Having no luck with the online dating scene? There’s a good chance the problem isn’t you — it’s your profile. We enlisted the help of Laurie Davis, online dating coach and founder of eFlirt Expert, a dating consulting service, to learn the art of marketing your online personality. Davis, 29, lives in New York and we find her especially credible for having turned a Twitter flirtation of her own into a serious relationship.
1. Choose The Right Site
Before you actually start your profile (or redo it, as the case may be) you should make sure you’re on the best dating site for you.
“A dating site is only as good as the matches on it for you,” says Davis. What’s right for the Brooklyn hipster might not be right for the Manhattan corporate type (think Howaboutwe.com if you’re the former, Match.com if you’re the latter).
While you’re probably most familiar with the big online dating outposts – like Match.com and eHarmony – don’t overlook the many niche sites out there, from Cupidtino, geared towards fans of Apple products (made in Cupertino, CA — get it?) to IvyDate, which is aimed at those who are, shall we say, educationally selective? Whatever your taste, it’s worth researching which site is right for you — so worth it that Davis is launching a site in July, eFlirtEngine.com, that will help you choose.
2. Create A Unique User Name
It should be different from any you use in other parts of your life (i.e. your Twitter handle). This also means you should not use your real name. Why? You want your prospective mate to meet you in person before he meets you via search engine.
“You really don’t want Google to be the first impression to your maybe husband,” Davis says.
It’s worth having some privacy as you’re getting to know someone. After your first date? Google-stalk away; odds are he will too.
3. Don’t Use Other People’s Profiles As A Guide
When it comes time to write your profile, avoid the common misstep of looking to other people’s pages for inspiration.
“It’s going to be hard to catch the eye of your perfect match when Stacy sounds exactly like Suzy, [who] sounds exactly like Jennifer,” says Davis.
If you need a second opinion, she advises asking a friend — but be aware that the friend isn’t your target audience.
4. Organize Your Profile Appropriately
Don’t put information about your career or the last book you read in a paragraph describing yourself if there are places for that information built into the profile. Davis says you want to make your profile skim-friendly; having it organized as the site intends facilitates this practice.
5. Choose Your Pronouns Carefully
If you’re describing your ideal mate, do not refer to him as “you.”
“It comes off a little disingenuous because they get that you’re talking to so many different people at the same time,” says Davis. “It can sound over the top.”
Read the following out loud: You enjoy fine wine, you love to laugh and you’d like nothing more than to travel the world. Now substitute “he” for “you,” and read it again. Hear the difference?
6. Avoid Online Dating Cliches
While we’re on the subject of enjoying fine wine, loving to laugh and wanting more than anything to travel the world — don’t even think about putting any of these overused lines in your profile.
Another tired conceit to avoid? Joking that if things work out, you’re willing to lie to people about where you met.
According to Davis, that particular line is a great way to communicate that you’re not so confident about the experience you’re about to have.
If you must use clichés, Davis advises making them more specific: say which wines you like, your favorite comedians, or recall some very specific experience you had on a trip.
7. Don’t Provide A Laundry List Of Things You Don’t Want
“No ultimatums,” says Davis.
Starting out with “Don’ts” and “Nevers” makes you sound negative and also tends to induce oversharing. If you say you could never be with a guy who isn’t as loyal as Lassie, odds are someone will read between the lines and figure out your last boyfriend cheated on you.
8. Lose The Intangibles
You’re a great listener? That’s excellent, but unfortunately most guys are unlikely to email you to say they want to hear more about it.
“It’s better to tell a story,” says Davis. “Maybe about things that not everyone likes to do, like salsa dance.” A potential match can then ask how you got in to salsa dancing as an ice breaker.
9. Write Just Enough
Once you’ve written about yourself in an original way, go back and see how long it takes to read through it. If it’s over two minutes, Davis says, you need to start cutting.
“What people do wrong there is either write too much or too little,” she says. “They’ll write a novella and it’ll be 17 paragraphs long or they’ll write one paragraph.”
Think two to three paragraphs for the “About Me” section and a couple of sentences for each of the others.
10. First Impressions Count – Especially Online
Now that you’ve cut (or added) several hundred words, take a look at your first sentence and your last sentence. Are they attention grabbing and do they say enough about you?
“It’s your first impression and your last impression,” Davis says. “Too often, I see people ending on negative notes, or starting with something that just could be a sentence from anyone’s profile.”
11. Use Clear, Current Photos
Next up is selecting between four and six pictures. Davis says that range is appropriate and that one of them should be a full body shot. You also shouldn’t choose a photo from five years ago: picture quality has improved dramatically in the last couple of years, so viewers will probably detect that it’s old.
Also, “if you don’t represent the you that you look like now, that’s going to be a challenge when you meet up,” Davis says.
Avoid pictures where someone has to pick you out of a crowd, too, or squint to see you, and be sure to choose a very clear shot of your face for your main picture: it needs to be eye-catching even when scaled down to thumbnail size.
12. Don’t Repeat What You Don’t Need To
Information you’ve already provided in a basic questionnaire – such as the fact that you’re divorced or have kids – is already visible to others. No need to mention it again in your profile.