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Secrets of the online dating industry

Daily Ticker

Looking for love this Valentine’s Day? Millions of single adults in the U.S. – 30 million, or 1/3 of all American singles, to be exact – will go online to find that special someone. Match.com says new memberships increase 25% to 30% between Dec. 26 and Feb. 14 and connecting online is the number one way (31%) to get a first date. Meeting through friends ranks is second (25%), followed by work (8%) and bar/clubs (6%).

Related: Impress Your Date with These Surprising Valentine's Day Facts

Match, eHarmony and Plenty of Fish are the largest online dating sites in North America, but there are more than 1,400 sites devoted to cyber matchmaking. Most people think the $2 billion online dating industry started connecting wannabe lovers only 15 years ago but Dan Slater, author of several books including “A Million First Dates,” says that’s just one myth of online dating. Slater shares three secrets of the industry (full disclosure: Slater met his wife at a yoga class).

#1: Computers have been helping singles find love for decades

Slater’s parents actually met in the late 1960s thanks to a computer program called “CONTACT Personality Preference Inventory” at Harvard. They filled out a questionnaire and submitted their vital stats, handed in their responses and a computer algorithm tallied the results. Participants then received contact information for possible mates in the mail days, weeks or months later. According to Slater a Harvard student launched  “Contact” in 1965 and it was one of the first ever computer-dating services.

Related: Can eHarmony Help You Find a Job?

#2: Dating sites don’t want you to find true love right away

“The objective of these sites is to find you a mate but the sites also have to make money, and in order to make money you need to stay on the site,” Slater says in the video above. “So there’s a bit of a tension there between wanting to make the site work for you and wanting you to spend a few months and pay the $20 or $30 or $40 fee.”

Slater also says the online dating industry has become saturated from all the competition. Some online sites may eventually shutdown but others – like pioneers Match and eHarmony – are “like famous bars that will always be around.” He sees no change in the paid/free/mobile app online dating business model.

#3: No site can determine whom you are destined to marry 

Match and eHarmony may tout their high-compatibility rates but “science has found no support for these claims,” says Slater. A University of Chicago study last year determined that nearly 35% of recently married couples met online. The study was based on a survey of more than 19,000 people who got married between 2005 and 2012. But the research was paid for and commissioned by eHarmony and the report’s lead author has been a member of eHarmony’s Scientific Advisory Board since 2007.

“Sites can find you a good first date,” argues Slater. “But this has nothing to do with long-term capability…there is no silver bullet.”

One in 10 Americans have used an online dating site or a mobile dating app, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center study. Twenty-two percent of 25-34 year olds and 17% of 35-44 year olds are online daters the study found.

Related: New twists for love in age of big data

If you want to increase your chance of finding a soul mate online, join sites that have a number advantage. “Sites that are successful are the sites that have lots of people on them,” Slater adds.

Want your online profile to get noticed by more potential suitors? Slater has great tips for creating effective profiles in the video!

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