With an estimated 1,000 online dating sites in existence, it can be hard to sift through all the options and decide which is the best site. Being able to know how to evaluate a dating site is essential in the decision process, and it will bring you that much closer to finding a good match.
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POF.com, also known as PlentyOfFish, is an online dating site headquartered in Vancouver. It is one of the biggest dating sites with over 90 million registered users across the globe. It is also available in 5 different languages.
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OKCupid is one of the most popular dating sites and is free to sign up initially. It works with special algorithms that match users with potential dates. Launched in 2004, OKCupid works with many populations of people.
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Mingle2 is a membership service of which users pay to be a part. It was originally a service called JustSayHi, but the site transitioned to Mingle2 in 2008 and now works with many populations of singles.
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Zoosk is a singles dating app that uses a behavioral matchmaking engine to pair users who its system indicates will be a good match. The app is available in over 80 countries and has over 27 million searchable members.
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Match.com is one of the biggest dating services in the world. It launched in 1995 and is now available in 24 different countries. Members set up a profile, upload photos and can then search through profiles to find a good match.
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EHarmony began in Santa Monica in 2000. It uses a compatibility matching system to link up people with complementary personalities and lifestyles and has worked with millions of users over the past 15 years.
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Cupid.com is a dating site that allows members to search its site to find potential partners who share their same spiritual needs and desires. It encourages users to choose people to date rather than be matched with them.
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Chemistry, a dating site that is part of Match.com, is designed for people who are seeking help in getting to know someone online before meeting them for the first time. It has over 8 million users on its online database.
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Matchmaker.com is a dating service that has been operating since 1996. It focuses on singles in their 30s and up from all over the country and has thousands of men and women in its database that it helps to match.
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OurTime.com is a unique dating site specifically catered to people over 50. The company focuses on the interests of people in a certain age range who want a place to feel confident and comfortable while seeking a potential date.
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How much does it cost?
It is important to decide how much you can afford to pay before committing to a site.
- Total cost: An online dating site might be free, or have different payment levels. If there are different levels of membership and payment, check to see which features are included in each level and which features you find essential.
- Frequency of payments: The membership price might be a yearly, monthly, or quarterly amount. Recently, there has been many mobile dating apps that will let you pay by the action instead of by a set amount of time.
- Canceling the plan: It is important to read the fine print and to find out how easy or difficult it is to cancel a subscription. Getting trapped in an online website that isn’t producing viable dates can be frustrating.
What is the matching process?
Online dating websites offer a variety of methods on how to search for a mate. Some mobile apps will match you with people based on criteria, including age, gender, and geographic proximity. More traditional sites may offer anything from a simple search to a highly specific advanced search. Some more seriously minded sites request that members fill out elaborate compatibility questionnaires. Deciding which process is right for you will largely be determined by whether you’re looking for a casual friendship, relationship, or a lifelong partner.
- Geographic matches: Most dating sites offer a chance to look for the closest possible match. However, if you are currently looking to meet someone in close proximity, many of the mobile dating apps will provide you with your best results with little to no cost.
- User-generated matches: Unless you are using a site specifically meant for a casual or very serious relationship, it has become an industry standard to offer members the chance to whittle down the potential matches. Dating sites do this based on preferences such as income, smoking and drinking, if the match has kids and whether he or she has ever been married.
- In-depth compatibility: There are some dating sites that ask members to fill out detailed questionnaires designed to choose matches based on compatibility. eHarmony and Match.com are two famous examples of this type of dating site.
Is the dating site niche?
If you have a very specific set of interests, there are many sites that may cater to your niche. Some of these niche sites are Farmersonly.com, MillionaireMatch.com, Geek2Geek.com, JDate, Dandy, Pinksofa.com, ChristianMingle and PositiveSingles.
- Demographic niches: These sites can cater to people who are only interested in dating within a specific religion, income level, race and more.
- Lifestyle niches: These sites focus on daters looking for matches based on attractiveness level, occupation, same sex relationships, people that are STD positive and more.
- Age-based niches: These sites are for people of a specific age. Currently Baby boomers, those over 50, are overwhelmingly turning to the web to find a mate. Sites like Match.com and POF.com offer members a chance to search specifically for the age group that interests you, but SeniorPeopleMeet.com and OurTime.com are the two largest sites designed specifically for the baby boomer market.
What are the privacy safeguards?
Depending on the dating site, all other members might be able to see your profile and message you. Check to see what safeguards are put in place by the site, and which ones you can enable to limit those who sees your profile.
- Limiting who sees your profile: Does the site allow just the bare minimum of your profile to be seen in search results? Some sites wait until you favorite, wink, or in some way OK a member before they can see your whole profile. That said, it is important that you only share information in your profile that you are okay with a stranger being able to see.
- Keeping the search results wide open: If your goal is to meet someone in the immediate future for a casual drink or get together, the best option would be mobile dating apps like Tinder, JSwipe and many others. These apps allow you to quickly find similarly minded people. On most dating sites, you can use a sort feature to see which members are currently online right now and available to talk.
Is the dating process safe?
Most dating sites have become extremely good about policing their members for negative or unsafe behavior. There are several sites that offer additional levels of security including background checks and photo verification.
- Social Verification: Many sites employ a method known as social verification to help prevent wrongdoers from gaining access to you. This goes above and beyond just asking for your email. Many sites now ask you to verify your identity through your FaceBook or Google+ login. This, combined with highly trained scammer prevention teams, have made online dating safer than it has ever been.
