Ultimate online dating guide (2020)
You may have decided to try online dating but may be bewildered by the number and type of dating sites. There are free sites, paid sites that have free versions, and the paid sites have different plans. Some dating sites specialize in older people, Christians, Jewish people, Asians, Russians, and there are even dating sites for millionaires.
Maybe you have already signed up for a dating site, but are unsure how to build out your profile, what pictures or type of pictures to post, or how to best use the site for best results.
Fortunately, we’ve got you covered.
But first, I have something very important to ask you. Why not make your dreams come true?
Beautiful, amazing women are out there, in very large numbers. They are just waiting for you to go get them. Are you motivated enough to go get them them? Are you smart enough, bold enough, brave enough, man enough, to go get them?
Dear reader, I hope that you are.
Free versus paid dating sites/ plans
There are basically two types of free dating sites.
Free trial dating sites.
Many paid dating sites offer free trials as a way of enticing you to sign up for a paid subscription. Typically the free version allows you to “see” some potential matches, and get an idea how the site works. I use quotation marks because some plans do not allow free members to see photographs, and some only allow you to see blurred out photographs. Practically none of these free trial memberships allow a free member to send or receive text messages or otherwise meaningfully communicate with other members.
There are a couple of interesting exceptions. Eharmony has periodically offered free “communication weekends” for free members, and Match and others allow free member to send “winks” or “likes” . Match also offers the opportunity for paid members, if they pay an extra fee, to communicate with free members.
In general, these free trial memberships do let you get a general feel for the site, but are otherwise useless.
If you sign up for a free trial with match.com they will bombard you with emails trying to get you to upgrade to a paid subscription, but if you hold out, they will eventually offer you a paid subscription at discounts of up to 35%,
“True” free dating sites
There are also a few free dating sites that are full featured sites where you can communicate with other members and get dates. These are Plenty of Fish, OK Cupid, and Tinder. I have personally used Tinder and OK Cupid, but not Plenty of Fish, although OK Cupid and Plenty of Fish are said to be quite similar to one another in many ways.
It is possible to get dates with attractive women on all three of these sites, but if you are looking for a serious relationship, some of the paid sites are much better than any of them, at least for most people. Because it costs nothing to join, all three of these sites have a larger percentage of fake profiles, flakes, and scammers than the better paid sites, as well as a lot of users who are looking for hookups, multiple relationships, are married, unemployed, have alcohol or substance abuse issues, or have personality disorders.
But you can still find attractive, “normal” girls and women on these three sites, if you look long enough, hard enough, or just “get lucky”.
Paid dating sites
Of these, the biggest two are Match and Eharmony. Both are huge sites with tons of members around the world, and many people do meet and form long term relationship and marriages on both sites. They are very different from one another, work differently, and have different types of users, but they both have been around for a long time and have proven results.
Although you will have to pay a subscription for these, they are much more efficient in matching people up and can save you a lot of time and frustration which you probably don’t need. Because users have to pay, there are fewer scammers, people not interested in a long term relationship, or just plain “flakes”.
Why not use both?
If you have the time, or if you are looking to increase your dating skills, you should probably sign up for at least one free service and one paid service. Online dating is, above all, a numbers game. The 3 free services will, if you know how to use them, get you dates, and the more dates you have, the better your chances. If you are looking to improve you dating skills you need to get lots and lots of dating practice.
A brief word about privacy and security
It is important to keep in mind, when choosing a dating site, that you pick one where your privacy will be kept, and where your personal information, identity, and credit card information remain safe and secure. You may want to use the bigger pay sites like Match, Eharmony, and Elite Singles, which are relatively secure, compared to to the others. You may also want to use only sites where you can pay by paypal, because paypal can and will put a “hold” on the transaction if you notify them promptly.
How to pick a user name
It is usually better to use your full real name name or your real first name. If you don’t want to use your name, pick an user name with care, and pick one that suggests positive qualities.
Some sites allow you to put a “headline” next to your photo. This is a great opportunity to grab the woman’s attention right away and should indicate a strong, positive character trait. A good one might be something like “who dares wins” (the motto of the SAS, England’s elite special forces unit).
For all online dating the most important element of all is your profile picture. Most women, especially attractive women, will just skip you over if they don’t like your profile picture, so it is well worth it to “get it right”.
Your profile picture must be a head shot taken with a good camera. Nowadays the newer iphones and other high end cellphones have cameras that are quite good.
Research has shown that male models are considered more attractive when they are not smiling. Also male models are considered more attractive when they are not looking directly into the camera, and when they pose with a slight tilt of the head.
The best photos are ones that show your personality.
There are some subtle things going on in this picture that you may wish to think about. He is wearing sunglasses, which generally is a bad idea, but because he’s at the beach, it works for him.
