The Ultimate Guide to Online Dating

You’re here it’s because you’ve made the decision to begin the online dating game but you’re not really sure where to begin.  This problem is common for most people when they’re starting out so I’ve put together a brief little guide to help you on your way.

Follow these steps before signing up for your first online dating guide and you should be prepared for success.

 

Should I go with a free or paid service?

How can an Online Dating GO? Here’s a Quick Guide to Online Dating

 

Once a person decides to use online dating services to meet other singles, the first question that they need to deal with is whether to use a free or paid online dating service. With a wide variety of options out there, the choices can really be overwhelming. Let’s just take a minute to quickly break them down. Both options have their pros and cons, so we’ll take a peek into both of them.

Free Services

Pros:

  • This is a great way to get familiar with different online dating sites. It gives you the freedom to browse around the various sites and get a look at the different profiles that people have posted. This is a great way to do some market research to see how to model your own individual profile.
  • Obviously, you can’t go wrong with the price. The only thing that you have to expand with a free site is your time and effort.
  • Many users will set up a few profiles just to test their profiles and see which one performs the best. This gives people some time to fine tune their profiles before they make the step up to a paid service.

Cons:

  • Free sites tend to be full of SPAM. There are many profiles which aren’t legitimate profiles, instead, you may run into advertisements for mail order brides, get rich quick schemes, or links to pornographic websites.
  • Many of the profiles listed are not legitimate profiles. They can be people that are just goofing around and they aren’t legitimate candidates.
  • Communication options are quite limited to what you would get on a paid service.
  • These sites only derive their revenue from the advertising placed around their site. They are not focused on finding you a match, they are more concerned with you clicking onto one of their sponsored advertisements so they will get paid.
  • Customer service is virtually non-existent.

Paid Services

Pros:

  • Paid services have been proven to provide the best profiles for singles looking to meet other singles. One of the things that most paid services provide is a very detailed and specific questionnaire to help match like-minded individuals with each other.
  • If someone is paying the monthly fee (generally in the $20-30 range) for a dating service, it’s safe to reason that they are committed and sincere in their desire to find a match. This eliminates much of the “riff-raff” that you will find on the free sites. These people have a desire to be at this site and they are not looking to waste their money.
  • Due to the fact that the leads on these sites are “pre-qualified” (for lack of a better word), members are not wasting their time trying to weed through many of the garbage profiles that are posted in the free dating services.
  • Numerous communication options. From live chat, email, to online video chat, paid services offer a wide gamut of options with communicating with the opposite sex.

Cons:

  • The monthly fee is the one downside to online dating services. At a cost of $20-30 per month, this can often be an expense that many people don’t feel the need to pay for.
  • To register for these services, you need to provide your credit card information. Many people still have difficulty freely giving out that information online, but to participate in these services it is a necessary evil.

The verdict (?):

To put this decision into perspective, here’s a real life scenario that we’ve all been faced with.

You have a first date set up and you don’t have any idea whether you have anything common interests with the other person. You play it safe by going to the movies. You decide to treat because you only get that one chance to make a first impression. With movie tickets right around $10 each, you hand over your first $20 bill to buy the two tickets. Once you are inside the theater, you do the polite thing and ask your date if they would be interested in popcorn, candy, or a soda. The next thing you know, you’ve already pulled a second $20 bill out of your pocket, and there isn’t much change left.

You’ve already plopped down $25-35 and you still don’t have an idea if you are actually interested in the person or not. On top of that, you still have the discomfort of what to do after the movie. You’ve just spent close to two hours with that person, and you still haven’t learned much about each other because you were focused on the movie.

One benefit you get from online dating is that you can get to know people before you actually go out with them. You are able to chat with them as much as you want, and you know you have common interests before you go out on that first date.

We’ve found that both options provide the online date with value, but the best value once all factors are taken into consideration is using the paid services. Aren’t you worth a $30 monthly investment in yourself while trying to find a suitable mate?

