How to write the ‘About’ story of your website

There are tons of articles about how to write the content for the About page of your website. Most of them are superficial and way too hungry after gaining a good ranking. The battle is obsessively on algorithms and, sadly, this means the purpose is missed. At Pixelgrade, we’ve always aimed to leave the trends on their own and focus on delivering meaningful work on all fronts. Design, development, marketing, content, support, you name it. 

March 23, 2020
Reading time 13 – 20 minutes
George thinking about how to structure and organize a site footer in a meaningful way

Before starting to put together this article, I experienced a bunch of mixed feelings. On the one hand, it occurred to me that it’s crystal clear how to present yourself on the About page — why should I write about something that everyone knows how to make it right? On the other one, I was pissed off because most of the content around this topic is highly superficial and misleading. Way too many people are fighting the ranking war and miss the essence. 

I thought there must be a different approach, one that feels more natural and honest, so I started to dig deeper. Not only I changed my mind regarding the fact that such an article is on the opposite side of irrelevance, but I managed to turn the disappointment into creative fuel. 

I felt that the obvious is neglected and poorly packed and delivered. 

I don’t dare to say that I found a solution or that this article is the supreme go-to source. No. It’s not about that. What I can promise you instead is that the following thoughts come after years of first-hand experience as a digital copywriter and storyteller. 

It’s what I discovered while putting my skin in the game from the first row.

It’s not about skyrocketing your website and place it in the first position of search engines. It’s about being authentic with both you and your readers. In the end, this is what will lead you further, not all sorts of growth hacks.

If you are looking for magic tips and ideas to skyjack your digital presence, make yourself a favor, and get out of here. You will find nothing of the kind in the following lines.

I tried to put together a red thread that makes sense for anyone who wants to present their story on the About page, no matter if you are a blogger, photographer, a small coffee shop, a bistro, or a company with plenty of history. Some elements are mandatory for each of these scenarios, so I will mostly focus on those. 

While I encourage you to go through everything I wrote, you’re free to jump directly to the section that feels more interesting and captivating. However, like cooking, you need to find a way to balance all the ingredients to get a tasty dish, so make sure you will savor a complete culinary experience.

Here’s what you will find in the next lines:

Let’s take it one step at a time and discover how all these areas fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. Rest easy, and join me!

The importance of the About page on your website

Creating a site involves many things: from choosing the hosting provider, the right domain, the WordPress theme that fits your needs, the plugins that make sense for what you plan to build all the way to crafting the content, choosing the images, promoting your work and so on. The alternative? Go to an agency, let them do the work for you, but be ready to get some serious cash out of your pocket.

At Pixelgrade, we’ve been through the entire spectrum of services offered to our customers, besides providing copywriting services. We did that because we’re a product-driven company. We’re not doing consulting, and writing often implies custom work since everyone has a unique story to share with the world. 

Nevertheless, this does not mean that we do not acknowledge the huge impact of the content—quite the contrary. We’ve been writing plenty of educational articles on our blog: from how to create authentic stories, in alignment with your tone-of-voice, to how to put together your first blog post.

The About page, often named Story, Us, or Start Here, has one single goal to accomplish — to introduce yourself. 

It sounds straightforward, maybe even naive, but few people know how to do it right. The same applies to real life. A lot of folks have no clue about how to start a conversation that feels genuine, warm, and honest. They either are pushy while trying to “sell” you something, or they offer a bunch of incoherent details that nobody cares about. Or they freeze and shut up.

When it comes to your website, this page is most likely one of the most visited. It is perfectly understandable why this is happening. We live in a world where people want to know who’s behind the scene and the screen. We feel the need to close the gap by finding more about the person or the company that’s in charge of a particular www. 

The technology brought us close in terms of quick access and creating digital connections, but it also distanced ourselves. Reading the About page is one way to diminish this empty space and initiate a conversation.

Introducing yourself comes with a great opportunity: to establish the first layer of trust. As in the offline world, the first contact is critical. The words you choose, the body of language, the tone of voice, the gestures, everything can either make it or break it. 

In the digital arena, the same applies. Without the posture and the non-verbal gestures, of course. This way of establishing confidence can help you achieve more than a full read of your About page. Often, you can translate it in curiosity and appetite to go further and check other pages on your website. It’s the first link from an entire chain.

