It has been well documented that online dating is a phenomenon which has changed the lives of millions of people throughout the world. Two out of every five singletons in Europe and the USA aged 25 – 40 have used an on line service to either find a partner, or simply to enhance their social lives by making new friends.
This exponential explosion in the dating sector has meant that many companies owning and operating the sites themselves have come from a standing start to generating significant revenues in a matter of just a few months. It is possible to make a small fortune from online dating but, then again, it’s just as possible to lose your shirt. For every successful site, there are five others which simply ‘got it wrong’. If you follow these few basic guidelines, you could join the cyber-revolution which has not only become a lifestyle choice in itself for a great many consumers, but an extremely profitable market for webmasters to enter.
1. Niche works. Yes, we all know the names of the global dating sites which dominate the sector, but if you want to create a site that attracts millions of members, you are going to need very deep pockets just to get on the first rung of the ladder. There are a great many very successful sites that either cater to special interest groups such as bikers, military personnel etc or geo-targeted sites that cover just one country or even one city. The advantage of this kind of concept is that it is much easier and cheaper to promote than a service which attracts all-comers. The sophistication of online marketing, particularly the various pay-per-click search engines, enables you to target your audience very specifically thereby maximising your return on investment without having to overly stretch your financial resources.
2. Don’t over-complicate the design of the site. The primary aim of the homepage should be to encourage visitors to register with your service, not to marvel at your use of different colours or design features. Stick to just two colours (one should preferably be blue – the colour of trust) on a white background and avoid flashing buttons at all costs.
3. Keep your proposition simple. If a dating site looks so complicated that only ‘teccies’ can use it, you’ll lose most of your audience as soon as they land on your homepage. The most successful dating sites tend to offer a very basic system of picture profiles and secure messaging. People sign-up, create their profiles, upload their photos and start sending email messages to other members with whom they think they might be compatible. It’s easy and you don’t have to have a degree in computer sciences to do it. But there are many sites out there which offer a bewildering array of features – video profiles, psychological profiling and the like; all very expensive to integrate and manage and most, to be frank, are a complete waste of time and money.
4. Offer a free trial. This might seem rather ironic in an article which purports to tell you how to create a profitable business, but in order to get your members to pay you a subscription fee, you have to get them to register with your site in the first instance. If you let people have a look around, browse through the database and perhaps send a couple of messages to other people, they are far more likely to want to subscribe than if you ask them to do so straight away without giving them a taste of what your site can offer.
5. Populate your database as quickly as possible. People follow other people when they join dating sites and if your site looks like it hasn’t got many members, then people will give it a wide berth. When you launch, it’s well worth you doing a limited email marketing campaign which offers a free subscription to founder members. Remember, the hardest part of creating a successful online dating business is to get your first 100 registrants – you want them there in week one and the quickest way to do that is to offer a freebie to your first sign-ups. You’re not losing money – these are the most important members and without them your business will not get past first base.
6. Spend your marketing budget wisely. You don’t have to throw money at a dating site in order to promote it effectively – you just have to be smart. Establish an affiliate programme with one of the main networks operating in your country as soon you launch your site. Affiliates are third party web-sites which refer traffic to your business on a revenue sharing basis. You don’t have to pay affiliates to join your programme, you just offer them a percentage of any subscription revenue which they generate and this is the most cost-effective way of promoting yourself. And you should also avoid generic search-terms when you instigate pay-per-click campaigns on the major engines. Keywords like ‘dating’ and ‘online dating’ are expensive to bid on and convert less well than niche terms which are more applicable to the actual concept of your site. If, for example, you are running a dating service for singles living in Chicago, keywords like ‘Chicago dating’ or ‘singles in Chicago’ will be relatively cheap to bid on and will yield a far better conversion rate than the more general terms.
7. Offer good customer service. Remember, your members are real people many of whom will not be as computer savvy as you are and when any of them contact the site with a problem (a forgotten password or log-in difficulties are usually the most common), you should endeavor to respond as soon as you are able. An unanswered message is the easiest way to actually lose a member so don’t ignore or put off answering the mails that you will inevitably receive.
8. Communicate with your members. I’ve left this point until last but it it just as important as anything I’ve mentioned above. A weekly newsletter to your database will encourage people to log-in to their accounts on a regular basis (particularly if they are able to click through directly from the email to the site without having to log-in) and will also help to foster an emotional bond between your business and it’s paying customers. Every business to consumer online entity should have a human face and site owners who ignore this do so at their peril.
So there you have it; take heed of the eight snippets of advice that I have outlined above and you too can reap the substantial rewards on offer in this exciting and vibrant market sector.