Good old Google. They do like to keep life interesting for web publishers.
You may have heard rumblings about a recent update that wreaked havoc on a lot of “your money or your life” sites — the ones that talk about health, fitness, finances, or happiness.
That update appeared to look at the credibility of site publishers. Are they trustworthy? Do they actually know what they’re talking about? (Google’s acronym for this authoritative trustworthiness is EAT, which makes for some really funky-sounding SEO advice.)
Now, some approaches to SEO copywriting (like, um, the one that Copyblogger has recommended for more than a decade) will leave you in much better shape when Google goes on an EAT rampage.
And one element that has folks scrambling? It’s the lowly — but so easy to screw up — About Page.
So let’s talk about how to create a better one.
You don’t have to overcomplicate it
It seems to me that some website owners have an easier time proposing marriage than they do writing a solid About Page.
If that’s you, you’re probably overcomplicating things. A good About Page is simple, straightforward, and it communicates just a few key things.
But just because these pages are simple doesn’t mean they’re always good.
There are certain mistakes that I see again and again, on sites that deserve better. These mistakes are easy to fix and they’re pushing away the people you want to bring closer: your wonderful website readers.
Your About Page is typically one of the most visited pages on your site. So let’s make it easy for you to have a stunningly helpful, user-friendly About Page.
Take a look to see if you’re making one of these common mistakes.
Mistake #1: You don’t have an About Page
You might have some interesting content, a nice custom-designed header, a sweet-looking premium WordPress theme.
What you don’t have is an About Page.
It might be completely missing because you think “About Pages are a cliché.”
Or because you’re freaked out about creating an About Page, you’re just hoping no one will notice it’s missing.
Or you might have called it something clever like “Experience” or “The Scoop” or “But Wait, There’s More!”
When it comes to the interface on your website or blog, never forget the words of usability expert Steve Krug: Don’t Make Me Think.
I don’t want to look at your “Resonate” Page and wonder if that’s where I find out who you are, what you do, and why I should read your site.
Every site needs an About Page. Don’t be clever. Call it About.
Mistake #2: I can’t find your name or credentials
Let’s say I want to link to you, or tweet about something cool on your blog.
I would really like to know who you are. That means I need your name.
Not a spammy name like “The Real Estate King.” (Please don’t comment under those either. You can’t believe how bad this makes you look.)
Your name. As in, “What I say when I am introducing you?”
Unless you are Madonna, you need a last name, too.
(Incidentally, if your name is Dave Smith or Cathy Johnson, try including your middle name to make yourself more memorable and give you a decent chance to rank for your own name in search engines. It works for David Meerman Scott and Carole Sevilla Brown, and it can work for you. If your middle name is common too, find a family name to put in there.)
Please note that this does not have to be your real name. Some people would rather keep some distance from readers, for security reasons or just to have a little privacy. There’s nothing wrong with that. Many people work and write under professional pseudonyms. You can, too.
While you’re in there, make sure you’ve listed your credentials — all of those things that tell us you actually know your topic. If you’re a registered dietician and you have a nutrition site — put that on your About Page.
List any certifications, awards, or other credibility boosters.
Mistake #3: I don’t know what you look like
In the years since I originally wrote about About Pages, I’m making this one optional. In today’s environment, some folks get more than their fair share of harassment or abuse if they post a photo.
But much of the time, if I want to hire you, refer you, recommend you, or even pass you some readers, I’ll feel more comfortable if I have some sense of who you are.
I get that from two things — your writing voice and your photo.
When I have a face to put with your name, you become much easier for me to remember. That, combined with some well-written content, starts to help me feel like I know you.
And I’m much more likely to link to you or otherwise help you reach your content goals if I feel like I know you.
Mistake #4: The writing is boring
This one hurts, I know. Let’s get it over with so we can move on to more pleasant topics of conversation.
For some reason, when people sit down to write an About Page, everything they know about creating interesting content suddenly flies out the window. Their usually great writing style starts to suck.
To fix this unfortunate problem:
Remember, along with your photo, this is where I go to figure out who you are and whether or not I like you. If you’re avoiding a photo, your writing voice is all I have to go on.
Mistake #5: Using video alone
Video is a great way to create quick rapport on your About Page … for site visitors who like video.
But visitors who are coming to your site at work may not want your voice, however delightful, blasting from the speakers in their cube.
They also may not have 6:23 minutes to spend figuring out who you are.
Lots of web users love video — and some hate it.
If you use video on your About Page, keep it short, make it interesting, and include some text for the readers in your audience.
Mistake #6: You go on (and on and on)
I’m a fan of storytelling. It pulls the reader in, it engages like nothing else, and it’s one of the few techniques that actually sometimes changes people’s minds.
Stories are awesome.
Long, boring stories aren’t so awesome.
If you’re going to tell me the story of how you came to be here, please for the love of Pete make it interesting.
What do your readers find interesting? Themselves, and things that benefit them. Those are two good places to start.
Mistake #7: I bet you think your About Page is about you
This is perfectly natural, even if you aren’t so vain.
What most site owners miss is that your About Page is actually about the person who clicks the link to see it.
Talk to that person about why they should bother reading your site.
Talk about the problems you solve.
Talk about how you can help.
Talk about what they’re interested in.
To quote Brian Clark:
“What do you need to know? You need to know whom they admire, and what they aspire to, despise, fear, and cherish.”
– How to Craft a Marketing Story that People Embrace and Share
Yes, it’s a spot for you to talk about yourself — but only in the context of how you serve your readers.
If you absolutely can’t resist self-absorption, create a personal blog or social media account and throw in a link to that. You can put all the tedious details there, and warn people that’s where you talk about your struggles with your cat’s gluten sensitivity.
For your About Page, keep it about the reader — and how you help that reader.
What’s your About Page pet peeve?
What drives you nuts about the About Pages you’re seeing around the web?
What do you love when you see it?
Let us know in the comments.
(By the way — if you like audio content, there’s a podcast version of this post here: Fix These 7 About Page Mistakes.)