Gone are the days when you had to lie about meeting your significant other through a dating app. As smartphones have transformed the way we look for love, swiping left and right to choose a potential partner has gradually become the new normal. But with so many people searching for a soulmate on these apps and sites, how can you stand out from the crowd? These expert tips, inspired by advice from the app-creators themselves, will improve your chances of matching with the right person.
Choose your photos wisely
First impressions matter, and nothing makes a better dating-profile impression than a great photo. As you set up your profile, take your time choosing shots that show off your looks and hint at your personality.
At the very least, you need a couple establishing shots that potential matches can use to recognize you when you finally meet up in person. Look for at least one good close-up of your face and one more distant snap that shows a fuller view of your body. In these photos, your features should be clearly visible, so avoid images where sunglasses cover your face or you have completely different facial hair. In addition, don't try to fool the viewer with old photos—stick to snaps dating from the past few years. You should choose your default photo from one of these shots.
In addition, you can include more than just two photos (although you don't want to go overboard with too many). Once you've established what you look like, dig up some pictures of yourself cuddling a pet or participating in a hobby you enjoy. World travelers, this is the time to show off those vacation shots. Just make sure you're in them—you don't want long-distance shots where you can barely be seen, or random images where you don't appear at all.
You can also include a photo of yourself hanging with friends, but be careful with these: If a potential date doesn't even know which face in the frame belongs to you, they're likely to move on pretty fast. Avoid blurry photos with too many faces, and don't make a group shot your default image.
Finally, bear in mind that you might not make the best judge of your own face. When you're choosing between pictures, ask one or two close friends for advice on the images that show you in the best light.
Work on your bio
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the text of your profile is still important. According to Tinder exec Rosette Pambakian, men are 98 percent less likely to get a match if they leave their bios blank. Even if you're the loveliest person in the world, a missing bio—or a terrible one—will not grab the attention of the matches you want.
Some apps give you room for a full-length autobiography, while others limit you to a line or two. No matter how much space you're working with, you should start by thinking about what your personality is like and what unique traits make you different from other people. Also look at other profiles to see what types of descriptions pique your interest. Then invest some time and effort into describing yourself, your hobbies, and your goals. As with photos, getting a friend to look over what you've put together can flag any potential problems.
Unfortunately, we can't give you a magic formula for a great bio. But we can point out some things to avoid: Generic openers, too much boasting, and attempts at awkward humor. You should also avoid making your profile run too long—viewers have short attention spans, so they probably won't read your whole life story.
In addition, remember to follow the rule of "show don't tell." Instead of describing yourself with a long list of adjectives, Match.com recommends talking about what you do and which activities you enjoy. If you're altruistic, talk about your volunteer work; if you're an adrenaline junkie, mention your latest foray into sky-diving. Then potential suitors will be able to judge whether you're "funny" or "adventurous" for themselves, rather than requiring that you spell it out explicitly.
Oh, and if you find yourself bouncing around an app for several months or years, remember to update your profile to keep it relevant. If your profile still references your 2014 road trip as if it's recent history, other users will get the impression that you're not actually on the site very often.
Expand your expectations
Once you've created an awesome profile, it's time to start looking for partners. With the sheer number of people using these apps, picky daters could genuinely scroll through their options looking for their perfect matches forever. In fact, that overwhelming number of possibilities can distract you from the awesome profiles that are right in front of you.
According to eHarmony, many users find a match after taking a chance on someone they hadn't originally considered. Perhaps they had ruled out this person as not fitting their ideal criteria, such as fitting into an age range or sporting a certain hairstyle. To find the right person, these users had to venture outside their dating comfort zone.
While you should go into your search with a general idea of the type of person you're looking for, bear in mind that the more restrictions you put on a potential future partner, the harder it'll be to find them. So if you haven't been able to find a good match with your current criteria, it may be time to broaden your search terms. While you'll still need to balance between being too picky and not being discerning enough, a little flexibility can make all the difference.
If you find yourself on the dating scene for an extended period of time, you may get tired of your current app. However, you should still keep your profile up to date, and while you're at it, remember to regularly log in, run searches, and send messages. Even if you're not seriously looking for love at the moment.
Why bother? Just like the Facebook algorithms that determine what appears in your News Feed, dating-app algorithms take in every like, swipe, and chat you submit. Every action you take on a site or an app reveals more about your preferences and allows you to receive more likely matches. Conversely, when you fail to check the app regularly, it will stop sending accurate or popular profiles your way.
These smart algorithms even extend as far as looking at how many unread messages languish in your inbox. So keep your account in good standing and participate regularly. This will increase your chances of striking it lucky in the near future.
Know your apps
Once you've settled into a rhythm with your dating app, check out all the features it offers. Otherwise, you might miss out on useful tricks for finding good matches.
In Tinder, for example, check out the Edit Profile section of the app to find options like the ability to import your Instagram photos directly into your profile. To spread your Tinder profile's reach, you can also create a web version of it, then share its URL in email messages, on social networks, or even on your business card. Within the app, tap your profile icon on the top left, select Settings, scroll down to the Web Profile heading, and choose Claim yours.
In general, you should check out the FAQs on dating apps' websites to learn more about improving your experience with that specific service. OKCupid, for instance, encourages you to improve the quality of your matches by answering a series of questions about yourself and the type of person you're looking for. To feed this data into the OKCupid algorithm, tap your profile icon (the portrait), then scroll down to Questions, where you can choose to Answer or Skip any that appear. Once you've answered more than a dozen or so, you unlock a new Personality Traits section for your profile. This tells visitors how you rank against the general OKCupid population in various categories like friendliness, politeness, and spirituality. You might get a green arrow for above-average artiness, for example, or a gray arrow for below-average adventurousness.
If you've exhausted all your options in a popular app like Tinder or OKCupid, and you're still not finding the people you'd like to date, consider a specialized app more suited to your needs. Maybe try Bumble, where women rather than men must make the first move. Those who like in-person meetups might create a profile on Huggle, which attempts to match you with people who hang out in the same places—say the bar or the gym—as you do. Believers can find apps that cater to specific religions. And if you'd like to limit the amount of swiping you do per day, consider Coffee Meets Bagel, which delivers a small selection of pre-selected matches every day at noon.
What about subscription-based versus free apps? The data suggests that finding the right site and persevering with it is more important than whether or not that site happens to be free. So test out a few services (paid-for apps often offer free trials), and then commit to the one you like best.