concise enough, it could even serve as your first sentence. It’s the full promise of your writings in a nutshell—take your time to get it right.
5. Make it clear you’re a human being
No, your about page is not about you. But that doesn’t mean that readers crave interactions with logos or robots. People like the idea that behind every text is an author of flesh and blood.
However, writing about yourself comes with boundaries. Everything you write should be relevant to the reader. Bonding with your readers over your passion for rare parrots is fine if you want to establish yourself as an authority on wildlife photography. Even if you don’t photograph parrots, this hobby shows a clear connection to your profession and will blend right in.
It’s a good idea to consider which passions and activities actually suit your personal brand. If your personal brand is well-thought-through, these will mostly be things you’re inclined to pursue anyway. Imagine yourself as the person you want to be, and communicate this image to the public.
While it’s unnecessary to eradicate everything from your life that doesn’t fit your brand, be wary of what you display publicly. That being said, sometimes it’s precisely these little quirks that can make you sympathetic and well-rounded in the eyes of your readers. Just make sure it does you more good than harm, and that it comes in sprinkles—not as the cake itself.
A good personal brand is the best possible version of yourself—not anybody else. Use your about page to communicate it.
6. Include graphics and statistics
About pages can be dry, especially if there’s a lot to talk about. Readers can handle long (and short) about pages more easily if you include graphical elements, sub-headings, and lists. Deviations from the running text are generally helpful, provided they’re not too complex.
Additionally, you should also add relevant and meaningful statistics to make your point. Readers usually respond well to factual proof that highlights your expertise. But ensure that the statistics actually sound true and not inflated, even if they’re correct. Readers won’t fact-check; they will write you off.
7. Attach professional photographs
You might not have a large collection of professional photographs of yourself to choose from. After all, as a reader of Hidden Emphasis, you’re more interested in showing what’s inside of your head than its storefront.
But for your readers to trust you, you need to give them a glimpse into who you are and what you look like. Provide a few photographs of exceptional quality along with your text, and it will be much easier for your readers to bond with you.
Photographs can last you a long time, so it’s a good idea to spend a larger amount of money once every five years instead of going through this tedious process every few months. It’s an investment worth its weight in gold.
8. Call them to action
The about page is usually one of a website’s most-frequented pages. That shows how badly people want to know what this is all about. You can use these circumstances to your advantage by encouraging your readers to take action.
You might want to convert them to clients, draw attention to your latest book, or persuade them to subscribe to your newsletter. However, almost none of your readers will take any of these actions if you don’t directly ask them to.
That’s why you should consider including a call-to-action button on your about page—one at the bottom or multiple throughout the page. Take care not to overdo this, but one final button isn’t generally considered an annoyance and will greatly help you engage your readers.
How to make your about page stand out
- Start with a great first sentence. Don’t start your about page with a long-winded introduction. Instead, boil down your offer to a single sentence that catches your readers’ attention. Be creative, but strive for clarity.
- Show confidence. The internet has made it easy to brag without thinking twice. That poses a problem to those who tend to understate their value. Be sure to sound confident about your ability to deliver solutions. Brag just enough that it feels a tad uncomfortable—that’s usually the right amount.
- Infect them with your excitement. Your about page is not a place to minimize the impact of your solutions. Show your readers how passionate you are about your topic. We tend to follow those who ignite our excitement and disregard those who seem indifferent. You probably aren’t indifferent—but you have to prove that to your readers.
- Provide transparency. With trust declining, transparency is becoming more critical than ever. However, don’t go overboard with it as some Millennial-founded startups do. Be honest, don’t try to trick your readers (they’ll find out eventually), and be true to yourself. Those might sound like platitudes, but there’s no exact right amount of transparency. Be as transparent as necessary so your readers will trust you, but don’t overdo it, as that will hurt your reputation. Nobody needs to know about your every failure or limitation; they‘re part of life.
- Use the first person—never the third person. Few things are more cringeworthy than an about page written in the third person. Your readers know that no about page is published without the permission of its subject. So, please don’t act like a journalist snuck into your content management system and clandestinely published that page. Use either the first person singular (“I”) or the first person plural (“we”) as your perspective.
- Avoid jargon if possible. There is a reason why jargon exists: It makes it easier for experts to communicate with each other efficiently and effectively. However, if your readers are not experts in your field or are just starting out, consider avoiding jargon as much as possible. While the correct use of terminology can underline your expertise, overusing it will hurt your ability to adequately communicate with your readers. Don’t be too proud to avoid unnecessary jargon.
- Address actual problems. Commit a large chunk of time to understanding what your readers’ real issues are. We tend to jump to conclusions when we try to capture what bothers other people. Often, we are plain wrong. If you have the opportunity, observe your readers while they’re trying to answer their questions. Interview them, but don’t ask them what their problem is. They likely won’t know. It’s crucial that you get this step right; otherwise, neither your about page nor your articles will reach their full possible impact.
- Don’t tell them everything. Once you get started, you might feel like telling your readers everything they need to know. Provide essential information, but omit some details. Reassure them that they’ll get the solutions they seek, but don’t reveal specifics yet. Usually, you won’t lose readers by not saying enough but by saying too much. Conciseness goes a long way.