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Online Dating Sites | Compare Free and Paid Services

Updated on April 12, 2013

by Kathy Batesel

Are you on Cupid's list this year?
Are you on Cupid's list this year? | Source

Dating Site Personality Plays a Role in Your Success

Online dating sites have personalities. Finding a compatible one may be easier than finding a soul mate, but understanding a site’s uniqueness can help make the quest to find a companion easier. Here’s the lowdown on the most popular paid and free sites.

Subscription Sites - What Do You Get For Your Money?

eHarmony, Match, and Friend Finders allow limited or no access to profiles of members until members have paid. This may sound unappealing, but there are distinct advantages to using subscription sites.

Men and women who belong to these sites tend to be more transparent about their relationship goals. A higher percentage of users are looking for committed relationships. Members tend to be more mature and have higher incomes than people who frequent free sites. Finally, specialty services help users succeed.

eHarmony, for instance, boasts that more than 5% of all marriages are couples who met on the site. When joining, members complete a detailed questionnaire that purports to match them with compatible partners. Conversation-starters using multiple choice and open-ended questions make introductions easier.

Match uses an algorithm to identify areas of compatibility to advertise potential matches to users, who then preview the profiles sent. Upon choosing the “I’m interested” option, his or her profile is then sent to the previewed party with an invitation to send a message. Men and women who feel nervous contacting a stranger may feel reassured when they know their target already finds them appealing. The site also offers articles and suggestions for online dating, and uses its co-branded, optional Chemistry personality inventory to provide extra information about users.

Both Match and the Friend Finder networks provide users with access to niche sites. Match’s sister sites include, Black People Meet, and Senior People Meet. Adult Friend Finders, Senior Friend Finders, Amigos, and Big Church are associated with the Friend Finder network. By cross-marketing member profiles, users gain exposure to people who never signed up on the same site but have shared characteristics that may interest each other without paying extra.

Friend Finder members often use the sites’ forums to establish social events for singles. This is ideal for members who prefer to meet others in a group setting to avoid awkwardness or increase safety.

Critics complain that the Friend Finders network doesn’t purge its database of defunct user profiles, and that many fake profiles of women attempt to lure users to pornography sites. Sites geared toward adults may have a higher percentage of people looking for regular sexual partners but aren’t interested in developing relationships.


Free Online Dating

OK Cupid and Plenty of Fish offer unrestricted access.

Plenty of Fish members frequently organize and advertise local singles events. Like the group events found on the Friend Finder network, this permits users with a low-risk way to make friends of both sexes. The site does not offer tools for gauging compatibility, but actively promotes users based on their most recent log in and photographs, which helps users anticipate whether another member is actively using the site. Communication takes place entirely be onsite e-mail until members exchange personal information.

OK Cupid offers both science and fun to help members get matched. Users can create fun or informative quizzes on any topic they can imagine. Members can view another’s quiz results (depending on privacy settings) to better understand that person’s personality. A database containing hundreds, if not thousands, of questions uses a proprietary algorithm to compare individuals and identify whether they’d get along well as friends, romantic partners, or both. Live one-on-one chat is also available to members.

Members of these sites sometimes want long-term relationships, but a high percentage of them are looking for no-strings affairs. They may be younger and less financially secure. Free sites are often avenues for scam artists preying on lonely singles, so users should avoid ever sending money to or traveling outside their native country to meet someone.

Which online dating sites have you used the most?

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Tips for Online Dating Success

Many of these suggestions are simple common sense, but a surprising number of people neglect to pay attention to the basics: Look your best, be ready to uphold your end of the conversation (without overpowering it!), and stay safe. Let's take a look at each of these individually....


Dress for the occasion, and do it well. Going to an expensive dinner requires different clothing than a date to go hiking, obviously, but in both cases, accessorize your wardrobe to show your new acquaintance that you take care of details and yourself.

Tasteful jewelry, belts, and a lightweight, subtle cologne are three easy ways to send this message. (To show your date that you're also considerate and build their anticipation a bit, let them know that you'd like to wear cologne but want to ensure they're not allergic to it!)

Each of these four items has been hand-selected as suitable for a wide array of occasions ranging from very casual to extra elegant.

Dinner Talk: 365 engaging conversation starters to help you and your family connect
Dinner Talk: 365 engaging conversation starters to help you and your family connect

Sample question: What would your life be like if you could be invisible?


Now That You Look Your Best

Hold up your part of the conversation!

Shyness isn't an excuse. You've agreed to a date so you can get to know someone, so be ready to talk already! Better yet, sit back and listen if you're the reticent type, but be prepared to ask questions that inspire conversation, just in case your date's also on the quiet side.

These books offer conversation topics suitable for a new date. You don't even have to read the whole book - just pick three or four questions that you can ask your love interest. They'll make you appear witty and charming, while helping you both get to know each other better.

MTW-800 - Black Stun Gun 6.8 Million Volts - Rechargeable with Flashlight.
MTW-800 - Black Stun Gun 6.8 Million Volts - Rechargeable with Flashlight.

Not available in all areas. Read product reviews carefully to determine if this is the right tool for you.


Online Dating Tip #3

Stay safe!

Always tell a friend where you're going and what time you'll be back. Even though it's unlikely to happen, meet your date in a public place the first time to minimize the risk of getting burglarized or raped later if your potential partner turns out to be a less-than-savory character.

You may also decide to ask a friend to call you at a certain time. If you ask them to listen for a certain key word, you'll be able to alert them to problems so they can take appropriate action. Of course, taking phone calls is rude when you're on a date, so if you use this technique, be sure to cut the call as short as possible and ignore any other calls you receive. (This is especially true if you're having a great time with your new love interest!)

When driving home from you date, ensure that you're not being followed. If you are, call 911 from your cell phone or drive to a police station instead of going directly home.

Using your head is nearly always your best way to stay safe, but sometimes you can get caught unaware - while walking to or from your car, for instance. These items can help you escape dangerous situations when your words won't work.

Note: The author once worked at a maximum security prison. Her state-run facility armed corrections officers inside the compound with 10% oleoresin capsicum (pepper spray.) No other weapons were issued inside the walls. The pepper spray shown here is 17% - quite a bit stronger - and should NEVER be used in someone's face if you're not in danger. In other words, do NOT test it on your pals. It can cause allergic reactions that may prove fatal.

What Others Are Doing

What steps do you take to protect yourself?

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Are you an online dater? What are your experiences?

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