He has a good build, but because he is posing sideways, and not showing his abs, and because its a beach shot, he doesn’t come across as show off. He has strong arms, forearms, wrists and hands, which is subtly emphasized by the thick gold chain. He looks like a swimmer, not a bodybuilder. He is simultaneously relaxed, but intent, and projects the image of a very confident and masculine man.
Some people are definitely more photogenic than others. If you are not photogenic, you may have to hire a professional photographer and have him or her take many many photos, to get a really good one.
You may want to consider some subtle photo shopping if you are not photogenic, but it should be so subtle that no one who meets you will notice the difference.
The following are all bad and to be avoided:
Sometimes a really funny picture can work along with a humorous profile
You should test your photos out, either by getting second opinions, or by testing them out on free sites like tinder where users pretty much only look at the photo.
You should have anywhere from 3 to 6 photos. If you head shot is unsmiling, you should smile in some of these.
I recommend using 4. These are:
If you have too many pictures there is a chance one of them may turn the woman off.
All of the paid sites collect personal information such as age, height, body type. Some ask you about your occupation, income, and if you have children, and if they are living at home.
They also will have a “profile” section where you a are supposed to craft a summary of what you are all about, and what type of woman you are looking for.
In general, the most important thing to do in filling out both the personal information and the profile is to be truthful.
There are two reasons for this. First, if you lie about your height and say you are five foot ten inches tall and you are only five foot seven inches tall, you will be found out the instant you meet the girl. If you lie about other things, chances are very high that you will eventually be found out.
The second reason is that while telling the truth may result in your getting fewer first matches and fewer first dates, it reduces the number of bad dates that waste your time and money, and maximizes your chances of finding the right woman.
There are a couple of caveats. Many coaches advise men who are short or even average in height to add an inch on their profile or “round up” to the nearest inch instead of “rounding down’. I will confess that after a while I did the same.
Many users of both sexes will lie about their age. When I was on Match I noticed that some women lied about their age when they signed up but wrote their real age in their profile and said that the other age was for “search engine purposes”. Match, Eharmony, and some other services have their algorithms set up to avoid matching people who are too far apart in age. I believe we are talking about an approximate 14 years’ age difference.
These women looked much younger than their age, and felt (probably accurately) that many men cared much more about how old they looked than their chronological ages. So they were fooling the algorithm, but not trying to fool any dates.
Some men and women look, act, and think much younger than their chronological age and put a younger age on their profile but when they meet people they tell them their real age. If you are a man who looks, acts, and feels 10 or 15 years younger than your chronological age, you might want to consider this tactic, which works much better when you are also good looking and/ or charismatic.
How to write a killer dating profile
Most men’s profiles are pretty bad. They tend to be boring and have the same tired clichés.
One way of doing better is to sign up on a free site as a woman, and then look at a lot of men’s profiles. When you have seen the same clichés used over and over again, you will know to avoid them, and you may see some profiles that stand out and are very good. If you see those, you can either use them as inspiration for your own profile, or you can just copy what you like that you feel would apply to you.
Just as there is no required format or formula for writing a book or a short story, there is no required format for an online dating profile.
Some so called experts advise that you should write 70% of your profile about yourself and 30 % about the type of woman that you are looking for. I don’t buy it.
Coach Corey Wayne, who has a huge youtube channel of thousands of video, suggested that you should think very hard about what qualities your ideal woman would have and then focus your profile on that.
The idea is that if the woman who has these ideal qualities reads your profile she will think to herself “he’s talking about me” and will want to give you a try.
When I was dating I tried his method with good results. You might want to try it yourself.
If you decide to give this a try, you want to describe the inner qualities of your ideal woman in a “poetic” manner. I personally suggest that you focus on your ideal woman’s inner qualities, not her hair color, body type, or measurements.
General dating profile tips
Although there is no required format, there are some generally accepted tips that make a lot of sense.
You should put some thought and effort into completing your profile. If your profile is sparse, vague, and non-specific it will look like you aren’t really trying, or even worse, that you might be hiding something.
It is way way better to “express” positive qualities by recounting stories about specific events than just making a claims like “I am very adventurous”. It is much better to say ” Right after I finished college, I spent a summer back packing across Europe and Eastern Europe”.
Your profile should expose your personality. You do this by expressing saying something about yourself that is honest and authentic.
At the same time, you want to leave a little mystery. You want the woman to be excited about meeting you in person and finding out more about you.
A good way to end your profile is with a question. This makes it easier for her to respond.
Feel free to experiment by changing your profile from time to time. Some dating sites, including Match, will give you a temporary boost and increase the number of matches right after you update your profile and/ or pictures.
