Creating An Effective Personals Ad That Gets Results: Do's and Don'ts
By Anna Winters
Creating a great ad means selling your strengths and attributes. Think of this as creating your personal resume. Many of the online systems provide a multiple choice matching along with an essay. After someone finds you with a "match", it is your essay portion that can make you shine. It is crucial to fill out the essay completely, with at least 2 or three sentences per question asked. You can come back to the essay later on many systems. You will spend 45 minutes to an hour filling this out. People who do not fill out the essay are not taking seriously and get passed on for other profiles that are more forthcoming. Be honest in your ad.
What to write about? Describe yourself honestly and accurately. Include hard data such as your height, weight, body type, educational background and profession. Show your personality. Talk about your hobbies, interests, activities you enjoy, movies, books, or music you enjoy, where you like to travel, and minimally about your work (do not give your place of employment....keep it general such as: I am a nurse at a local clinic, an accountant with a medium size company, etc). Don't share too much information or write a book.....just write enough to get them interested. You have to leave something to talk about later.
Share your feelings and experiences, not just facts about your life. You don't want your profile to be a touchy-feely pile of mush (can you hear your potential dates heading for the door?), but you do want to communicate things people can relate to: where you're from, where you are, where you're going in life, what makes you laugh, things you really enjoy about life. DON'T fixate on only one aspect of your life: You may love your dog, have a great career, live to ski, and those are great things to talk about in your profile. But if you talk about that and only that, you're going to come off as one-dimensional and obsessed. Show your fully rounded self. Put your personality and humor into what you write. Tell what you are like, and don't try to make false impressions. False impressions will back fire in the online dating arena as much as they will in the rest of your life. Relax, and let your true self show through. There are people who will like who you are.
Don't dwell on your problems and limitations: This is not the place to talk about why you got divorced, your last relationship didn't work out, or problems at work. You can talk about this later after you get to know someone. If you have children, mention them BRIEFLY with their ages and sex. Do not spend time talking about your children or reveal their names. People are wanting to look at a profile that focuses on YOU, not your immediate family. You can talk about your childcare arrangements and coaching little league soccer, etc later. People looking at your profile want to know you have time for them. Focusing on your children and their activities can give the impression that you will have limited time.
What you are looking for: Think about who you are and what you are looking for. To make friends? Fall in love? Meet someone to hang out with? Do you want something short term or long term? Do you just want to chat with? (Ex. I am looking for a cultured man between 32-45 who is a Christian, attends church, college educated, and is into opera and gallery hopping). (Ex. Looking for a down to earth gal between 22-30 that likes the country, camping, country music, country dancing and NASCAR). Don't say that you are looking for the love of your life and want to get married....this will scare a lot of people away. Its good idea to state the general type of person you are hoping to meet, but don't overdo it. If you set down too many requirements you will miss out on the opportunity to meet some great people, and quite possibly the one that is just right for you.
Words to Use and Avoid:
Good Words: Affectionate, Likes to cuddle, interested in a committed relationship, sensitive, great cook, romantic, caring, monogamous, down to earth, looking for best friend, educated, sophisticated, loving, generous, cute, reliable, my colleagues describe me as handsome, great legs, petite, curvaceous, hourglass figure, gentleman.
Words to Avoid: Some of the bad stuff I have seen in ads. (On some systems, you will get terminated using some of this language whether in your profile or in an email). These guys have read too many Penthouse magazines and need to look in the alternative personals. Here is what NOT to put in a personal on a regular/metro site: Well hung, great in bed, I'd love to satisfy you, sexually insatiable, animal, great lover, oral, fuck, blow, make love, erotic, uninhibited and any other sexual words. This stuff is SCARY to most women and runs them off.You can tweak and improve your profile as you go along.
Tweaking your profile: If you're getting the type of responses you're looking for, great. If you're getting responses from the wrong types of people or not getting as many responses as you'd like, then review your profile and think about how you can improve it and make yourself shine a little bit more. Most matchmaking systems have a place for you to edit your essay and parts of your ad. Take a look at it at least every couple of weeks.
How to search for a new friend: Each matchmaking system has different ways of searching for compatible profiles. Some have several ways. Typically these are MATCH, SEARCH, FIND, and some allow you to make a Search Profile that you can reuse. You can search by location, ideal height and weight, ethnic background -- even by interest in having kids in the future.
A high percentage on a multiple choice match is a good start but read the answers and look at the essay. The percentages may be great but then the profile might be someone who sounds desperate and lonely, is someone just looking for sex or has totally different interests and values.
If there is a photo, look at the photo and remember that the photo can be one taken yesterday or 5 years ago. Unless the person is down right unappealing, remember that amateur/family photos don't always make a person look their best. Look for profiles that match your ideal characteristics but also hit you the right way -- do the writers sound funny? Intellectual? Love animals as much as you do? Like to travel?
Posting Photos: It is up to you to post a photo. You will increase your response rate TEN TIMES by posting a photo. People want to see who they are writing to, and many don't want to start a correspondence and waste time with someone that they don't know if there is even a initial attraction from a photo. If you want a lot of responses, you'd better have a picture. From my experience, and from what I've heard from others, it seems that people who don't have pictures of themselves are usually hiding something. So, if you don't have a picture, people are going to assume you look like a dog. If you are a high profile person in the city you live, offer in your profile to exchange photos from your personal (yahoo or hotmail, not your real email address). Make sure you put an accurate description of what you look like in your profile. You may want to say what celebrity you closely resemble.
People who say they don't have a photo or don't have a way to get one on line are either lazy or playing games. If you don't have a scanner at home or work, take a photo to KINKO's (they are everywhere). Have your photo or photos scanned in a.jpg format. Most matchmaking systems do not allow you to send the zip files or unusable formats. Typically.jpg,.gif, and.bmp is the limit and they must be sized down. Photos should have a shirt on, clearly show your face (no sunglasses), well lit, no swimwear (except for secondary shots) and no family in your primary photo. Make sure you are smiling in the photo. (Who wants to meet someone who looks angry and glum). Many companies allow secondary shots that have your family and friends in the photos as long as you are in the photo. Don't use a photo in which you're dressed too revealingly -- you want to look elegant and alluring, but a picture of you in a bikini is going to attract the wrong kind of responses.
What should you not send? You car, house, boat, photos of your kids or friends by themselves, photos where your face is the size of a pencil head, photos with your ex, dark shots, anything revealing, etc. Send your best photos. Remember, FIRST IMPRESSIONS may be your only chance. Your most recent photo of you camping (once in 5 years) with the ball cap on may leave a the impression that you don't want others to have. Again, think in terms of a resume. How would you want an employer to first see you? (Dressed nicely with your hair perfect). Ex. A good mix would be primary photo in a business suit or polo shirt, secondary photo out rock climbing with friends, third photo with two nephews at XMAS.
Out of Town or Unable to Answer email? Members of matchmaking systems expect responses to their emails quickly. If you can't answer emails for a week or two, edit your profile and at the top of the essay say "I will be out of town for "x time frame" and will not have access to email. Please ear mark my profile and write me back at "x time frame" and I will be happy to respond when I return." This is especially important during the summer months when people are on vacation and during holidays.
About The Author
Anna Winters is a writer for www.Singlesonthego.com, the largest singles groups, singles events and activities website helping 500,000 plus readers monthly find singles events in their city.