The Art of Creating an Online Dating Profile

Marcela Otero
Mar 16, 2017

Even if you’ve been dating online fairly successfully for years, there is always room for improvement, and ways to make your interaction rate skyrocket.

The will-o’-the-wisp that is the perfect online profile, whether it be for a more casual hook-up app like Tinder or a serious matching site like eHarmony, is so elusive that there are people who actually charge for the service. It turns out, every single word you write can have a positive or negative impact on your match potential.

For instance, have you ever wondered why, despite your OkCupid profile explicitly stating you’re not that into polyamory, you keep getting at least two or three couples a month checking you out and inviting you to test-run them? Just having the word “polyamory” in there is making you show up in their matches, as the OkCupid algorithm makes all the words you use searchable individually.

Username - It turns out that your screen name, on websites that don’t encourage you to just use your real one, is a lot more important than you’d think. Names with positive associations –think “fun” or “cutie” for women and “cultured” or “perceptive” for men– tend to get more responses than “bug” or “little”. Surprisingly, using letters that are at the beginning of the alphabet also rated better, since several measures of success, such as educational attainment and income are linked to names higher up in the alphabet.

Photos - Every website and app we looked at coincides in the crucial importance of good, up-to-date photographs, preferably with a genuine smile that crinkles up the eyes. Women seeking men get a boost if they wear red, and tend to find men more attractive when there are other women smiling at him in the picture. Gay men do better when their pictures are in nature. Women over 30 saw a rise in interest if their profile pic shows a tasteful bit of cleavage, greatly reducing the interest disparity with younger women. Be sure to include some pictures with other people, where you’re all having a good time. Also, remember to include one picture where you’re looking normal and not totally primped and salon-ready. You don’t want to be accused of misrepresenting yourself when you meet face-to-face.

Be interesting - This may sound ambiguous, and it is. OkCupid found that if your profile pic showed an interesting image that’s unusual, sexy or mysterious, it didn’t matter if it was of your feet. People will still show an interest, and that initial bait will be even more piquing if it’s matched with atypical interests. For both women and men, keywords that refute gender stereotypes –such as “electronics” for females and “children” or “craft” for males– generate more positive results in the opposite sex.

Headline message or Bio - Stay away from unnecessary, overcomplicated wordiness! It’s off-putting and pretentious, but for men, using “whom” –even incorrectly– gets you around 31% more contacts from the opposite sex. Readability and ease of information processing increases likeability. Research shows that a 70/30 ratio of who you are and what you’re looking for generates the most hits. What holds true for every undergrad creative writing course is still applicable: show, don’t tell. So, instead of saying you’re funny, demonstrate it with an amusing anecdote.

Stay pro-active - A good rule to remember for any site is that the more often you update your profile, the better your chances of showing up in search results. So, get your friends to take pictures of you when you go out, and not just on your own, but showing how fun and cool you are. The time you post or log in also affects your views, particularly for casual-connections apps. Sundays are for lovers, apparently, but peak hours may vary, depending on your region.

Hobbies - Surfing and yoga rank very highly as desirable activities for both men and women, regardless of sexual orientation. Women mentioning tattoos and “my cats”, no surprise, did badly. Men with tattoos, however, are high scorers.

Taste - Keeping up with popular culture makes you seem more interesting: “Homeland” and “Arrested Development” are good key tv shows, while “Pulp Fiction” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” do very well for film. Radiohead is, across the board, the most popular and safe choice in music.

Texting & Punctuation - This may seem like common sense, but periods at the end of single sentence texts, though perfectly good grammar, can seem to indicate disinterest and a desire to end the interaction. Be wary of exclamation points and question marks, as too many can make you seem desperate. Semicolons are the mark of a nitpicky personality, which is a most definitely unattractive trait. Apostrophes are unnecessary unless specifically for comprehension, as in “I’ll” vs “Ill”. Don’t censor swear words with asterisks, for the same reason. Rule of thumb for asterisks is to use them only in the case of a misspelled word that might make you seem weird or creepy –damn you, spellcheck–, or possibly to be funny and convey the punchline of a joke. Emoticons are great, great, great!; but in moderation. Last but not least, tildes are super acceptable, if you’re writing in Spanish, but don’t go overboard and seem like a grammar nazi.

Children - If you’re a parent, this is a difficult one. It really does depend on what you’re using the platform for. If it’s a one-time fling sort of thing, you have no need to disclose your kids, as you really ought to try and keep that separate. However, if you’re trying to find Mr./Mrs./Ms. Right, being upfront about your parenting status is important, just maybe without holding it up in someone’s face. After all, any date could potentially be a part of your kids’ lives. A good way to slip their existence into your profile could be something like: “I enjoy baking with my kids, who live with me (insert the appropriate term) of the time.”

Religious Beliefs & Deal Breakers - Unless you’re on a specifically religious website or app, or your faith is absolutely a deal breaker for you, for heaven’s sake don’t mention God. It’s the single most off-putting subject, across the board. Shopping lists of requirements are also singularly unappealing.

Be honest! - Most importantly, don’t lie or embellish the truth. If your match results in a face-to-face meeting, he/she is going to know if you’re twenty years older or 30 pounds heavier than you said in your profile.  Some fluffing is to be expected, but blatant, all-out lies are unacceptable, and may get you banned from some platforms. We cannot emphasize this enough!

Now that you’re armed with these tips and can fully optimize your new or existing profiles, head on over to our 10 Best of 2017, and start dating!