Online Dating: A New Way to Think About Branding, SEO and SEM

Online dating: spending money to find love online?

I’m a serial monogamist. The “dating” thing eludes me. Perhaps that’s why my list of clients remains long and my list of suitors short:

It’s by design.

See, my clients are after a target customer or demographic. Just like me when it comes to dating. After having been a paying customer or lurker on several online dating sites (’cause “it’s OK to look”), a conversation this week brought me to the realizations below about how I’ve handled my online presence in the world of romance. I was practicing my own best advice to my clients when it comes to branding, SEO and SEM practices — and I didn’t even know it.

For those out there reading this who aren’t savvy in the fields of marketing-speak throughout, have faith. I’ll give you fancy pop-ups and definitions to go with my online dating advice. And I guarantee, none of the links will lead to porn sites.

Shall we? Let’s put on our cybersuits and delve into the online dating pool.

Online Dating and Branding

You’re unique. Yeah, you’re real unique.

Everyone is “unique.” So why the hell are you so special?

A company that puts out a product or service that doesn’t differentiate itself from the competition is poised to fail from the get-go. Once in a blue moon, you find the rare instance of a wanna-be that ekes out an existence, but is that why you went into business in the first place? To eke?

Successful companies have a clear identity. A clearly-defined brand. Customers know what to expect, what they’re buying and the terms and conditions under which they’re acquiring that good or service. It’s no different in online dating.

Ladies:

  • Every one of us is “just as comfortable in a cocktail dress” as we are in jeans
  • We’re all looking for someone to laugh with
  • We all “work hard and play hard”
  • And everyone (well, I think most everyone) is looking for a man who will love them and, on occasion, make them feel like a princess.

Gents:

  • Most of you like sports, cars and beer
  • You’re all looking for an “honest, loyal” woman (i.e.: one that ain’t gonna cheat on you, and if she is, at least not with your best friend)
  • You want a girl you can “just hang-out with”
  • The majority of you don’t spend hours at the mall and would prefer that’s what a chick just went and did without you, leaving you to a day with guys doing whatever you feel (or DON’T feel) like doing.

Those are givens.

Since women aren’t looking for an overweight ogre who will use them merely as an automatic beer dispenser every time they head for the kitchen and men aren’t looking for clingy, psycho Glenn Close/Bunny Nemesis type, it’s time to do some research.

There are a multitude of online dating sites that let you scope-out the competition, so why not start running your personal life and search for Happily Ever After more like a business? Successful businesses understand their competition, so get online and do exactly what Match.com says is perfectly acceptable:

It’s OK to Look!

Get in there and take a tour of your “competitors” – the other people in your age, physical stature and life demographic. See what those folks are saying about themselves. I think you’ll be surprised how similar most of the profiles appear.

Now for the tough question: what makes YOU different?

Are you an irreverent smart-ass?
Do you collect 19th century coins?
Have you climbed Mt. Everest?
Are you a stark-raving Led Zepplin fan with a portrait of the entire band tattooed across your chest?

Your online dating profile should reflect both your core qualities and your quirks (ever read a bottle of Smart Water?) This is your love life, folks. If you’re going to actually go to the trouble of paying a membership fee (or not…lots of free sites out there…ew) and actively search for someone to share your valuable personal hours with, why not actually get something that resembles what you’re looking for?

A fair and honest representation of your personal brand – your personality – is the beginning of a more rewarding online dating endeavor. When someone checks out your profile, let them know what they’re getting, what your personal brand represents, and what they can expect if they actually earn the opportunity to meet you. And don’t get me started on photos. Post current photos that look like you, because when I go to the car dealership to buy a 2008 Honda Accord, I’m looking for the Accord I saw in the Saturday paper … not an ’86 Ford F-150 with the left side made entirely of bondo.

Truth in advertising. A key element of any successful brand.

