Identifying the MDA for Optimized Site Pages

You have designed, built and launched a web site for a reason. That reason is to persuade site visitors to perform the MDA – the most desired action as you, the site owner, see it.

MDAs can be obvious or very subtle. For example, the MDA on a commercial site is to induce visitors to buy something. That’s obvious. Other MDAs include providing an email address, providing additional personal information, opening an account, signing up for a service, asking for a quote or opting in for the monthly newsletter.

Less obvious MDAs include submitting a blog entry, starting a forum thread, referring new visitors, book marking the site or reading critical sales or informational copy. You could also include coming back again as an MDA for almost every site. That repeat traffic is valuable in building your online enterprise.

Identifying the MDA

Before visitors can perform any MDA, you have to determine what the MDA is for each page of your site. And though that may sound like a simple task, it’s not.

Multiple MDAs

Multiple MDAs can cause problems if not presented properly. It’s difficult to persuade visitors to perform one task much less two or three. There are several reasons for this.

Visitors aren’t very patient. They want to determine if your site is what they’re looking for, they want to conduct their business and move on to Mah Jong solitaire. Asking a visitor to complete a customer satisfaction survey after a sale is like asking visitors to take their SATs again. Not very likely.

Ambiguous MDAs

You see this quite often on NFP sites and sites designed to provide informational content. For many of these sites, the MDA is to have the visitor make a donation . However, on the same page viewers may be offered the opportunity to become a member, to receive regular updates or to be bombarded with affiliate spam. (Can we send you useful information from time to time?)

More than one MDA per page will deter many visitors from performing any actions. Too confusing. Too much time.

Linear MDAs

A common aspect of many service providers’ web pages, linear MDAs require visitors to perform more than one action in a series.

For example, the first MDA for a site selling debt consolidation services might be to motivate visitors to click on a link from the home page that will take them to a form to be completed in order to access the debt consolidation services. In cases of linear MDAs, each page of the site must clearly state the MDA for that page.

Continuing to use the example of the debt consolidation company, if the MDA is to click a link to a form, the link itself would appear on the home page. It would be very large and well labeled, i.e. Click here to get started. The home page copy would be directed specifically to the MDA. Urge and persuade the visitor to click on that link.

The next MDA, completing the form, would be addressed on the link from the home page. In fact, there are usually several (many) MDAs for a single site and each page of the site must specifically address the MDA for that particular page.


More commonly found on personal sites and owner-designed commercial sites, the lack of a clearly stated MDA will leave many visitors scratching their heads and wondering just what they’re expected to do. Not only should you have a clear picture of the single-most important MDA for your site, you should make sure your visitors know just what that MDA is, as well.

Optimizing the Homepage for Maximum MDA Conversion

A site’s conversion rate is nothing more than the rate at which visitors perform the MDA. If one in 10 performs the MDA the conversion rate is 10%. If only one in 100 performs the most desired action, the site’s conversion rate is 1%.

The site’s homepage is the first place to clearly introduce and identify the MDA to the visitor. The MDA call-out should appear on the home page above the fold. It should be the first thing visitors see without scrolling. For example:

Welcome to Nutty Nick’s Wicker Hut
20% Off Everything You Buy

That header identifies the MDA – buy some wicker from Nutty Nick. Here’s another headline that defines an MDA. What do you think the action is here:

Sign up for our FREE newsletter and
you may win a free trip to Bermuda!!!

Obviously, the headline is intended to persuade visitors to opt in for a newsletter. It’s clear, unambiguous and it offers an incentive for completing the action.

MDA Incentives

“Why should I?” and “What’s in it for me?” are two questions many visitors ask when the MDA offers no clear benefit to them. That’s why incentives are useful in many cases.

What kind of incentives? Well, anything FREE is always good. Free shipping and handling, a free extended service warranty, free (and really useful) information, the chance to win something – there are plenty of incentives you can employ to encourage completion of the MDA.

Just make sure that the incentive and the MDA are closely tied and closely positioned as in the example above. The incentive doesn’t have to be expensive but it should deliver clear benefit to the visitor.

Also, when more than one MDA is the goal, limit the number of calls to perform an action to exactly one on the home page. Other, less critical actions can be introduced on landing pages, aka zone pages, within a site.

Optimizing Zone Pages for the MDA

Once visitors have navigated the home page (and performed the MDA), they next click a link that takes them to a zone page or landing page (same thing). Once again, the MDA should be clearly displayed above the fold on each zone page.

Zone pages serve different purposes. A link off the home page to a description of company services looks and sounds very different from the zone page for the check-out or contact us page. In all cases, visitors must recognize the personal benefit to them when they choose to perform the action for that specific page. They will save money. They will receive something useful. They will find a solution to a specific problem. Any discriminating visitor is going to ask, “How does this help me?” Provide the right answer and you convert. Provide the wrong answer, or no answer, and that visitor is a click away from gone.

That’s why every site owner must consider the MDA for each page of a site. MDAs must also be specifically targeted on individual pages within the web site. Directions for performing the MDA must be clear, unambiguous and persuasive. Finally, on every page of your site, the visitor must see the clear benefit of performing the MDA – even if the most desired action is clicking on the link back to the home page. Clear, straightforward and persuasive.

If you don’t have a clear understanding of the MDAs for the pages of your site, neither will your visitors. So, if your conversion rate isn’t where you’d like it to be, develop text for MDAs and optimize every page of your site.