 

Tips to choose the best site

How can an Online Dating GO? Here’s a Quick Guide to Online Dating

 

Here are 6 tips to use:

  1.  What are you hoping to find?

There are thousands of sites, many of which cater to very specific singles.

  • Are you looking for friendship, a serious relationship, or are you just looking for a good time?
  • Heterosexual or homosexual site?
  • Are you looking for someone who is similar to you (i.e. African American, Italian, French, German, Religious, Overweight, Disabled, Single parent, etc.)?  You have to go shopping in the right place to find the thing you are looking for.
  1.  Does the site offer a free trial membership?

All reputable sites will offer you a free trial membership.  This is a great sales tool because it gives you a chance to see what the site has to offer before you pay any money.  One thing to be aware of, you will have very limited access with a free membership.  You may not be able to preview many profiles, and you won’t be able to instigate communication with other profiles until you upgrade to a paid membership.

  1.  What tools/technology does the site offer?

Online dating has come a long way over the past few years, and there are countless tools you can use to communicate with other suitors.  Check to see what tools a site uses to promote this communication.  Some of the most common tools are email, chat, private chat, instant messaging, audio introductions, web chat, blogs, interactive magazines, and groups.

  1.  How secure is your information?

Make sure that the service you are planning to use protects all of your personal information.  Most services offer both emails and chat through an internal mailbox.  What that means is the person you are communicating with never has access to your actual email address unless you give it to them.  Another nice feature to look for is the ability to block a specific member from communicating with you.  There’s nothing worse than having a stalker.

  1.  How many members in your local area?

This is a very important point to look at.  How many people are interested in starting a relationship with someone who lives 500+ miles away?  It just is not convenient to meet them in person.  It’s much easier to meet someone who lives within 40 minutes of your house over a cup of coffee or a quick lunch.

  1.  How much does it cost?

As much as we don’t like to admit it, money is always a factor.  To find a quality single, you are going to have to whip out your credit card and pay for a membership.  Paid sites offer one valuable thing, and that’s the fact that their members have a vested interest in being there, and as a result, they are serious about looking for others.  Look for a site that gives you the best bang for your dollar.

Once you feel comfortable with the features a site offers, focus your efforts on setting up the best profile you can.  After that’s completed, sit back and enjoy meeting all of the quality singles these sites have to offer.

 

Tips for your profile picture

How can an Online Dating GO? Here’s a Quick Guide to Online Dating

 

What kind of picture should you use in your online dating profile? It’s a question that torments many online daters, but the decisions that you make will greatly impact how well your profile performs.

Research shows that profiles with pictures perform infinitely better than profiles without pictures. In most cases, people will click on a picture they find interesting before they even read the online profile. Looks are an important part of attraction, there’s just no way of getting around it.

Remember one thing. Most of us don’t look like models. Different people have different tastes. It’s safe to assume that most people looking for a mate aren’t expecting to find a supermodel. They’re hoping to find someone they find attractive, but most importantly they are looking to find someone they have common likes and interests with.

Now that we’ve gone over the importance of having a picture, grab a trusted friend and a digital camera and start taking some pictures. Here are 10 Tips to follow when picking out your picture, 5 good, and 5 not so good.

5 Rules to Follow:

  1. Include a headshot of yourself. Make sure it is not cropped from another photo. The shot should be 100% focused on your face. Remember it’s important, to be honest in everything you put in your profile, and this includes your picture.
  2. Use well-lit photos with a light background. Avoid dark pictures. The purpose of the picture is to highlight you and your appearance. Don’t clutter the picture with other images which would pull the attention away from you.
  3. Make sure to post multiple pictures of yourself. The more pictures you post, the better. If you have interests, post a picture of yourself doing the activity. If you have a pet, make sure to include 1 picture (and only 1, you don’t want people thinking you’re pet-obsessed) of you with your pet. These pictures will help to tell the story of who you are.
  4. Make sure to show a full body picture of yourself. If you have a body that you’re not so proud of, you still need to take a photo that shows off your body. You can take it from some distance, but people what to have an idea of what your body looks like. If you have a great body that you like to show off, it never hurts to take a picture of yourself in a bathing suit. Research shows this pictures always get more clicks.
  5. Smile, smile, smile!!!