Online Dating in SEO Terms

Truth in Advertising: photo by Natalie Dee

So, you log into your dating site du jour and it gives you a gazillion search options. Age, marital status, kids, eye color, hobbies … the list is endless. Guess what: those are keywords. Just as if you were on Google and shopping for the latest Star Trek boxed set of DVDs or the best deal on that indispensible Fendi purse, online dating  sites are nothing but glorified search engines for sex. (there, I said it)

In addition to those nifty “long tail URLs” (threw that one in there for the SEO geeks like me), your entire profile is a collection of keywords. When you sit down to write that “In Your Own Words” section or whatever the heck the dating sites are calling it these days, think of the words that describe the core of your person:

Irreverent Smart Asses: who are your favorite comics and TV shows?

19th Century Coin Collectors: uh, say you collect 19th century coins or list a favorite coin or something

Mt. Everest Climbers: words like alpinist, mountaineering, climbing, snow and hiking could be key

Tattooed Led Zepplin Fans: maybe mention the band by name and the fact that you have tattoos

Why is this important? Because several sites allow you to search by keyword.

If you think of the run-of-the-mill profiles you came across in your Research Phase (see Branding section above), who goes into an online dating site and searches for nice, cool, funny, or cars? Just as if you were in a regular search engine searching for something specific, make the words in your profile ring specific.

For example, when I would do keyword searches, I’d use terms like “rock climbing,” “mountaineering,” “alpine” and “climbing.” Found several nifty men with whom I had quite a bit in common, a few of with which I’ve enjoyed multiple dates and enduring friendships. A hell of a lot EASIER and MORE PRODUCTIVE than just putting in age and other general demographics and then having to trudge through the search results with a fine-toothed comb.

Optimize your dating profile for the same reasons businesses optimize their websites:

to attract a better-qualified lead.

Online Dating in SEM Terms

The majority of online dating sites have a membership fee. Personally, I like the minimum level of commitment that it takes a person to fork over whatever-ninety-nine a month to engage in the whole process. Kind of a low water mark, if you will.

So if you’re going to spend the money, why ya gonna screw around?

You’re online, you’re web-savvy. Perhaps you found the online dating site from a search engine query in the first place. You know those 3 listings in yellow at the top of the Google search results and all those little listings down the right-hand side of the page? Well, companies pay for those ads. Those are called pay-per-click (PPC) ads.

When someone clicks on one of those ads, the company who posted the ad pays a “per-click” fee to the search engine. In other words, those companies are paying to be seen at the top of the search results by consumers like YOU who are searching for what THEY sell. Companies also budget for these PPC campaigns in their monthly or annual marketing budget.

Just like online dating.

Your monthly membership fee is your PPC ad spend, or monthly advertising budget.

There’s a reason that Campmor, North Face and Patagonia come up in the paid search results when you search for “outdoor gear” – because these companies feel people searching for the term “outdoor gear” are a good spend of their advertising dollars. They’re consumers searching for something specific, something they have to sell, and it’s possible you could be a qualified lead and convert to a customer.

It’s time you started thinking of your online dating site membership as your monthly Pay-Per-Click advertising budget.

If you’re going to spend the dough on putting yourself out there for others to see in the online dating marketplace, wouldn’t it behoove you to have your marketing dollars attract qualified leads?

Wrapping it Up

Here are some tips that can help you make your online dating experience a well-crafted one from a Branding, SEO, and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) perspective. These all go back to the previous points I’ve mentioned and bring it all together in one convenient, vertitas-laden package of personal experience:

  • Build an accurate profile. Who are you? What drives you? Represent your personal brand well. There’s no one that brings to this world what YOU do, so put it out there and be proud. Post current photos, keep your profile updated if it’s taking longer to find Mr. or Ms. “Right Now.” Understand your competition and set out to represent yourself as the dynamic individual you are. Hell, even if you’re a twin – I guarantee you bring a floatie to the dating pool that your biological cohort doesn’t! Fair and accurate representation of your You Product ensures that, once your customer (i.e. date candidate) arrives, they’re entering into a fair business situation and not the “bondo dog” pictured above. Deception is NOT a great way to begin ANY relationship.
  • Don’t be afraid to be specific. Specific is GOOD! Successful companies and their associated brands understand that not every human who walks the face of the earth is the most qualified customer for their service/product. Be clear about what you’re looking for, keeping in mind what’s worked and hasn’t in your previous relationships (just like when making business decisions). Understand as well that if you’re looking for a 6’6″ Pacific Islander millionaire with three children from a previous marriage who collects lint from Arab princes, cooks like a five-star chef and watches 60 Minutes every night without fail – that’s going to limit your results. Being specific isn’t synonymous with being so narrow-minded that you’re setting yourself up to fail. Successful SEM and SEO tactics take into account the specificity of the market they’re approaching, and while Ford might be looking for truck buyers in general, they ain’t lookin’ for (and nor are they going to pay for) people who are looking for planes just because it’s “all transportation, right?”
  • Indulge in some good ‘ol A/B testing! Ever heard the saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? Not only should you review your profile on a regular basis, but if you’re not getting the results or traffic from people who fit what you’re looking for – change things up. Go in and edit that pain in the ass “about me” section. Add a new movie you’ve seen. Post a new profile. CHANGE YOUR PROFILE IMAGE! This is the oldest trick in the book, but it’ll often get you a second glance by someone who’d looked at you before (and maybe some new glances, too). Successful PPC campaigns undergo a certain level of A/B testing to fine-tune tactics so that dollars are spent in the most profitable areas and halted in those that aren’t performing.
  • Pay attention to keywords. Many online dating sites allow users to search member profiles by keyword. Me? I’m looking for a dude who is into the outdoors, alpine sports, rock climbing … all sorts of nutty activity. You bet your sweet ass those words are in any profile I write – because those folks are probably looking for me as well and they’re VERY important things in my life. If you think of your online dating profile as the business plan for your PPC campaign, abide by one rule of thumb: a PPC campaign is only as successful as the keywords associated with them. By using targeted and specific keywords, you’ll likely attract a more qualified contact and one that’s got a better chance of surviving your scrutiny. Wouldn’t it be great to have a date for that whatever-ninety-five a month instead of an inbox full of people who are 180 degrees from your target customer with no chance of converting?

I’m sure there are a ton of other parallels I could have drawn here relating the online dating game to these various marketing concepts and practices, and I’d love to hear what you have to say. Bottom line is, when you start treating online dating more like a business than a scratch-off lottery ticket from a 7-11, I think you’re going to be a lot more satisfied with the results.

Who the heck am I to talk? Well, as a subscriber to various online dating sites since my divorce in 2002, my endeavors with

The Head Redhead – your blog author

profiles where I did exactly what I’ve enumerated above have netted me:

  • Two long-term relationships totaling well over 4 years
  • A handful of wonderful men who have remained friends though not romantic interests
  • A clearer understanding of what’s important to me from a relationship standpoint
  • Money spent in the online dating arena wisely with better-than-average (I feel) results
  • Endless fodder for drinks with the girls

And apparently, the desire to write this blog and encourage feedback from the other folks wandering around out there in the online dating/social media world. Lay it on me, folks. I’m listening (in my best Frasier Crane voice).

20 comments
Aylesbury SEO Agency
Aylesbury SEO Agency

What a great analogy for SEO and SEM I ahve never seen it describe in this way before well done

Australian SEO Company
Australian SEO Company

very useful and great blogbut from experience, ppc's quite making it big for online dating sites - high expenses but ROI is

Jon
Jon

"The “dating” thing eludes me. Perhaps that’s why my list of clients remains long and my list of suitors short" Yep, it eludes me too... Except that in my case both lists are too damn short. The potential clients don't want to pay my quoted rates, the actual clients are... well... AWOL at the moment... and suitors? Well... yeah. Right. Perhaps I'm being too "narrow-minded" as you called it. :- Rewriting... sigh... probably something I need to do. On my online personal ad, my photography-related sites, and my social networking sites. Thanks for the info.

Jon
Jon

"The “dating” thing eludes me. Perhaps that’s why my list of clients remains long and my list of suitors short" Yep, it eludes me too... Except that in my case both lists are too damn short. The potential clients don't want to pay my quoted rates, the actual clients are... well... AWOL at the moment... and suitors? Well... yeah. Right. Perhaps I'm being too "narrow-minded" as you called it. :- Rewriting... sigh... probably something I need to do. On my online personal ad, my photography-related sites, and my social networking sites. Thanks for the info.