Key elements your About page should accommodate

While researching and taking notes for this article, I fell into the same trap: three things to consider, seven steps to follow, ten messages you should not miss, but all the advice is superficial. If you found “advice” like add social links, an email so people can reach you back, a picture of your pet, then you know what I’m talking about.

Sure, they can work for some, but that doesn’t help you in writing about who you really are, in selecting the information that’s truly relevant to your visitors and one that can get people who are reading your website stick around, trust you and care about you or your business. 

Life, even the challenging digital one, is not about Michelin stars. It’s about being consistent and credible to serve a purpose.

This doesn’t mean that it’s easy for me to make this push back. Not at all. I felt I needed some extra time and energy to zig when most people zag. And when I’ve done that, I often seemed to be the misfit, even though there’s nothing wrong about me. I want to do things on my terms and offer you real added value. 

Therefore, I will walk you through a few elements I think are essential to encompass into your About page from what I know today. Please keep the last words in mind. Tomorrow or two years later, I might update these messages because I discovered and learned stuff that I genuinely believe it is relevant to integrate. 

However, get ready to learn more about some evergreen elements that your page should include, no matter what. Updating it’s a healthy thing to do since we all evolve and change over time, so it’s no brainer that you should keep it aligned with your reality.

The order is somehow trivial, but here I go

#1 — Show a photo of you or your team

It does feel strange when you receive a friend request on Facebook from someone who does not have a profile pic. You might think that something is fishy; why did the person choose not to reveal his or her face? It’s almost unacceptable. Well, the same applies when it comes to your website.

You need to show people the person or the team behind the curtain. It’s an act of respect and care. It’s not even transparency, the hot word of the moment. It’s normal, ordinary, you name it. 

When you introduce yourself to someone, you don’t show up with a bag on your face, nor you say Hello from a different room. You show in person. The approach should be the equivalent in the digital arena.

Now, I am not a photographer, but it’s not rocket science to know that you need a photo that’s relevant for who you are and the type of website you build. If you are part of a creative agency, where you run advertising campaigns “Mad Men”-style, feel free to play around and explore different ways to showcase the photo. 

What matters is to show yourself or your team the way you really are and in alignment with what you do and how you want people to see you or your business. If you want to be playful in a world with strict guidelines, who says you can’t? That can be an advantage and help you stand out as being real and approachable.

Regardless of the context, people need to put a face to the name. Your face, the way you look, your name, should be crystal clear. Avoid being so unconventional that nobody gets it. It’s not the place to play games. 

#2 — Write a curated version of your story

Curated is, indeed, the keyword. The reason why I am highlighting it is that people tend to exaggerate with a bunch of details that nobody gives a damn. They either tell the history of their life (from their perfect childhood — there’s nothing more false than that — to the yoga classes they took when they were in a sabbatical). 

Neither is relevant unless you either are a therapist or a traveler. I am joking. It makes no sense to go so in-depth because you consume mental space and leave your readers tired and frustrated. Instead, make sure that what you write is suitable for your introduction, but also for the central goal of your site. 

In real life, when you have the first contact with someone, you most probably tell them the information that the other person will find useful and relatable, depending on who they are and why are you meeting with them. You’ll share stuff about the current job you have, maybe the NGO where you volunteer from time to time and a hobby you practice regularly). In digital, you should stick to the same practice.

Offer context around the details you are providing to make your story credible. If you are a photographer, let people know what made you choose this creative field and how do you keep your wheels spinning. If you are a PR agency, tell more about the mission that governs your company and how do you plan to achieve it. 

Give your readers a few reasons why they should check the rest of your website. Don’t let them start guessing around because they will not. Time is too valuable these days to have an incentive to spend it digging and trying to find relevant details in the dark corner of the Internet.

#3 — Name a few highlights that make you who you are

Keep whatever you decide to tell in the new reality because it’s easier for people to relate and automatically to believe you. Nobody cares about the prize you took in the second grade at the dancing contest as well as nobody is interested in how you will go to Mars and live happily there. 

It’s not because people are rude or they do not have time (they don’t), but they need to quickly understand if there’s any chance to create any liaison with you. By liaison, I mean anything. From subscribing to your weekly newsletter to following you on social media or buying your course on how to improve your writing skills. Btw, my team and I created a free ebook on how you can craft better stories. It’s downloaded by more than 1,000 people from all over the world. You can have it too if you are curious to find out our insights.

