starting a dating site
Promote Dating is aimed at making money as a dating affiliate. Now you might be thinking I’ve strayed off-topic here, but actually I’ve chosen to write about a business model which has the potential to earn you the most as a dating affiliate.

What I’ll be talking about is the free dating site model used on sites like PlentyOfFish.com and Craigslist.org. Markus Frind (PlentyOfFish.com) earns $10,000 a day in google adsense revenue and craiglist.org is currently ranked #45 in Alexa. Clearly, these type of sites are popular.

I call this approach the bare bones dating site model. The idea could not be more simple. Attract masses of people by giving them a basic free dating experience and monetize by offering them a more advanced experience with your affiliate sponsors.

Market Research

The key to market research here is identifying a market demand that we can potentially satisfy and dominate.

To satisfy demand and become a market-leader in the dating industry we can make use of the niche dating model and unique selling propositions (USPs).

The hardest demand to satisfy is the general dating market, obviously. Here we compete against the likes of plentyoffish.com. I say the hardest because I believe any dating market can be dominated by a newcomer. Internet history is replete with Goliaths being toppled by Davids. But the safest approach is to tackle a less saturated market.

Survey Dating Markets

New markets appear with regularity in the online dating industry. They’re borne from numerous sources : cultural and technological developments, being the two primary ones.

Technology gives us advanced mobile telephony which gives birth to mobile dating. The popularity of emos in the youth culture give rise to, you guessed it, emo dating.

Our task is first to know which dating sites exist and then to identify potential gaps in the market.

A good way to identify market opportunities is to look at the searches people make and the products they buy. Use overture’s keyword tool and Google’s Adword tool. Take a look at youtube.com/tags and head over to amazon.com and ebay.com.

Now investigate all your possibilities with some simple searches on google and using the above tools. Have the gaps been filled? Have they been filled well? If so, can you do it better?

The Local Dating Market

An alternative to satisfying a global market with either a niche dating site or a particularly cool selling proposition (like a unique platform) is to think closer to home.

This is often the easiest way to enter the dating industry and you can, yes I’m going to say it, compete with the likes of plentyoffish.com and friendfinder.com

Look at it this way. Let’s say you’re a single woman and you want a date with a nice guy who lives in your state of Idaho. Better yet, you’d like to find a dude in your own town of Wallace, Idaho. Which site do you use? Friend Finder or the thriving local community site of Idaho Dating?

The good thing about setting up a local free dating site is you have less competition, you can create a site covering all niches and you can easily advertise offline. I could go on, but you get the picture.

A Dating Domain

You’ve identified a gap in the dating market and you think you can enter and dominate.

What you now need is a good domain. I’d go with a relevant keyword domain. DeafDating, HerpesDating, DisabledDating, IdahoDating and so on. If dating (the most popular keyword of our niche) is unavailable, you can try alternative prefixes or sufixes : singles, personals, match, matches, hookups, love, encounters, soul mates, friends, contacts.

I would not go with something cute or make up a name. One benefit of choosing a less saturated market is you have more choices when it comes to domain naming. Domain names do have an impact on search engine ranking so attempt to snap up the most relevant search term for your gap, before considering alternatives.

The Dating Script

You have three general choices when it comes to choosing the platform for your free dating site:

1. A custom script.
2. An existing script.
3. A modified existing script.

Paying for a custom script is beyond even the most healthy budgets. Not only do you have the expense of paying for the creation of a platform from the ground up, but you have the associated costs of ongoing upgrades. So most of us will need to look at less costly alternatives.

Now the problem with buying an existing script is you’re not giving the end-user anything new, so paying for modifications is a good idea. I’m going to suggest this as being your best choice.

If you’re on a tight budget, an existing script is fine really, just not ideal.

So what dating scripts do we have available? This is where I could list for you a dozen free and paid scripts. Instead I’m going to save you and I some time. The truth is none of them are any good. They’re either full of security exploits or encoded.

What you need is a reliable platform. I’m going to suggest vbulletin as that platform. Here’s why:

– VB is secure, well-coded and will be here in 100 years time.

– Anyone can setup vb as a dating script.

– Skinning vb is cheap or, if you want to do it yourself, very easy.

– VB can handle oodles of traffic so you have room to grow.

– There are great add-ons for vb (like photopost) and numerous FREE modifications.

The last reason for me suggesting vb is related to the core of the bare bones free dating site model, so I want to briefly talk about it. Our overall aim is to attract people with something they’re accustomed to paying for by offering it free. The environment we create should be basic enough to encourage upsells to more feature-rich dating sites. Now this is why a simple forum is perfect for our business model. Boards are basic.

Filling Your Dating Database

The biggest hurdle when you first setup a dating site is dealing with the problem of having no members. Why should anyone make that first profile that gets your site off the ground if there are no profiles. A depressing paradox!

Most webmasters deal with this problem by creating fake profiles. They’ll buy a batch of amateur content, write some dating profiles, spin them a few hundred or thousand times and spend a week inputting them.

I’m not going to suggest you take this approach. Why? Well, it’s essentially dishonest and, you guessed it, there is a better approach.

You have a dating forum (if you chose the forum platform). You need to get people talking and posting dating profiles and ads. You have a couple of choices. You can pay for a service which specializes in forum posts or you can get your friends and family to do it.

The moment you have a little action on your forum, you can begin promotion and take it to the next level.

Dating Site Promotion

I wont go into too much detail here because it strays beyond the boundaries of the article. But here’s a list of ways to get dating traffic:

– Google adwords
– Buying links
– Paying or Reviews
– Putting ads in local papers (in the case of free local dating sites)
– Article marketing
– Local radio
– Blog commenting
– Forum signatures
– Submitting to search engines and directories
– Groups (yahoo, google, msn)
– Blogging
– Viral marketing (giving away free reports or ebooks on ebay, for instance)
– E-books
– Place ads on classified sites
– Sign up to Stumbleupon
– Participate in Yahoo Answers
– Make t-shirts and business cards
– Tell all your friends and family
– Add signatures to your emails
– Read Promote Dating every day!!

Monetization Of Your Free Dating Site

The whole point in setting up a dating site is to make money. I know, I know – like, duh, Kris. But you’d be surprised at how many new dating sites fail and the main reason is they’re not geared at making money.

Here are some possible ways to monetize:

1. Click Bank

You have dozens of relevant digital products for the dating niche.

2. Dating Sponsors

Sponsors like Dating Gold, IwantU, Fling and FriendFinder can be used to entice your members from the bare bones dating site.

3. Google Adsense

As we know, plentyoffish.com generates $3,650,000 a year in adsense revenue.

Now here is a tip. Make your promotions blend into the site. This works much better than in-your-face advertising.

Will A New Dating Site Succeed?

I’ve spent the morning writing this article, so I hope so!

You’ve identified a gap in the market and filled it with an appropriate site that you will market furiously. What will determine your success is how many people want what you have to offer and how well you perform at getting them to use your site.

If demand is strong enough and you become a market-leader in this unsaturated niche, logic dictates that you should succeed. Your outgoings are small (only hosting), upgrades to your site’s platform are free, and you’ve become dominant in a growing niche with a free product.

So if you approach setting up your dating site in the way explained here, you should – fingers and toes crossed – succeed . . . and someday buy Kristian a couple of beers!

Posted by Charles Yarbrough

Charley has been working as a webmaster since 1998. Since then, he has had his hands in thousands of websites and has helped millions get online through a company he partially owns called Web Host Pro.