Text messages and phone calls
Before you meet in person, you must first run the gauntlet of text messaging. You may also have to call the woman on the phone. Some men don’t consider themselves to be “good” on the phone. Others, especially older men, are not used to using text messages for dating.
While you will have to be semi-competent at text messaging, for the purpose of setting up a date, you don’t have to be great at it. As for phone calls if you are studying/ practicing dating, once you have developed even a little “game” phone call conversations are actually quite easy to do really well.
If you call and leave a message, leave a short message. Long rambling messages are to be avoided at all costs.
The Initial text message
On sites that allow you to search profiles and send messages, or where the site has matched you with someone, you will usually have to send an initial message to the woman. This is kind of like the profile picture, if you blow it, its game over. On most of the online dating sites and apps, any half way attractive woman will be getting tons of messages. To succeed in this game, you will likely have to send well crafted messages, and probably a lot of them to get a decent number of matches.
What makes it even harder, is that many dating sites match up paid members with free members who are unable to either send or receive messages, although they may be able to send “likes” , “winks” or “favorite” you.
When I was on Match, I didn’t know this, so I didn’t understand why a woman would send me a “wink” but would not respond to my message. I thought I was getting rejected, but now I know that the reason in most cases was that she was a free member unable to respond without signing up for a paid subscription.
The best day of the week to send an initial message is Sunday.
There are 2 tried and true methods to use when crafting the initial message.
The first method is to carefully study and analyze her profile, reading it very carefully at least twice. You then want to craft a message especially for her, and one that refers to something in her profile, so that she knows that you read it.
Surprisingly, most men don’t know enough to do that.
When you send your initial message it is a bad idea to compliment her on her physical appearance or to put her on a pedestal. If you focus on her physical appearance, you are just like every other guy who doesn’t know what he’s doing, especially if she is beautiful.
If you put her on a pedestal you are demonstrating low value. It is Ok to just say you like her profile and her pictures.
The second method is used when the site you are using has a lot of members in your area and allows you to send unlimited messages. In this situation it may make sense to compose a really good message that you can cut and paste, allowing you to send out a lot of messages without spending a ridiculous amount of time.
I have used both methods, and both work.
Your initial message should be on the short side, just 2 or 3 sentences, or a short paragraph or two. It is a good idea to ask her a question. If you get a positive response you are definitely in the running.
Once you are in the running its already time to think about getting her to chase you. Yes, if you have dating skills, you can and must get women, even beautiful women, chase you. In fact, I would go so far as to say that you have to get the woman to chase in order to make her your girl friend.
The number one mistake men make is to try too hard to sell themselves.
Follow up text messages
After the initial message and reply, you want to craft your messages in a way that they imply that she has already decided she likes you, and instead of trying to sell yourself to her, you want her to show you that she is worthy of becoming your girl friend or wife.
This has to be done skillfully and subtly. As one dating coach said (and I paraphrase):
“Attraction is not hitting a nail with a hammer, it is more like racing a formula 1 car on a race track, it has to be done with skill and subtlety”.
In order to get a beautiful or even an attractive together woman to be interested in you (assuming that you are neither as rich as Bloomberg or as good looking as Beckham), you have to convince her that you are a high value man who has a lot to offer.
What you definitely want to avoid is anything that gives an impression that you are needy, don’t have any alternatives, or are desperate.
Therefore, during these early text messages, don’t always text back right away.
When I was studying this stuff one dating coach set out the following time line:
This example is extreme, but you get the idea. It paints a picture of a man who has little or nothing going on in his life. This type of texting behavior demonstrates low value.
On the other hand, it is probably not a good idea to text back 8 hours or 24 hours later. It is Ok to text back right away and say that you are in a meeting or at the gym and will text her back later that day or night.
In general, to keep her interest, and ideally make her chase, you should text and call her as often as she texts or calls you, but no more. Chances are, a beautiful woman is used to having low value men fall all over her, and is tired of them, so if you hold back just a little, she will be intrigued, and may start to chase.
An occasional emoji can be good but don’t go overboard or you will look like a teen aged female, unless the woman is Asian- then its usually ok.
In general most Asian women will want/ expect more frequent texts if they are interested in you.
If you are a doctor, a trial lawyer, FBI agent, or the like, and can’t text at work, you should tell her in advance, and tell her that the evening works better for you.
At this stage you should should still be keeping the text messages on the shorter side.
Some things to avoid at this stage:
Always be closing
After a few successful text messages you need to start thinking about closing. In this context closing is asking for the date.
When I was dating on Match, by the time I was getting ready to close, I would try to move the communication off of Match. This was for a couple of reasons. First of all, I learned that Match would sometimes mess up, maybe the woman’s credit card was revoked, maybe there was just some glitch on Match, but you could lose the connection and would have no way of contacting he woman.
