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Inside The Online Dating Industry
by Joe Tracy, publisher of Online Dating Magazine

A Look at the Five Different Types of Online Dating Services

The online dating industry is a very competitive marketplace as more than one thousand dating services compete for market share. But unlike Abraham Lincoln's famous "All Men Are Created Equal" speech, not all online dating services are created equal.

At the moment there are five different types of online dating services. Today we'll explore these different types of services.

1) General Online Dating Services
General online dating services encompass the bulk of the marketplace and hold the greatest market share. These are sites like Match.com, LavaLife, Udate, and FriendFinder. In essence, these services give you full access to their member database. You sign up and can instantly browse any profile you want to find the right person. Some services will offer optional tests, quizzes, or guides to help you find what you're looking for, but you always have the option to expand your search as wide as you want.

2) Relationship Services
Relationship services were formed to help people who are more serious about finding a "soulmate". Generally, these services target 'marriage-minded" people. The two biggest are eHarmony.com and Chemistry.com. Interestingly enough, Chemistry.com is owned by Match.com. Match.com simply wanted to expand its presence to reach the same group of people that have made eHarmony so successful. Relationship services force you to fill out an in-depth personality profile that usually takes anywhere from 40-90 minutes to complete. Your answers are then used to calculate what type of people you are most compatible with. The service then provides you with only those matches. Unlike General Online Dating Services, you don't have access to everyone's profile - only those the service finds you best match up with.

3) Social Networking Sites
Social networking sites provide a way to connect with old friends while making new ones. They are also becoming an increasingly more popular place to meet people to date. The largest of the social networking sites are MySpace. Others include Friendster and Orkut.

4) Niche Online Dating Services
Niche online dating services are sprouting up like crazy. These services look for one common denominator that people must share in order to be a part of the service. For example, TrekPassions.com is a niche online dating service for Star Trek and scifi fans. CatholicMatch.com is for people who are catholic. AnimalAttraction.com is for pet lovers. There are literally hundreds of these sites aimed to connect people who share a particular passion or belief.

5) Merging Online Dating Services
The newest type of online dating services to crop up are Merging Online Dating Services which merge aspects of the offline and online dating environment. For example, two new services (Peek a Bio and Chick n Chit) allow you to put a profile on their Website then print cards with your handle name and the site URL. When you run into someone interesting you can give them one of these cards so that they can learn more about you online then contact you through the service. In the months and years to come you'll see many more Merging Online Dating Services hitting the market, trying to more closely tie in the offline experience with your online experience.

For users, the growing types of online dating services is providing a wider selection to achieve their dating goals. But as the types of services grow, the overall take of the pie begins to shrink. For example, we can already see signs of Social Networking Sites cutting into the online dating pie. The draw, of course, is that the majority of Social Networking Sites are free.

For general online dating services and relationship services to be able to hold onto their position, it is vital that they improve customer services and develop techniques to help spread positive word of mouth. New public relations and advertising strategies will have to be used, but also accompanied with better user experiences and an outlet for users to share their success with others.


Tip of the Week
It's time for the fifth tip in improving your user base. This week we're going to focus on a traffic generation technique.

Tip #5: Write Content for Other Websites
The one thing all Websites have in common is the need for content. Websites need content and you need traffic. So why not provide original content to other Websites in exchange for a link to your online dating service? If you're a good writer with some good concepts then many information sites would be more than happy to publish some of your original articles in exchange for a link to your service. Now and then even Online Dating Magazine will accept a submission that is well-written and provide a link in exchange for payment.

The key is to work out a deal with popular information sites to whereas you'll write articles in exchange for the link. Then you'll be able to promote your service in your bio line at the end of the article ("John Doe is president of online dating service doelovers.com"...). People who read the article will then have the opportunity to visit your site, providing you with increased traffic. And the more you write, the more traffic you'll get.



Joe Tracy is publisher of Online Dating Magazine and is often quoted by the media in relation to online dating topics. His Inside the Online Dating Industry column is published every Friday.


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