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How to Choose an Online Dating Service


So you're ready to try online dating, however the question beckons in your mind, "What Online Dating Service should I select?" After all, there are thousands of services to select from.

To make that answer easier, it's first important to understand the differences between online dating services. There are five specific types of services:

1) General Online Dating Services
General online dating services are mainstream sites that give you full searchable access to their database. You are the key determinant in who you select to date. Such services include, Yahoo! Personals,, FriendFinder, LavaLife, and American Singles.

2) Relationship Services
Relationship services have you first fill out an in-depth compatibility test (that usually takes 90 minutes to complete), then use that test to match you with others. Unlike general online dating services, you don't have control over who you are matched with. You can only communicate with people the service says are compatible with you. The biggest relationship service is eHarmony, which is also responsible for up to 33,000 marriages a year, according to one study. Seeing eHarmony's success as a relationship service prompted to enter the arena with its own relationship service, Both PerfectMatch and Matchmaker are now trying to position themselves as relationship services.

3) Niche Online Dating Services
There are thousands of niche online dating services that target specific interests and passions. The theory behind these sites is that if you can find someone as passionate about something as you are, then it will help the relationship succeed. For example, if you're passionate about animals, there's AnimalAttraction. If you're into a vegetarian lifestyle, there's Green Friends. Are you rich or have a thing for rich people? Then try Millionaire Match. Over the age of 50? How about Senior Match? If you're into the gothic lifestyle, there's Gothic Match. The possibilities are endless. When I appeared on MSNBC's "The Situation with Tucker Carlson," I even let him know there was a dating site for women who love men that wear bow ties. However, he indicated he was happily married, although he enjoyed his research into the topic of discussion.

4) Social Networking Sites
Social networking sites like MySpace are becoming more popular for not only forming friendships, but also going out on dates. It is estimated that social networking services took up 2% of the online dating marketplace in 2005 and that number is only growing. What people like about social networking sites is that most are free and millions of people are using them. Some of these social networking sites are aiming to introduce more dating concepts, which could deal a huge blow to online dating services that are charging $49 or more a month. Other popular social networking sites include Friendster and Orkut.

5) Merging Online Dating Services
Merging online dating services employ both online and offline techniques to help you find love. Two sites, Peek a Bio, and Chick N Chit allow you to post a private profile then print out cards (like business cards) that you can hand to people you run into offline so that they can go online and learn more about you. The cards contain the Website URL and your handle to give them full access to your profile and the ability to communicate with you from there. Hopefully we don't start seeing these appear on windshields!

In order to select an online dating service that is right for you, you must first know what your goals are. Are you out just to date or to find a serious relationship. Know what you want so that you can sign up for a dating service that best meets your needs then meet up with others that match what you are looking for.

There's nothing wrong with signing up for more than one service. For example, you may want to try out eHarmony and at the same time and see which type of service serves you best. Be sure to review some vital profile tips and online dating tips in order to maximize your success.


Joe Tracy is an online dating expert and the publisher of Online Dating Magazine. He is also editor of the Relationship Views newsletter.

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