5 Things Not to Do:

  1. No pictures with an ex. The last thing a potential match wants to see is you snuggling with someone else. It’s an instant turn-off.
  2. No lingerie or nudity. Unless you’re at an adult site looking for a sex buddy, there’s no reason to show yourself in a provocative pose. It sends off a message that you’re looking for another notch in your belt, not a long term relationship.
  3. No group pictures. You may have the greatest friends in the world, but when someone is looking at your profile, they don’t want to figure out which person you are among a group of people.
  4. Don’t show pictures of yourself out clubbing or partying. It gives the impression that you’re only focused on partying and having a good time.
  5. Don’t use a picture that is blurred, darkened, or that appears to be hiding something in your physical appearance. Be honest and put yourself out there. Odds are if a person doesn’t like the way you look in a picture, they most likely won’t like the way you look in person. Save yourself some time and aggravation and eliminate those people before you get involved with them.

Your picture is important, and remember to log into your account frequently. Most sites display the candidates that most recently logged in first, which means that the more often you log in, the more often your picture will be at the top of the profile list. The more exposure you get means the more opportunity you’ll have to get noticed.

 

Tips for your profile username

How can an Online Dating GO? Here’s a Quick Guide to Online Dating

 

An issue that many take too casually when setting up their online dating profile is their username.  The main goal you have when choosing your name is to make it as memorable as possible, just like your actual profile.  Your goal is to sell yourself, and part of the sale is developing the proper sales pitch.

Let’s first address your real name.  You love your real name and you’ve most likely taken great pains to make it memorable and respected.  For many, your name brings instant creditability in your profession.  But when it comes to the Internet, do not post your real name.  It’s an issue of security, and it’s just not smart.

If you’re stuck on using your name, you can, but use variations of it.  Piece it together with activities that you like to do, adjectives that apply to you, or nicknames you’ve used before.  For example, my name is Jim McMenamin.  Some variations that I could use would be McJim, JimmyMac, JimSkis, or SlimJim.

Here are a few other suggestions for you:

  • Include another personal tidbit about yourself.  For example, a Penn St. graduate might pick a name like PennStJim.  If you’re from Philadelphia, it could be PhillyJim.
  • When you start stringing together names use proper capitalization.  What I mean is to capitalize each word in the name.  It highlights what you’re trying to portray.  Which one sticks out more, gymy queen or GymQueen?
  • Avoid using too many numbers.  People will remember CutieSue, but they may have trouble remembering if you’re CutieSue1990.
  • Use a name from a book, movie, or show that you really enjoyed.
  • Take a word that you like, for example, Queen, and go to a website like Babelfish to translate it into another language.  Odds are the name Queen will already be taken when you register, but there’s a good chance that the name Reine (French translation) will be available.

One last point to address names that come with sexual innuendo.  This is a tricky point, and it really depends on the site you’re using and the people that you’re hoping to meet.

Let’s take a simple name like SexKitten.  This is very site specific as to how well it will work.  If you are registering at an adult dating site, then this name is more than appropriate; however, if you’re at a Christian dating site, odds are this won’t cut it.

If you choose to stick with SexKitten, you need to be careful at moderate sites, which have people looking for both short term and long term relationships.  When someone views that name, they will have a preconceived notion of what you are looking for.  (Let me give you a hint, it’s not a long-term relationship.)  Just remember, sometimes you get what you ask for.

Don’t just rush to slap up a name when you register.  This is a fun step in the process, and it helps to stamp the uniqueness of your profile.  Get away from your straight-laced 9-5 job, and enjoy your alter ego.