Second, just exchanging phone numbers is a helpful step forward towards the close. Some women will require you to talk on the phone before they will commit to meeting you in person. Also, in our weird modern society, for some women, it is rare for a “suitor”, especially an online suitor to pick up the phone and call the woman, and if you can do it, and do it well, you stand out in a good way.
To take the relationship off of Match I would just give her my number. I wouldn’t ask for hers. I don’t think I ever had a woman fail to reciprocate by giving me hers.
Because I lost my phone once just before I had two promising dates scheduled (I found it a day later), I got in the habit of writing all of these numbers in an old school “little black book”.
By the way, if your online dating causes you to be dating/ messaging multiple girls, you will need to be alert to the situation where you are texting with girl #1, then girl #2 texts you, you think you are talking to girl #1 but your text now goes to girl #2.
There is a reason why I named this blog “Online dating adventures”.
When to close (online)
Following the advice of some dating guru, I would typically close after 3 or 4 text exchanges, and wouldn’t think about it too much.
You don’t want a pen pal, and neither does she. I would sometimes use a “test close”, which could be something like (assuming it’s a Chinese woman) “ do you like to play ping pong?”. If she says “yes, I love to play ping pong. I was the champion of my village”, you have (probably) succeeded in your test close and can say “I bet I could beat you easily!” and you are off to the races.
There are other methods of deciding when to close, which are also good. Some coaches advise looking for certain signs that the woman I ready to go on a date with you. These include:
Asking for the first date
It is usually not a good idea to have the first date be for dinner, especially at an expensive restaurant.
While the guy who has never studied dating would naturally think that taking the woman to a nice meal at an expensive restaurant shows high value, unless you are a multi millionaire, it actually shows low value. If you think about it, why would a guy who does really well with women want to commit to take a woman that he has never met to an expensive restaurant? Unless you are really rich it smacks of try hard.
Most women are wary of having to spend two hours with a stranger, and have him spend a lot of money on her.
When I was an online dater, I dated a lot, and it would have been very expensive if I always took women to expensive restaurants.
For all of these reasons, and based upon the advice of the dating experts, most of my first dates were at a Starbucks or the like. I fondly remember a date with a woman from Vietnam who asked me after the coffee what I was doing afterwards, I said not much, and she took me to dinner and she paid. She was actually very nice, but I was dating several other girls at the time, and because I got serious with another girl that I almost married, didn’t follow up with the Vietnamese girl.
Going for a drink after work can also be good. For some people 1 or 2 drinks can definitely loosen them up, leading to having a better time. I did several drinks after work dates, but it is best to give her a choice, and say you would like to go for coffee or for a drink after work, whatever she prefers. If you go for a drink only have two drinks, otherwise she might think you are an alcoholic. Sadly many men on dating sites are.
By the way, when you set up a date, you should always have a plan b, in case the place is closed for renovations, has a private party, or is too crowded to get a table. Its also a good idea, for many reasons, to have a possible second venue, in case the date goes really well and you both want to spend more time.
You should suggest a couple of days and times for the date. You don’t want to say “anytime next week” because that denotes you have nothing going on in your life, which indicates low value.
The first date
When you meet her for the date you should act as if you are already on the second date. What you do not want to do is sit down and start asking boring “interview style” standard questions, like “what kind of work do you do?”, “where do you work?”, “where do you live?” etc.
In general, you should avoid as much as possible cliched first date topics and questions.
You should Also try to get a booth or somehow arrange that you are sitting next to the girl and not facing her Across the table. This suggests that this is a romantic date, not a job interview.
Your date must not consist of your trying to sell yourself. Instead you should be qualifying her and making her show that she is the right person for you.
Do not be timid.
Do not talk about your ex.
Without asking her cliched questions, get her to talk. Ideally you want to spark an emotional reaction. Sparking an emotional reaction is like getting a “strike” in bowling, but it should not be as rare or difficult as getting a hole in one in golf.
One of the ideas I was exposed to was that you could tell a lot about a woman from her relationship with her father. On two of my dates (both were Chinese girls) I asked them about their relationships with their fathers. One looked at me intently and asked “do you really want to know?” I said I did. She told me that she was raised by her grandfather who was a soldier in the war between Russia and China.
The other said that her parents had sent her to live with her grandparents but they were so poor that they couldn’t afford to feed her and they had to send her back.
I had sparked emotional reactions both times.
It is also helpful to have some funny stories on tap to make the woman laugh and have a good time instead of having a boring “interview” date.
At this point you have successfully transitioned from online dating to just plain dating.