OkCupid has become infamous for their studies on user behavior, giving singles insight into what works best on a dating site, what their matches are thinking and how to optimize their experience. I'm definitely not a data scientist, favoring the written word over spreadsheets and analytics, but as an online dating coach I do discover trends, test strategies and encourage daters to go -- and stay -- online. My staff and I make dating sites our full-time job, often sitting next to online daters as they view profiles. Interestingly enough, my strategies often line up with OkCupid's data, like eliminating a greeting from an email (though we also differ dramatically from time-to-time, like that time when OkCupid said people who tweet have shorter relationships ... and then I married my tweetheart).
On Monday, OkCupid released a new experiment taking a very different approach. Rather than simply pulling data from users as they typically behave, they altered their eDestiny. As a result, users' charted different courses on the site but for the better. Here's a look at the lessons behind the data:
If you believe you're a match, you have a better chance at love.
For a period of time, OkCupid told people who matched only 30 percent that they were actually 90 percent compatible. The odds of them eCourting each other over four messages increased more than 17 percent, proving that if you think you're good for one another, you are more likely to be a match. Here's the thing -- online daters get in their way a lot. More often than not, it's not the technology that's broken, but your approach and mindset. People tell me things like, "OkCupid doesn't work for me," but it usually has everything to do with your emotional state rather than the website. When you shift your outlook from negativity to something positive instead, your experience is better.
When you focus on personality versus photos, you're more open to the possibilities.
For one day in 2013, OkCupid removed photos entirely from people's profiles and user's behaviors changed dramatically. They responded to first messages 44 percent more often, had deeper conversations and got offline faster. Basically, when you're in less control and focus on information and personality over looks and photos, online dating works better.
Self-selecting matches is one of things I notice singles struggle with the most and photos are a big reason for this. What I've noticed is that people look for a reason to say no to matches, not yes. My best exercise to overcome this is to get conscious about your decision-making, letting your heart lead instead of your head. When you see someone on virtual paper in a stack of thousands, it's easy to judge them and forget that they are person not merely a bunch of code. So though it's uncomfortable, state out loud to yourself why you're saying yes to a match and why you're saying no. When you have to give yourself a real reason for your decision, they're often different than expected -- and you'll likely realize that you're taking your judgments too far.
Your profile text still needs to be unique.
Inverse to removing photos from profiles, OkCupid also tried removing text and leaving only photos. Turns out that profile text is less than 10 percent of a match's decision to contact you. My company writes people's profiles for them and they get better results after working with us, so obviously this isn't always true. Instead, this data tells me the average person still doesn't know how to write a profile. You need to stand out rather than blend in, write something unique and different but yet completely authentic. When I watch the way singles view profiles, women in particular focus on text. In most cases, they won't write to a man without at least skimming what they wrote. It can be a deal breaker. Men mostly read your profile to message you, but they still need to have something meaningful to say to you. If you're looking for more than a hookup, don't make your booty the reason for their "hello." Fill your profile with some commonalities that could be conversation starters, too.
It's currently being disputed whether or not OkCupid's experiment broke FTC rules. I can't speak to whether or not they did but ultimately the results for the users in nearly every experiment were positive. eDaters communicated with people they might not have otherwise and believed in themselves more -- an approach that may have not been what singles on OkCupid expected, but an interesting one to now keep in mind when signing into your account online.
Laurie Davis is a tech and dating expert. As the founder of eFlirt Expert, she helps singles navigate the Wink Wide Web via dating profile writing, text decoding, Facebook flirting and offline meeting. She is married to her tweetheart who she eFlirted with in 140 characters on Twitter. Follow her on Twitter.