 

Steps to a Winning Dating Profile Headline

How can an Online Dating GO? Here’s a Quick Guide to Online Dating

 

When you post a profile on an online dating site, there are three parts that viewers will see: your picture, your headline, and your profile. Each one serves a distinct purpose, but in my opinion, the picture and the headline are the most important.

Research shows that you only have 5 seconds to grab someone’s attention.

People are superficial and we are drawn to things that catch our attention. I have previously written about the importance of your written profile and how you should focus on it when starting out. I firmly stand by that, but if you can’t get someone to click on it to read it, it won’t matter what you write.

Think about articles you read in a paper or magazine. What is it that usually draws you in? It’s the headline and the picture. Many a great article has been written and never read because the headline doesn’t draw people in.

I want to focus on creating a great headline for your online dating profile. Here are a few tips that you should focus on.

  1. Keep it between 3-7 words. Anything longer than that tends to lose the reader.
  2. Avoid Clichés. The goal is to come up with something unique and original. You want to differentiate yourself from all the others. Take a stroll around your dating site and take a tally of how many times you see the following:
  • Looking for Mrs. Right
  • Looking for My Knight in Shining Amour
  • I can’t believe I’m doing this
  • This isn’t something I’d normally do

Using a headline like these just want to set you apart from others.

  1. Avoid negativity. Portray a positive image in your headline. Although you may be LonleyLady or LookingForLove, you don’t need to announce it. It implies you’re a weak person, and many will avoid people they see as weak.
  2. Incorporate your hobbies or interests. This headline is supposed to tell others something about you. What better way to do that than to come up with a quick snippet of what you like to do. Feel free to use your college, favorite sports team, restaurant, or local hang out in the title.

Here are a few examples:

  • Meet me at Starbucks?
  • Join me for a Walk on the Beach…
  • Small Talk & a bottle of Merlot. Interested?
  • Steeler Fan Looking for a Tailgating buddy
  • Let’s Go Ride our Harley’s
  1. Pick a song lyric or a line from a movie.
  • “Some people call me a Space Cowboy…”
  1. Unless you are joining an “adult” site, avoid all sexual innuendo. If it’s sex you’re selling, those are the only responses you’ll get back.
  2. Feel free to switch it up. Come up with a couple different headlines and change them every few weeks. Keep track of which ones work best and get rid of the ones that don’t.
  3. As with everything in your profile, make sure that you spell everything correctly. If you’re not sure how to spell a word, then just don’t use it. Otherwise, make sure to look it up in an online dictionary.
  4. Avoid Capitals. In the online world, using all capitals is considered “yelling” and is considered to be rude behavior.
  5. Use (…) to end your headline. I’ve done a lot of research on headlines and my success rate is twice as high when I end a phrase with (…). That’s three dots. It gives the reader the impression that there is more to the story, but they need to click to find out more. What have you got to lose…

 

Keep it local or add some distance?

How can an Online Dating GO? Here’s a Quick Guide to Online Dating

 

It begs the question, how much time do you want to spend traveling to meet Mr. Right?

You’ve made the decision to start using an online dating service and you’re ready to jump in and get started. Before you whip out your credit card and join a site, there is one issue you’re going to need to figure out before you get in too deep.What distance are you willing to travel to meet that special someone?

When you are searching for your online dating site, the most important thing to look for is the number of members the site has in your local area. To do this, you need to define what your local area is.

Is 20 miles from your house or less the perfect distance, or are you willing to look at 50 or even 100 miles from where you live?

We like to think we act GLOBALLY, but we end up acting LOCALLY.

This decision will determine the available pool of candidates to pull from. Obviously, the more rural the location that you live in, the farther you’re going to need to look to find your match.

Remember, it is much easier to meet someone for a lunch date or a cup of coffee than to set up travel plans to meet in another city. Let’s also not discount the difference in stress between those two meetings.

You do not want to limit your options (you are looking for your soul mate?) but as you start talking with people that live far away, the prospect of the meeting starts to become expensive (Gas prices, travel time, airfare, hotels, etc.).

