1. Your photos is everything
This is the big one, because depressing though it may be, your smiling face is the first thing on which people will judge you. Relationship psychologist Honey Langcaster-James says: “Look straight into the camera and smile showing your teeth – this says open, friendly, healthy and confidence.” A recent study of the most popular profiles on dating sites showed 88 per cent are making eye contact with the camera in their profile picture.
Jim Talbott, director of consumer insights at Match.com, also suggests: “Keep your photos fresh, and swap out your primary photo frequently. You look like a new user and people who might have missed you before are more likely to give you a second look.” A final thought from Honey: “Don’t be tempted to airbrush your picture or present yourself looking too much better than you do in real life, and give group photos a miss to avoid confusion.”
2. Ask a friend to read your profile
It might feel a little awkward, but dating expert Peter Spalton says it’s a great idea to ask a friend to cast a fresh eye over what you’ve written – and not just to check your spelling. “We live in a soundbite society so the first 30 words of your profile really count,” says Peter. “Try to avoid clichés in your profile because, let’s face it, everyone wants someone who’s loyal and we all like walking on the beach at sunset. Ask your friend to keep an eye out for overused phrases.”
Honey adds: “It’s a good idea to emphasise your activities as people tend to be attractive to those who convey health and vitality.” It’s true – two of the most commonly used words in profiles on OkCupid are yoga and (slightly more intimidatingly) surfing. But running, skiing, tennis, dancing and cycling were also rated highly.
3. Don’t be Google-able
Just like meeting a stranger in real life, you have to stay safe when you’re online. Before giving away information such as job titles or personal details, think first about how those could be used to track you online.
“Be careful what you say about yourself,” says Honey. “Could someone use those details to find you on LinkedIn, for example? It is also possible to search using your image online, so use a photo that doesn’t appear anywhere else on the internet if you value your privacy.”
Denise Knowles fromsays a good guide is remembering that the same rules apply both on and offline. “Let a friend know where you’ll be and when, and arrange a time to text to let them know you’re OK,” she says.
4. Yes, message first
A lot of the outdated dating rules don’t apply, and sending the first message online is actively encouraged if you want to get your profile looked at. Peter Spalton says being proactive is key. “Set aside an amount of time every day and write a handful of tailored introductory messages to new people,” he says.
“It’s always obvious when someone is cutting and pasting the same general ‘hi’ message. Keep it short and avoid heavy talk in those early messages. We all have emotional baggage and now is not the time or place.”
5. Use it on Sunday
Sunday is the best time to get online. Research shows that peak time for users on Tinder, OkCupid and Match are all on a Sunday afternoon, especially after 5pm. Most experts recommend dedicating at least 30 minutes every evening to the process. “Set yourself a limit, but keep at it, it’ll be worth the effort,” says Peter.
6. Keep your options open
It might feel strange, but, as Honey says, don’t feel that you have to speak to one person at a time. “This is online dating, so most people will be talking to a few people at once. Don’t take that personally, just be honest about it. Meeting to see if there is any chemistry should not be too big a deal. You’re not monogamous just because you’ve been emailing each other for a couple of weeks.”
Which is why, Peter adds, it’s worth meeting up as quickly as possible. “Get to the first date as quickly as possible – you only need to exchange two or three messages before you suggest meeting – you won’t know if there’s anything between you until you’re face-to-face. After all this is about dating, not emailing.”
7. Try not to get disheartened
Along the way, you’ll almost certainly meet some duds. You can have matching profiles, get on like a house on fire over email, and then have zero chemistry in real life. But Honey says it’s important to stick with it.
“Online dating should be an enjoyable and fun experience. Don’t take it too seriously and prepare yourself to meet plenty of nice, friendly people who you absolutely don’t fancy. At some stage, there will be someone that you do. Many people go on around 30 dates before they meet someone they really fall for online. So try to keep that in perspective and enjoy the process.”