Bake My Fish
Bake My Fish

I have a 2008 Honda Accord. Black. Really nice car.

Bake My Fish
Bake My Fish

I have a 2008 Honda Accord. Black. Really nice car.

Sebastyne
Sebastyne

Interesting indeed. I am a big believer of online dating, and made quite a Brand for myself when I was doing it. I don't anymore, since I found my husband online. :) The profile wasn't big enough for me - I started a whole website from the point of view of what makes me so damned cool. My husband swallowed the whole thing with the hook and line and all. :p No seriously, it was what I was, and not only did it get me a husband, it got me a lot of friends and a very vibrant discussion board at the time, so yeah, it was very rewarding on many levels. :) I got some laughs out of people too, some thought I took dating way too seriously, but see who got the last laugh! :D

Sebastyne
Sebastyne

Interesting indeed. I am a big believer of online dating, and made quite a Brand for myself when I was doing it. I don't anymore, since I found my husband online. :) The profile wasn't big enough for me - I started a whole website from the point of view of what makes me so damned cool. My husband swallowed the whole thing with the hook and line and all. :p No seriously, it was what I was, and not only did it get me a husband, it got me a lot of friends and a very vibrant discussion board at the time, so yeah, it was very rewarding on many levels. :) I got some laughs out of people too, some thought I took dating way too seriously, but see who got the last laugh! :D

Steve N.
Steve N.

Great article. Can I hire you to write my profile? ;-)

Steve N.
Steve N.

Great article. Can I hire you to write my profile? ;-)

Wendie
Wendie

Love this, my fellow red-headed beauty! I shall be sure to use this in the future should the need arise. ;) xoxo Wen-Wen

Wendie
Wendie

Love this, my fellow red-headed beauty! I shall be sure to use this in the future should the need arise. ;) xoxo Wen-Wen

Cynical AH
Cynical AH

Very Well Done. I'm already formulating my keyword list. Handsome. Witty. Charming. Rich. Sensitive. Jimmy Choo. Is it OK if a couple stretch the truth?

Cynical AH
Cynical AH

Very Well Done. I'm already formulating my keyword list. Handsome. Witty. Charming. Rich. Sensitive. Jimmy Choo. Is it OK if a couple stretch the truth?

JB
JB

Hey great post, Red Head. I finally got you url from climber girl (our mutual twitter friend) and she sent it to me. I'm really looking for more and more SEO tips and marketing for my blog so reading this post was very helpful and I like how you use the dating scene to illustrate this. I subscribed and I'll be around as often as I can to read your tips. I like how you write and your tweets keep me entertained throughout the day. ~JB@TheLaunchingPad

JB
JB

Hey great post, Red Head. I finally got you url from climber girl (our mutual twitter friend) and she sent it to me. I'm really looking for more and more SEO tips and marketing for my blog so reading this post was very helpful and I like how you use the dating scene to illustrate this. I subscribed and I'll be around as often as I can to read your tips. I like how you write and your tweets keep me entertained throughout the day. ~JB@TheLaunchingPad

stephdub
stephdub

Not only am I a redheaded writer, I am a relationship and communication coach. This post was beautifully written and thought out. Thank you for your great perspective on dating life of today! <3

stephdub
stephdub

Not only am I a redheaded writer, I am a relationship and communication coach. This post was beautifully written and thought out. Thank you for your great perspective on dating life of today! <3

Paul Beiser
Paul Beiser

Erika, Wow, this is good! I have seen other authors (not many!) talk about a personal brand in the business-place, but not wrt on-line dating. Nice! I see lots of parallels in many ways. btw, excellent style and flow in the article - well written. As an aside, your key bullet points also apply to resumes :-)

Paul Beiser
Paul Beiser

Erika, Wow, this is good! I have seen other authors (not many!) talk about a personal brand in the business-place, but not wrt on-line dating. Nice! I see lots of parallels in many ways. btw, excellent style and flow in the article - well written. As an aside, your key bullet points also apply to resumes :-)

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