As a long distance relationship develops, you also need to consider the long-term effects.

  • Are you willing to relocate?
  • Change careers?
  • Is being close to your family really important to you or not?

Once you’ve decided what your local area is, make sure that you take great care to protect your personal information. Since you are dealing with someone who lives near you, information like your address becomes a more sensitive.

Make sure you’ve communicated with the person several times before setting up a face-to-face meeting with them. Don’t have your date meet you at your house, but schedule the meeting in a well-populated area, and make a point to let at least one other person know who and where you’ll be meeting.

 

Email response etiquette

How can an Online Dating GO? Here’s a Quick Guide to Online Dating

 

Whether you’ve just started using an online dating service or you’re an experienced pro, there is always some excitement that comes when you receive an email from someone’s who’s noticed your profile and is hoping to open a dialog with you.

The problem many of us have is that life is sometimes a bit overwhelming and we just don’t have the time to respond right away. Between work, family, social clubs, and friends, we often find our time at a premium. There just aren’t enough hours in the day for many of us.

Knowing that up front, how long should you sit on that message before you reply?

Online dating is all about getting yourself in front of as many singles as possible. This is a game of communication, and you want to stack the odds in your favor by communicating with as many people as possible. The more dialogs you have going on, the better. You’re hoping to ask pointed questions and trying to figure out which singles are the ones you want to keep talking to.

Our society today is based on instant gratification. We want it now and were not willing to wait. Knowing this up front, it is very important to treat each inquiry with immediate urgency. Why take the chance of missing out on getting to know another quality single?

One simple rule to live by is that you should never wait longer than 24 hours to respond. If you wait longer than that, it is considered rude in the world of online etiquette.

That may sound like an easy response, but as we know things aren’t always as simple as they seem. You most likely will never be able to find more time in your day, but that does not mean you can’t address this situation.

The important point to remember is that you need to respond. Responding does not mean you need to reply with the Great American Novel. Pouring your heart and soul into your response is not justified at this point in the relationship.

Here are a few 3 quick pointers:

  1. Explain to your admirer that you are very busy at this moment, but that you are genuinely flattered and excited to get their response. Give them a little something right now, with the promise of a little more to come. Make sure to follow through with this promise.
  2. Answer at least one or two of the questions that they’ve posed to you. You are giving some of your time to answer their questions and it furthers the point that you are indeed interested in them.
  3. Ask them one question in return. Because you are asking them a question, it shows that you are expecting to hear back from them.

Limit your response to three to five paragraphs. Another point to consider is to use white space when you respond. What I mean by that is to use hard line breaks or double spaces when typing each paragraph. Separate each point and make it stand out on its own. Don’t have your thoughts run into one another. Research shows that people prefer to read text that is spread out as opposed to close together.

Finally, to help streamline your time, if you have been communicating with someone and you just don’t sense a spark, send one last email to them to let them know that you are no longer interested. You may hurt their feelings, but in the long run, this move will benefit both parties. There’s no need to have any additional clutter in your inbox and this is one way to address it.

 

How sexy should I make my profile?

How can an Online Dating GO? Here’s a Quick Guide to Online Dating

 

Where does sex belong in your online dating profile?  Sex carries a different significance to each person, but there’s no denying its importance in a healthy relationship.

When we evaluate this question, the first thing you need to do is figure out what type of site you will post your profile on.  If you’ve been investigating the various sites that are available, you’ll notice that many of the sites cater to very specific clients.

There are all sorts of dating sites, from religious-based to sites that promote extramarital affairs, and each of the sites has members with different expectations.  What works for your profile on Adult Friend Finder will be a definite no-no on Big Church.

There are three areas to your online dating profile, and each one provides you an opportunity to spice things up.  When you post a profile online, you assign yourself a username, you post at least one picture of yourself, and you write a quick profile (or sales ad) about yourself.