Maybe you went through a personal experience that changed your perspective entirely. Perhaps you quit the corporate job you had in the last 15 years to join a social cause that fits you perfectly. Maybe you created open-source software to help people build better websites. Perhaps you run webinars about how to produce ceramics and sell them on the web. Maybe you wrote a book, or you’ve been invited to a famous podcast to share your creative process.

Or maybe there’s none of this, and that’s fine. Just don’t make stuff up as well as don’t try to force some things to mimic that everything sounds better than it is. If you do that, you are on the wrong path, and this is not the place to be and read such articles. I mean it.

Next, I took an example from one of our customer’s websites to show you an easy way to put together the elements I mentioned above. Marie-Eve uses Vasco, our premium WordPress theme, for her travel blog. On the About page, she introduces herself by the blink of an eye. 

Do you want to know what makes her page useful? Well, here are some solid reasons:

  • The photo is clear, and you know what Marie-Eve looks like. It’s also in a cozy place, mostly on the go, which feels natural since she’s a heavy traveler. 
  • Her story is both authentic and human, and maybe you can even relate to Marie-Eve’s journey since she’s treating traveling from an architectural point of view.
  • You find out easily what makes her-her, how many countries she’s been to, what’s the goal of her website, and the reason for the activity.

A simple way to test how good your about page really is

Are you ready for the supreme test? You need to create a landing page, a Reddit account, start a thread on Twitter and…That’s bullshit. You don’t need to do anything of the kind. 

You can either ask on your Facebook or Twitter profile if there’s anyone who wants to take a look and answer some particular questions. At the same time, you can give the link to your family and close friends to do the same exercise. 

In case you wonder what questions to ask, no worries. I already thought which would be relevant, and have no worries, besides using my own years of experience, I also added some ideas from the notes I took about two years ago while taking the IDEO course “Storytelling for influence.” 

A simple method to test if the way you introduce yourself on the About page is right is by asking the following questions:

  • What was memorable?
  • What do you have questions about?
  • What moved or motivated you?
  • What, in your opinion, is the big idea?

You can use them at least as a starting point to see what answers you receive. Don’t try to justify yourself, be curious, and take notes. If folks don’t understand what’s your story, what you do, what’s your motivation and other relevant details, you need to get back to the drawing board and fine-tune the content. 

Ask these questions to people with different views of the world, no matter if they are in love with politics, economy, or if they have higher education, a low income, or are Richie Rich.

Communication tips to write your message authentically 

There is no wonder there’s enormous value in being consistent across the board. In other words, make sure you are writing the content on how you present yourself the way you are talking. Do that on every single channel of communication. Don’t pretend to be someone else to sound smart. The wisest approach is to explore the language that you use regularly, no matter the context. 

If in real life, such a mix would create confusion, when it comes to the digital, the consequences are even worse. People will tend to believe that you are not trustworthy, that you try to lie to them because they won’t understand who they’re reading at the end of the day. You use a different tone-of-voice on your social media channels, another on your website, and hey, your e-mail seems to be written by someone else. Not good, mate.

To keep things clear and steady, you need to do one thing only: be yourself. Maybe it sounds too simple, but in a world where a lot of people “develop” or better put it, showcase a different persona and personality online versus who they really are, taking this approach will benefit you big time in the long run.

I highly recommend you to shape the content for the About page (not only) in alignment with who you are and the values you stand for. Copy-catting others is not an option.

When it comes to specific tips to manifest this credibility on your website, here are my two cents:

  • Write as you speak — expressing your personality; it’s not only a smart thing to do; it’s psychological healthy since faking it does not take long. You cannot go against you.
  • Write at the right person — if you’re one man behind the site, don’t be afraid to show it and write everything accordingly (I not we). Faking that there’s a team means lying.
  • Write creatively — express your personality traits through writing; maybe you have certain humor or a specific way to tell some stuff, don’t sink into banality.

You can apply the same actions to double-check it as the ones presented earlier. Let people who know you best provide feedback and iterate on the go.

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As I was caught in the same biases regarding the fact that such an article could be nonsense, I almost got trapped into another one. I felt the pressure that I need to end it with a blueprint, a framework, something to help you write your About page by following a script. But you know what? Everyone is unique and has its own story, so creating such a rocky template should imply that I have a recipe or that I don’t welcome the diversity. Both are far from the truth. 

Need a helping hand with your About page? Write me at [email protected] and I will gladly take a look and provide some actionable insights.

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