It has been well documented that online dating has altered the lives of millions of people worldwide. Two out of every five single adults in Europe and the United States of America between the ages of 25 and 40 have used an online dating service to find a partner or to simply enhance their social lives by making new friends.
Due to the exponential growth of the dating sector, many companies that own and operate the sites have gone from a standing start to generating significant revenues in a matter of months. While it is possible to earn a small fortune through online dating, it is also possible to lose your shirt. For every successful website, there are five that fail miserably. If you follow these few basic guidelines, you can join the cyber-revolution, which has evolved into not only a lifestyle choice for a large number of consumers, but also an extremely lucrative market for webmasters.
1. Niche marketing is effective.
While we are all familiar with the names of the global dating sites that dominate the sector, if you want to build a site with millions of members, you will need very deep pockets to even get on the first rung of the ladder. There are numerous extremely successful websites that cater to either specific interest groups such as bikers or military personnel or are geo-targeted to a single city or state. The advantage of this type of concept is that it is significantly easier and less expensive to promote than a service that is open to all. The sophistication of online marketing, particularly the various pay-per-click search engines, enables you to very precisely target your audience, maximizing your return on investment without straining your financial resources.
2. Avoid overcomplicating the site’s design.
The homepage’s primary objective should be to entice visitors to register for your service, not to dazzle them with your use of unique colours or design elements. On a white background, use no more than two colours (one of which should be blue – the colour of trust) and avoid flashing buttons at all costs.
3. Keep your proposition straightforward.
If your dating site appears to be so complicated that only ‘teccies’ can use it, you will lose the majority of your audience immediately upon landing on your homepage. The most successful dating sites typically feature a very straightforward system of photo profiles and secure messaging. Individuals register, create profiles, upload photographs, and begin sending email messages to other members with whom they believe they may be compatible. It’s simple and does not require a degree in computer sciences. However, there are numerous websites that offer an astounding array of features – video profiles, psychological profiling, and the like; all of which are prohibitively expensive to integrate and manage, and the majority of which are a complete waste of time and money.
4. Provide a risk-free trial.
This may seem counterintuitive in an article about how to build a profitable business, but in order to get your members to pay you a subscription fee, you must first get them to register with your site. Allowing visitors to look around, browse the database, and perhaps send a few messages to other visitors increases their likelihood of wanting to subscribe significantly more than requiring them to do so immediately without giving them a taste of what your site has to offer.
5. As quickly as possible, populate your database.
When people join dating sites, they tend to follow other members, and if your site appears to have few members, people will give it a wide berth. When you launch, it’s well worth your time to run a limited email marketing campaign that offers founder members a free subscription. Remember, the most difficult part of starting a successful online dating business is obtaining your first 100 registrants – you want them in week one, and the quickest way to accomplish this is to offer a freebie to your first sign-ups. You are not losing money – these are the most critical members of your team, and without them, your business will never advance beyond first base.
6. Make prudent use of your marketing budget.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to promote a dating site effectively – you just have to be smart about it. As soon as your site is live, sign up for an affiliate programme with one of the major networks operating in your country. Affiliates are third-party websites that refer traffic to your business in exchange for a share of the revenue. You do not have to pay affiliates to join your programme; instead, you simply offer them a percentage of any subscription revenue they generate, which is the most cost-effective method of advertising. Additionally, you should avoid using generic search terms when launching pay-per-click campaigns on the major search engines. Keywords such as ‘dating’ and ‘online dating’ are prohibitively expensive to bid on and convert at a lower rate than niche terms that are more relevant to the site’s actual concept. If, for example, you run a dating service for singles in Chicago, keywords such as ‘Chicago dating’ or’singles in Chicago’ will be significantly less expensive to bid on and will result in a significantly higher conversion rate than more generic terms.
7. Provide excellent customer service.
Bear in mind that your members are real people, many of whom will lack your level of computer savvy, and when they contact the site with a problem (forgotten passwords or log-in difficulties are typically the most common), you should respond as quickly as possible. Unanswered messages are the simplest way to lose a member, so do not ignore or delay responding to the emails you will inevitably receive.
8. Maintain contact with your members.
I’ve saved this point for last, but it’s just as critical as anything I’ve mentioned previously. A weekly newsletter sent to your database will encourage people to log into their accounts on a regular basis (especially if they can click directly from the email to the site without logging in) and will also help to foster an emotional connection between your business and its paying customers. Each business-to-consumer online entity should have a human face, and site owners who disregard this at their peril.
Thus, heed the eight nuggets of advice outlined above and you, too, can benefit from the substantial rewards available in this exciting and vibrant market sector.