- Photo Verification: Several sites now offer members a chance to prove their identity by sending additional material. This includes emailing a photo of the member, holding a piece of paper, with a set of numbers that has been randomly generated by the site. Other members do not see this, but it allows the site's staff to confirm their identity.
- Safe from hackers: Check to make sure the site has employees SAFE technology so your vital information is safe. If it is a paid site, make sure it is a secure site before entering your credit card information.
What are the main features?
The features of the dating site should be the features you want and will use, especially if it is a paid site. These features could include private emails, proximity search, chat rooms and more.
- Features to help refine search results: Look to see which features will help whittle down the pool of suitors. These are keyword searches, mutual matching, reverse matching, the ability to save and favorite certain profiles and more.
- Mobile applications: Most dating sites now offer a mobile version that can be downloaded through the Apple or Android stores. When considering a site, it is best to also test their mobile app to see if it can help streamline your dating experience. Additionally, there are several dating apps that only exist in the mobile format. Before downloading, it is best to check for recent reviews on their download pages.
- Communicating with members: Dating sites and apps allow you to communicate in several ways ranging from "winking at someone" to setting up a video chat with a prospective date. Research which methods are available on a site and make sure they fit with your needs.
- Outside events: An online dating site might set up outside events such as mixers or speed dating to pair members. There might be an extra charge to attend these events, or it might be included within the price of the membership.
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Traditional Dating Sites
These sites have the broadest appeal and generally the largest membership bases. They tend to attract a wide variety of members with personal goals that range from a casual fling to a serious lifelong relationship. Some of these sites include Match.com, OKCupid and POF.com.
These dating sites are geared towards people looking to meet up with someone for drinks as friends, or more spur-of-the-moment dates. Some of these sites include HowAboutWe, Tinder and Badoo.
Marriage or long-term relationship
These are the dating sites that delve into compatibility and really try to find a love match for their members. eHarmony and ChristianMingle.com are two leaders in this category.
Focusing on a narrow pool of candidates, these online dating sites help match people up with someone of a similar religion, profession, or sexual orientation. Examples within this category include Jdate for Jewish singles, Geek2Geek and Farmersonly for farmers and the people who want to meet them.
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Anyone struggling to find a partner in their day to day life
A 2013 study shows that nearly 60% of all new marriages in the USA started with the couple meeting online. The explosion of Niche and mobile dating solutions has made online dating more convenient and efficient than any other time in the history of the industry.
Meeting people in a new town can be challenging. When you haven't found local friends or aren't sure which spots are the best to meet quality singles, it’s oftentimes easier to dip your toe in the online dating pool first. This is also a good way to get to know people in your new town and meet friends, not just potential romantic partners.
Whether it is your work schedule or just a hectic life, online dating offers a convenient 24 hour a day solution for people in search of new friends, dates, or more.
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Match.com is one of the biggest and best-known online dating sites in the United States. It has been helping singles find partners since 1995, it now serves people in over 24 countries with sites in 15 different languages.
- Best for People looking for long-term relationships, people looking for short-term relationships, and people looking for a large dating pool.
Fidelity Dating offers online dating services to people who have been cheated on in past relationships and for those who seek honest and faithful relationships. The company is run by two authors who are experts on infidelity.
- Best for Newly single people and people seeking long-term relationships.
Matchmaker.com, launched in 1996, is one of the oldest dating sites on the Internet. The company is intended for users 35 and older.
- Best for Single young people looking for a relationship, and divorcees or widows/widowers looking for new love.
Date2020 is a completely free online dating service that operates based on the idea that 21st century dating is different than dating prior to the digital revolution. It offers psychological questions to help eliminate incompatible partners before users receive matches.
- Best for People looking for a long term relationship and people who are frustrated with traditional dating.
OKCupid.com is a free site that offers members the ability to upgrade their experience by subscribing to a premium membership. Created in 2004, the site serves millions of members through a unique profile format and optional question and answer section.
- Best for People looking for long-term relationships, people looking for short-term relationships, and people looking for a large dating pool.
eHarmony is the largest dating site geared specifically towards long-term relationships and marriage minded singles. They claim to be responsible for over 500 new marriages every day in the US.
- Best for People looking for long-term relationships and marriage.
POF.com, also know as Plenty of Fish, is the largest completely free online dating site.
PositiveSingles is the leading online dating site for singles who have tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease. Along with its dating component, PositiveSingles is an active support group and educational resource for its members.
- Best for People who have tested positive for an STD/STI, and are looking for friendship, short-term or long-term relationships.
OurTime is the largest dating site created specifically for the baby boomer market.
- Best for Singles over 50 years of age who are seeking friendship, short-term or long-term relationships.
Tinder is a mobile dating app that can be downloaded and used for free. It is currently the largest and most popular dating app online with over 50 million downloads. It is best known for its extremely popular swiping feature.
- Best for People looking for new friends, casual connections, short-term relationships, and people looking to meet someone within hours of first contact.
Founded in February 2015, The Heart Market is an online matchmaking service that helps users find prospective partners. Their primary platform is hosted on the web, but access to the site is also available on mobile and tablet devices. They strive to make their online dating site as safe as possible by carrying out background checks on all applicants.
- Best for Single people looking to date, single people looking for a selective online dating community and single people looking for love.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.