Let’s start with a username.  This is your handle and its the name others will use to communicate with you.  Take great care in picking out your name, but keep in mind that your choice will have an effect on how people perceive you.

If you went with a name like Plaything, SexKitten, or HardBody69, other members will have a pre-conceived notion of what your intentions are.  They will think that you’re more interested in a good time than in finding a serious relationship.  Depending on the site you’re using, this could be a good thing.

Next up is your photo.  It strongly encouraged to post a photo of yourself, and research shows that the more of them you post, the better your profile will perform.

As you browse around dating sites, you’ll notice that some profile pictures are a lot more provocative and revealing than others.  These profiles get significantly more clicks and visits, but they are also turn off for members looking for a long term partner.

The final part is your profile.  This is a written paragraph which portrays who you are.  This is your sales pitch, and it’s your chance to express yourself in words.  This area doesn’t have the immediate impact as your picture or username, but if you choose your words correctly, it will help to complete the whole picture.

Here’s one last point.  If you are joining an online dating site to find a long-term mate, do NOT include any mention of sex in your profile.

You are trying to find as many good matches as possible, and the last thing you want to do is have people overlook your profile without getting in contact with you because you appear to be a little too direct.  There is always time to discuss sex once you get to know someone a little bit better.

 

First date security procedures

How can an Online Dating GO? Here’s a Quick Guide to Online Dating

 

You’ve been using an online dating service and you’ve found someone you would really like to meet.  Before you get started, there is one big note of caution.

Online dating sites DO NOT do background checks on their customers.  Please don’t assume that because a person has a profile on a dating site that the site has pre-qualified them and validated their background.

Here are some best practices for you to follow before setting up your first meeting.

  • Make contact by phone.

Although you’ve developed a comfort level with this person by exchanging plenty of emails and instant messages, it’s important to have a few phone conversations with the person before meeting.  Hearing their voice adds a new dimension to a relationship.  It will give you an idea on the cadence they speak in, as well as if there are any awkward pauses when they respond to your questions. If they have a voice that grates on your nerves, this may also be a sign that this person isn’t a good match for you.

  • Use your cell phone number, not your home number.

Your safety is better protected on your cell phone.  People are able to pull up your name, address, and directions to your house just by knowing your phone number.  To illustrate my point, go to Google.com and enter your home phone number.  You’ll notice it will pull up your name, your address, and a link to Google Maps to show how to get to your house.  If you are uncomfortable with this information being posted on Google, click on the search result and there is a link to unsubscribe your information.

  • Do not have them pick you up at your house or your place of work.
  • Meet in a public place and keep it low key.

Meet at Starbucks or a local diner for a cup of coffee.

  • Lunch is great.

Lunch works well because it comes with a time limit.  People need to get back to the office, so you have a built-in excuse to leave if things aren’t going as planned.

  • Avoid meeting for cocktails.

Alcohol does different things to different people, not always for the better.  People’s personalities tend to change with each cocktail they drink.  Someone who’s shy may turn into the life of the party, but you’re hoping to see the person as they really are.

  • Bring your cell phone, and make sure its charged.
  • Tell a friend or family member your plans.

Give them the name of the person you’re meeting, their cell phone number, and the place you’ll be meeting.  Tell them your whereabouts in case things go really wrong.

  • Have your friend give you a call to check on you.

My suggestion is to have your friend call at a point when the date should have ended.  For example, if you’re meeting for lunch at noon, and you expect the lunch to last one hour, have your friend give you a call at 1:30 to make sure you’re safe.

  • Don’t invite them back to your house.

If the date goes well, you will be making plans for another day shortly after that.

I’m not trying to paint a picture of doom and gloom.  In fact, almost all of the singles you meet will be normal well-adjusted individuals.  These are just some guidelines to follow to protect yourself against some of the crazy people that may be lurking out there.  It is better to be safe than sorry.

That’s the end of my Quick Start Guide.  Thanks for following.  

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