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Putting a Face to Your Startup's Website

Putting a Face to Your Startup's Website
Image credit: Ed Wu

What better place to connect online with customers, investors, media, job seekers and the like than through your business’s “about us” section? 

While naturally, plugs for products or services are best kept separate from this precious piece of real estate, the opportunity to connect with customers on a personal level is yours for the taking. Still, many young entrepreneurs struggle to utilize the space to its full potential.

So, what’s the best way to show who you are, where you started, where you’re going and what makes your company tick?

It's oftentimes simply a matter of good storytelling, says Catherine Kaputa, a brand strategist based in New York City and author of Breakthrough Branding: How Smart Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs Transform a Small Idea into a Big Brand. “People want to know the creation story. If you struggled to start the business, they want to hear about it. If this is your second go at entrepreneurship, they want to hear about it,” she says. “I think the inclination is to only show strengths, but there’s power in showing vulnerability.”

Here are six steps for personalizing your “about us” page to help your company stand out from the crowd:

1. Your face(s) come first.

Greet visitors like you would in person, starting with a photo of you and any co-founders. Accompany each image with a 15-to-20-word bio of the individual. Some companies make this section interactive like Udemy.com, a San Francisco-based business offering online courses on a range of subjects taught by instructors around the world, which uses a carousel that visitors can click through to view bios of staff members. 

Related: Beyond Web Analytics: 5 Types of Online Data You Should Be Tracking

“Our instructors, in many ways, are the face of our brand,” says Dinesh Thiru, Udemy’s vice president of marketing. “They’re the folks teaching our students directly, so we wanted to showcase them right at the top of our about page.”

And if your company's turnover rate isn't high, consider including a group shot, suggests Rebecca Murtagh, founder of Karner Blue Marketing in Albany, N.Y., and author of Million Dollar Websites: Build a Better Website Using Best Practices of the Web Elite.

2. Make the staff accessible, to an extent.

When crafting team bios, leave off individual email addresses to avoid waves of spam, says Murtagh, as they make it easy for fraudsters to scrape the information. Instead, consider embedding bio photos with a link to the person’s Twitter handle -- a simple, yet effective cross-promotion feature used by Couple.me, a mobile app that helps romantic partners stay in touch.

Related: Easy Ways to Keep Visitors on Your Website Longer

You can funnel inquiries from visitors through a separate “contact us” form to streamline communication and better measure what engagement you’re receiving, such as separating media requests from customer reviews.

3. Craft concise, punchy language.

Brevity is crucial in the online marketplace, so keep the summary description of your business under 300 words. Visually, shorter is better, says Nathan Swartz, a Pittsburgh-based web designer. However, even entrepreneurs who want a significant amount of text can offer attention-deficient visitors a quick takeaway by putting a key sentence in larger type. “Any time you can pop out text and show the meaning of a page quickly is a bonus,” Swartz says. 

Keeping the message short is also better for search engine optimization, says Sonya Boggs, a small-business marketing and SEO strategist based in Redwood City, Calif. To generate more traffic, Boggs recommends using text and meta tags -- underlying html code offering info about a web page -- for the "about us” section that aren’t repeated elsewhere on the site. You can use a free tool like Google Analytics to monitor traffic and pinpoint areas for improvement.

4. Get on camera.

Enhance the visual experience of the page with video. It doesn’t need to have professional-grade production value, says Kaputa. It simply needs to tell viewers who you are as a business. Some entrepreneurs use the written description of their company as the script.

Related: 10 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Webmaster

Edit the footage to two minutes or less, upload it to YouTube, and embed the video on your page so visitors are able to share it on their social networks. “If a picture says a thousand words, then a video says way more than that,” says Tom Nguyen, a web designer at Atlanta-based MrTechnique.com.

Another approach is to put together a reel of testimonials. Udemy.com followed this approach, as Thiru says prospective customers like to hear -- and see -- positive reviews directly from clients.

5. Break up information.

A number of entrepreneurs decide to divide the “about us” section into various tabs based on content, typically with the company’s summary description as a landing page. Presenting information on separate pages (e.g., one for “our story,” another for “what we do”) can make the information easier for visitors to digest. Multiple pages improve SEO by enabling more clicks from visitors and more places to use different keywords.

6. Keep traffic flowing.

Murtagh says the added value of the “about us” section is its ability to move visitors to other parts of the website and social media. “Leverage the page as a conduit,” she says. “Send visitors to your Twitter page. If you have a blog, link to it. The page should be a launching point -- not a final destination.”

How have you optimized your company's "about us" section? Let us know with a comment.
 

Daniel Bortz is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He's written about personal finance, careers, small business and entrepreneurs for publications such as Money magazine, CNNMoney.com, TheFiscalTimes.com, USnews.com.

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