How to Date Online — In 5 Easy Steps

Online Dating

How to Date Online — In 5 Easy Steps

Amber Brooks Amber Brooks

When I joined my first dating site a few years ago, I had no earthly idea what I was getting into or how to online date. I didn’t know how to write an online dating profile. I didn’t know how to start a good conversation online or attract attention from guys I wanted. I just figured I’d drop myself in the heart of the modern dating jungle and find my way out somehow.

Needless to say, it was an adventure. I blindly hacked my way through the online dating wilderness and struggled to survive the onslaught of awkward dating experiences. Because I was doing it on my own, I frequently got lost and took a long time to figure out the shortcuts to online romance.

It’s much easier to navigate online dating when you have a guide with the experience to tell you where to go and how to not get eaten by a cougar. That’s what we’re here for! If you want to learn to online date safely and efficiently, follow our lead and take five simple steps to create and maintain a successful dating profile. Good luck!

1. Select the Best Dating Site for You & Your Budget

The first step is an obvious one: you’ve got to pick a dating site that meets your needs. That’s going to be different for everyone. When I signed up, my number one priority was that the dating platform had be 100% free to join and communicate. My old roommate, on the other hand, has more cash in hand and focuses more on the overall experience. She doesn’t care if there’s a premium fee as long as she gets great features and a responsive user base.

There are over 8,000 dating sites to choose from. Some sites cater to specific audiences, so you can join a network of people with similar backgrounds, interests, or lifestyles. Other sites welcome everyone and have advanced search tools to help you find the right person.

Below, we’ve reviewed the top dating platforms for singles interested in exploring the online dating scene. Best for Relationship-Oriented Singles of All Ages

You’ve probably heard of before. This dating site has been around since 1995 and is a giant in the industry. It’s a great place for anyone new to online dating to test their skills and get the lay of the land. The profiles are in-depth, the user base is serious-minded, and the platform has connected singles on more dates and in more relationships than any other dating platform around!


Relationships: Friends, Dates, and Relationships

Match System: Browse by zip, age, appearance, more

Our Experts Say: “Match has facilitated the most dates and relationships of any dating site, and its large audience and high success rate make it our top review...” Full Review »

Browse Free: View Photos Now

Available in 24 countries and in 15 languages, Match’s reach is worldwide and offers unprecedented date opportunities to singles of all ages and backgrounds.

Elite Singles: Best for Well-Educated Professionals

Elite Singles is a cut above other dating sites with a highly educated user base. Over 90% of members are over the age of 30, and over 80% have earned at least a bachelor’s degree. You definitely won’t be slumming it on this site.


Relationships: Serious Relationships

Match System: Search, Receive Partner Suggestions

Our Experts Say: “EliteSingles is a leading dating site just for busy, single professionals. More than 80% of members have earned a college degree, and most are looking for a serious commitment...” Full Review »

Browse Free: View Photos Now

In addition to its advanced search filters, Elite Singles suggests matches to members so finding someone with similar values is effortless. The matching process relies on a five-factor personality questionnaire to identify long-term compatibility.

Every month, over 165,000 singles in the U.S. register to Elite Singles to find love in a professional space, and the dating site creates a new match every seven minutes.

Zoosk: Best for Mobile Daters

If you’re ready to chat up singles worldwide, Zoosk offers an active user base of 38 million singles around the world. The dating site and app knows how to get people talking and connecting online. Zoosk members send a total of 3 million messages a day on average, and the fast communication features help you get a lot of practice in the online dating world.


Relationships: Fun Dates, Serious Relationships

Match System: Search and get match recommendations

Our Experts Say: “Zoosk is integrated with social media sites, like Facebook and Google+, so it's very popular with singles on the go...” Full Review »

Browse Free: View Photos Now

Zoosk is the market leader for online dating apps, boasting over 30 million downloads and available in over 80 countries. You don’t have to pay a fee to join, and you can use Zoosk Coins to get access to fun features.

2. Choose a Catchy Username

When you pick a username, you have a chance to show off your creativity and add a splash of personality to your profile. It’s a tricky thing to pick a name that sends the right message. You want something original so you stand out from the pack but not something that’ll make people ask “What’s up with your username?”

Dating coach Hunt Ethridge suggests using interest-based usernames, like CampingCutie, HaloMaster, or ThaiTanic, to catch someone’s eye. Don’t have any ideas? You can use an online username generator to brainstorm something good.

Not all dating sites and apps require you to come up with a username, but you should be ready just in case.

3. Create a Good Profile That Reflects the Real You

If you want to write a good dating profile that’ll get you a lot of dates, be authentic and descriptive. Avoid writing out lists of generic qualities, and do not fib about what you’re looking for or who you are.

Lying on profiles is a common issue on dating sites. In a survey of over 1,000 daters, 53% of US singles admitted to lying on their dating profiles. Sure, it’s tempting to make yourself younger, thinner, taller, and more attractive than you really are, but the truth is bound to come out (probably as soon as you meet in person) and then you’ll lose your date faster than you can say “catfishing.”

You can read more about how to write a good online dating profile here, but the short version is simple: write from the heart and be yourself.

4. Use Questions in Your Messages to Start the Conversation & Keep It Going

Once you’ve registered for the right dating site, gotten your profile just the way you want it, and browsed online for matches, there’s only one thing left to do: start talking to people.

Photo of a couple talking on a date

A simple question like “What are your hobbies?” can help you find common ground with a date.

Whether you take the proactive approach and send out messages or sit back and wait for date prospects to come to you, your conversational game had better be on point if you want to land a date in the real world.

Asking questions is a must. You can’t expect people to just volunteer information about themselves forever. By asking solid personal questions in each message, you show interest in the other person and indicate that you want to keep the conversation going.

Not sure what to ask? Keep it simple and don’t sweat it. We came up with a list of 18 good dating questions for online daters to help you break the ice and get chatting in no time.

5. Keep Your Info Private to Stay Safe & Avoid Scams

In 2016, the Consumer Reports surveyed over 114,000 subscribers to find out how they felt about online dating. On the whole, people seemed fairly positive, but one big caveat stood out: singles worry about their safety on dating platforms. The surveyed singles who had never tried online dating cited privacy (50%), information security (48%), and scams (46%) as their primary concerns.

“Most [dating] sites offer common-sense tips on how to protect yourself, including not sharing personal contact information right away.” —

If you’re new to online dating, it’s only natural to worry about what might happen and feel apprehensive about putting yourself out there. However, many reputable dating sites go to great lengths to keep personal details private and secure. Profile verification, forum moderators, and other security measures can help you stay safe while online dating.

Check out the privacy policy of a dating site before you decide to join to make sure everything is on the up and up. Most dating platforms allow you to block users who are bothering you and report any fake profiles so they can be removed from the database. You should also take basic safety precautions while online, like meeting your dates in public and never giving money to someone you haven’t met in person.

Learn the Tricks to Succeed at Online Dating

I went into online dating armed with nothing but my wits and my determination to meet someone, and I ended up stuck in the weeds for quite a while before I found my way to success. When foraying into unknown territory, it’s best to equip yourself with knowledge and learn from those who’ve gone before you. That way the journey is a lot easier and more fun.

Whether you’re looking for a short-term romance or a long-term love, online dating offers a fast route to personal connections. By following our tips for how to create a great online dating profile, you can skip the worries, fears, and mistakes when you sign up for a dating site and enjoy the experience that much more. Good luck!