With more than 1 billion websites across the web, your organization’s web presence needs to stand out if you’re hoping for quality visitors, conversions and ultimately qualified sales leads. 

With that said, the world now has more than 4 billion internet users, according to the 2018 Global Digital suite of reports from We Are Social and Hootsuite. That means more than half the world is online.  So the targeting opportunities are there. Your organization just needs to have a website that's worth visiting — and returning to. 

With that in mind, we turned to the experts to uncover their tips for making sure your website stands out. 

Remove the Barriers

Pete Gillett, CEO of Zuant, noted today’s educated buyer is being inundated with information from all sides. He calls 2018 "the year of being found," and this requires getting back to basics in marketing. Remove any complexities or opaqueness that complicates your message and does not drive the buyer journey forward. 

Create a Clean Feel and Easy Tracking

Because your website is the "heart of marketing," Gillett said make sure the answer to all of these questions is a resounding "yes":

  • Does my website look clean and modern?
  • Is it easy to navigate with a stylish presentation of my brand?
  • Is my visitor tracking functionality set up to show traffic growth and who is genuinely interested in discovering more about what we offer?  
  • If they’re eager to make contact, is it easy? Do I have Click to Chat and Web Form HR/people in place to respond in real-time to requests? 
  • Is my blog post visible on the site, easy to subscribe to, lively and non-promotional in tone?

“Get these mandates right and add Google AdWords to earn buyer trust and drive your business forward.,” Gillett said.

Build Community to Enhance Customer Relationships

Savvy consumers visiting your website will very likely know a lot about the product or service you are selling once they arrive. They don’t want a hard sell, but rather a reassurance from other customers. You can facilitate this process by taking the time to develop an online community, encourage positive feedback and interactions about your product by rewarding influencers, and make this feedback easy for site visitors to find, said Brian Byer, vice president of business development for Blue Fountain Media.

Omnichannel Consistency is Expected

Users expect their actions on a website to follow them on their entire journey with a brand. That means your social, in-store, upselling and cross-selling must be in lockstep with one another across channels. “Marketing messages must be personalized in the same way a consumer acts on a brand’s website,” Byer said. “Banner ads must match the experience customers have on a site and must mirror exactly what they are interested in.”

Comply With WCAG 2.0

Make sure your web development teams adhere to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a framework developed through the W3C process. It explains how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities.  The number of website accessibility lawsuits filed in federal court since the beginning of 2015 climbed to at least 751 as of Aug. 15, 2017, with at least 432 of those filed in the first eight and a half months of 2017, according to ADA Title III. Ali Alkhafaji, vice president of digital technologies at TechAspect, said the reason for the rising number of lawsuits is organizations have been able to create more and more brand experiences on their websites that match their physical stores. “Now they can get sued because their website was an extension of their physical store and is therefore considered a public accommodation according to Title III of the ADA,” said AlkHafaji.

Website managers should note the following.

Learning Opportunities

  • ADA compliance is subjective but WCAG is the standard that everyone follows, specifically WCAG 2.0
  • There are three levels of WCAG compliance organizations can achieve (A, AA and AAA). A is being the bare minimum, AA is recommended and AAA is for special circumstances.

What can organizations do to protect themselves and make themselves more accessible? According to Alkhafaji, it starts by building better experiences that don't exclude 20 percent of your users. “Test your current experiences to find out where are the gaps that need to be closed," he said. 

Related Article: Losing Sleep Over Your Lack of a Digital Policy? You Should Be

Consider the Chatbot Route

Mark Raymond, director of client services at 4Hilton, said his team will be recommending chatbots to any client trying to engage with their audience. He suggests deploying chatbots so you can engage with site visitors in real time by answering their questions, gathering their contact details or scheduling time with them. “Chatbots help to address common questions and move qualified leads toward direct engagement with sales or support staff,” Raymond said. He went on to note that even some of the most basic bots, which utilize canned responses, when properly configured, can reduce the volume of questions addressed by actual humans.

Raymond also cited more advanced frameworks such as Amazon Lex that uses machine learning to continuously evolve their understanding of the many ways a question is asked, further enhancing its own accuracy and driving better engagement with site visitors. “These intelligent assistants should have a lot of thought put into their configuration as they can often be the first point of contact a user has with your company,” Raymond said. 

Raymond points out that unlike traditional website chat tools, which act as a direct line of contact to a member of a company, chatbots can either manage an entire engagement or act as a qualifier before human intervention is needed. "Chatbots are extremely versatile, able to automate parts of a sales process, support inquiries or even ecommerce FAQs, which is why they should be considered for your website in 2018,” he said.

Related Article: 8 Brands Innovating with Chatbots

Constantly Assess Your Website

Byer said 2018 is the year your website can no longer “hide a faux veneer of quick fixes and good enough patches.” You should regularly be assessing your site to ensure it's meeting your needs and visitors expectations.

Recent design and functional advancements have forged their way into the mainstream, and according to Byer, they will, "ruthlessly ‘out’ your site as irrelevant unless you make some necessary improvements.” 

Keep Data Security in Mind with GDPR

In May, the enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) consent requirements will become a reality. Data security has always been an important element of any website design, but now your company can be held accountable for data breaches if they haven’t securely accepted and stored the personal data of your European Union customers.