From search engine guidelines to software updates, the terrain of the online world is changing constantly – and 2016 – it seems will be no exception. At the top of every companies marketing strategy for 2016 should be a handful of essential elements that a website must have to be competitive. Whether looking to optimize an existing site or starting from the ground up, these features are non-negotiable.

#1: Responsive Design

Responsive web design (RWD) is the process of constructing your website so that no matter what screen size a visitor is using your website will respond and self adjust to fit that screen size. Responsive Design is incredibly important for many reasons. Honestly, if your site doesn’t include this feature yet – run, don’t walk to a team that can implement this for you STAT. In addition to making your site accessible from any screen, google is now requiring that sites be responsive in order to get even a chance at optimal search results. Both prospective and existing clients are no doubt looking at your site from phones and tablets, maybe even exclusively, so its essential that the site look consistent from each device.

#2: Calls to Action

Creating an immersive experience is one thing, but driving users to engagement is another challenge all in itself. The simple ‘Sign Up Now’ button will no longer be enough. In order to gather information like email addresses or for a user to register with a site, the process must be simple and trust building. Offering an emailed white paper, monthly newsletter or special offers will provide incentive to the user to provide information they wouldn’t otherwise – even if they are interested in your brand. Focus on the design of buttons as opposed to static text that are leading to better conversion and A/B test to see what works best.

#3: Content Focused SEO

Moving into the new year, the most useful content for SEO is now found within a site itself. No longer to ‘pre-packaged’ plans work for search engine optimization. This targeted content can come in many forms from white papers, video, audio, imagery, blog posts and downloads just to name a few. Content must be diverse, authentic and consistent to make a true impact for SEO rankings.

#4: UX Strategy

The growth of mobile accessibility and the rise of responsive design obviously tells us that we live in a technologically advanced world – but it is also showing us that the user is first. In this new ‘user first’ environment, a website must be truly focused toward the user and their needs. For a company to achieve this human approach, they must engage in UX strategies that aim to continually optimized the user experience. From understanding the market they serve, following best practices, offering up a streamlined pathway to optimized content – UX cannot be ignored.

#5: Authenticity

There is so much competition out there and so many sites look the same, that differentiation and authenticity must be integrated into the look and feel of a site. Not only is it important for the trust factor, but testing shows that almost 100 percent of visitors to a site go straight to the ‘about us’ page. Content and imagery here needs to be absolutely on-point, with company information, personal photos, company culture infusion and ways to engage via email, chat or social media all readily accessible. By visiting your site, a user has made a commitment to your brand and you must meet this by extending a warm welcome to them.