The Secret To Finding Love Online

In your search for the perfect mate, it’s not just where you look—it’s also how you look. Try these simple search strategies for fast, effective results.

By Laura Gilbert

wimming in a sea of millions of singles is an amazing feeling—that is, when you feel like you’re connecting with the right people. And how exactly do you know you’re reaching Mr. or Ms. Right? We’re glad you asked: Follow our five golden rules for profile searches and you’re more likely to turn up ideal mates—in fact, three of our experts actually met their spouses using these search strategies.

Search Strategy #1: Pick just a few important parameters
While it may be tempting to type in tons of ideal-date criteria in the hopes that your absolute one-and-only will magically appear, you’re better off establishing just a few hard-and-fast rules — you want a woman who wants kids or a guy with a college degree, for example — and leaving the other categories blank. Entering only your most basic must-haves
It may be tempting to type in tons of ideal-date criteria, but you’re better off with just a few hard-and-fast rules.
means you’ll get a full range of people you could click with, without having to compromise on the big issues. If you find you’re overwhelmed by how many results you get, clicking the “refine” button on the right-hand side of your search screen will let you easily see matches in any order you prefer—you can start with the youngest, the brunettes, or ones who work in the arts... it’s up to you. This lets you quickly view different ranges of possible dates without sacrificing any of your basic criteria.

Are many of the profiles you view just plain wrong for you? Remember, most happy couples you know probably don’t exactly fit their pre-wedding view of their ideal date. “You don’t want to turn someone away because of some little thing in their profile,” says Cherie Burbach, author of At The Coffee Shop: If You Thought E-dating Was For Freaks and Weirdos, Read this Book! She should know—when Burbach took out the “non-smokers only” part of her search, she met a man who hadn’t turned up in other searches because he smoked socially. “I’m now married to him and haven’t ever seen him smoke," she says. Also don’t despair if, say, you’re totally into kayaking and your prospective date has never set foot in one—he or she may be all too willing to try it, or maybe you two will develop another shared interest that can serve as a foundation for fun in your budding relationship.

Search Strategy #2: Go easy on height and weight constraints
Before you limit your potential dates to the slender set, know this: By doing so, you’re automatically rejecting over 60 percent of the U.S. population. And when it comes to height, ladies, you might want a six-foot-tall dude, but only 15 percent of guys in America actually reach that mark. “The biggest mistake I see singles making is limiting themselves by focusing on a specific physical type and getting hung up on it,” says Alon Gratch, Ph.D., author of If Love Could Think, a book about self-sabotaging dating patterns. “Men complain that overweight women write that they’re ‘average,’ but since most women are overweight, they’re not lying.” So, be gentle with your height and weight parameters and you might just meet someone who measures up in every other way—and who you’ll grow to be attracted to.

Search strategy #3: Expand your age and location limits
Someone’s age and their proximity to where you live may seem like important factors to set in stone. But when you think about it, does it really matter if someone’s 40 or 42? If the answer is no, you may want to consider broadening your age preference beyond your initial comfort zone. Many users, say experts, pick a number ending with a 5 or 0 as a cutoff mark for their ideal mate’s
Does it really matter if someone’s 40 or 42? If the answer is no, consider broadening your age preference beyond your initial comfort zone.
age—like 25, 30, or 40. Adding just a year or two extra on those criteria will give you access to members who usually get overlooked by thinking-inside-the-box types.

Same goes for location limits—honestly, are you going to pass up all those great people who live mere blocks outside your 20-mile radius? Or, for that matter, someone who’s perfect for you who lives in another state? People can — and do — move if they meet someone online they truly click with. Just ask Judsen Culbreth, author of The Boomers’ Guide to Online Dating: “My husband lived in another state, and we never would have crossed paths if the computer hadn’t matched us.”

Search strategy #4: Know all of your search options
Many online daters start off with a basic, or “quick search,” which finds you dates by guidelines like age, gender, and geography. This is great for your first search, when you’re still feeling out what your options might be. But once the kid-in-a-candy-store high wears off, users often narrow down their options with an “advanced search,” which lets you get specific about all the boxes members checked on their profile, from hair color to sense of humor. Or, if there’s something very particular you’re looking for, a “keyword search” scans the essays members fill out about themselves so you can find random mentions of hobbies, interests, background, or personality traits.

But keep in mind that your options don’t end there. If you want to find people who will be especially keen on meeting you, try a “reverse match,” which will show you people who’ve mentioned they’re looking for characteristics you fulfill to a tee. Finally, a “mutual match” pairs you with people who fit your criteria and whose descriptions match what you’re looking for
Know that for every three emails you send out, you’ll probably get one response back.
—a wise choice for someone who wants to boost his or her chances of racking up some successes. Your best overall strategy, according to the experts? It should include all of these options.

Search strategy #5: Don’t get discouraged
You’ve found your dream date—gorgeous, perfect, nearby, and an obsessive Lost fan just like you—and fired off an enthusiastic email. Days, then weeks pass... no response. Why not? True, that person might just not be into you, but you shouldn’t throw in the towel just yet. You may have reached the person during a particularly busy time at work, right after he or she joined an online dating site and was deluged with offers, or two days after the person started seeing someone seriously—any of these factors could have caused your missive to fall through the cracks. But these circumstances can change, and if weeks go by and someone stays lodged in your mind, don’t be afraid to drop him or her another email. Even if you still receive no response, or you get a polite but firm “thanks but no thanks,” don’t despair. “A 30 percent response rate is really good,” assures Kathryn Lord, a romance coach who met her husband online and is the author of Find A Sweetheart Soon! “You have to expect you’ll get a lot of ‘no’ responses.” The moral of the story: Search often (after all, new people sign up every day—maybe one of them is right for you); send out lots of winks and emails; and know that for every three you send you’ll probably get one response back. And who knows? Maybe that one will be The One.

New York City freelance writer Laura Gilbert admits she’ll send a note to anyone she finds in her searches who happens to drop an Arrested Development reference.
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