“Show, don’t tell.”
Everyone has heard this at some point in their education. It might have been one of those vague instructions you hear again and again that doesn’t ever seem to click.
It might even have sounded cheesy. However, it’s the most important rule to follow when you are posting content on your website, or developing your bio.
I discovered this rule when I was helping people write their resumes. I realized quickly that employers see the same vague adjectives written again and again on every resume. Let’s get real; not everyone is “organized, passionate, and a great team player.” At least, not on the same level.
At the end of their stack of resumes, an HR manager doesn’t care that an applicant’s resume says he’s a great team player. That statement is so vague, it could apply to someone who has never left his own basement. It isn’t qualitative, which means it can’t be used to rank him against other candidates. It doesn’t do anything to distinguish him.
So, the question was, how do I actually prove that a person is any of the above? Better yet, how do I prove that a person is better in these aspects than the candidates they’re up against?
The only way to prove anything is to give evidence. Not adjectives, or fancy descriptions, or complicated titles. Evidence means hard and solid facts: Statistics, real-life events, testimonials, and samples of work and projects. A job applicant would have to provide all this in the interview stage, of course, but often, the only way to nab that interview in the first place is to nail the evidence in your resume.
What makes you stand out from the crowd is authenticating the statements or adjectives that describe you. Don’t tell a potential employer that you’re a team player, unless you can back it up by saying that in your last position, you were chosen to put together and lead a team for a special project. Or that you won an award for employee of the month because you organized the end of the month pizza party. Or, maybe you took on an orientation role to guide new employees into the company and make them feel comfortable.
At first glance, it seems impossible to think of specific examples of your skills, but the more you brainstorm, the more you’ll remember that one time you coordinated a social event, or helped a colleague solve a problem, or suggested a way to make your workspace more collaborative. The more specific you can be, the better.
So, we’ve talked about resumes, but how does this apply to website copy and bios? Well, a bio is virtually a long-form version of your resume, with a little more focus on personality, and a little less on work history. Your clients and customers are just like an HR manager; they’re looking for something substantial in your bio, something measurable.
I’ve rewritten biographies that are virtually 100 adjectives strung together into sentences. I personally think that kind of bio would be more effective as a bulleted list; it would take less time to read, at least. Giving someone a bio like that is like giving them a bowl of gravy with no mashed potatoes; it just doesn’t stand on its own. So, make sure that for every trait you list, you have a specific example of that trait. It doesn’t have to – and actually shouldn’t – be a paragraph long story. It only needs to add some concrete value to your statements.
Adam is a goal-oriented web designer with many years of experience in his chosen field. He works well with deadlines, and always delivers quality work to his clients, for a great price. He has a strong understanding of SEO and CRM software.
And turn it into this:
Adam delivers stunning and functional websites for his clients. His corporate clients often have strict deadlines for their redesigns, and they rely on Adam to provide high quality work, on time and on budget. Thanks to his twenty years as a professional web designer, and ten years managing his own web design company, Adam in an expert in digital marketing. He has helped his corporate clients achieve up to 450% more traffic to their websites.
Your main website copy also needs to demonstrate measurable experience, reviews, and successes. Your pages should reflect your business goals, but they should also show exactly how you are achieving/have achieved those goals. Generalized product descriptions that don’t show firm results are not interesting. Your clients want to know what problem your products or services will solve, and how you’ve done it for other clients.
I’ve worked with websites that have good copy. It’s clean, it reads well, and it hits all the general points a client would look for. But does it hook them? Does it make them want to call you right now? If it doesn’t show real results and hard evidence, then the answer is probably not.