According to OkTrends, the top three phrases in initial e-mails with the highest response rate are “you mention,” “good taste” and “noticed that.” So, describe something that resonated with you from his profile, advises Spira, but avoid physical compliments because “they seem too clich&eacute,d.” And keep it brief: OkTrends found that the ideal very first message length is only 200 characters, or one minute’s worth of typing for the average writer.

According to OkTrends, the top three phrases in initial e-mails with the highest response rate are “you mention,” “good taste” and “noticed that.” So, describe something that resonated with you from his profile, advises Spira, but avoid physical compliments because “they seem too clich&eacute,d.” And keep it brief: OkTrends found that the ideal very first message length is only 200 characters, or one minute’s worth of typing for the average writer.

Click, surf and type your way to love by following these basic rules

Dating is complicated enough on its own, when you add in the confusion of online dating sites, it can be just plain intimidating. But it’s lighter&ndash,&ndash,and more joy!&ndash,&ndash,than you think. Not to mention effective: Each day, an average of 236 people who met on eHarmony.com get married. That’s over 86,000 people a year! So, how do you go from logging on to finding your flawless match? There is a technology to navigating the virtual playing field. “I equate online dating to looking for a job,” says Julie Spira, cyber-dating experienced and author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating. “You’d want a rock starlet ré,sumé, for your flawless fantasy job, and you should feel the same way about your online dating profile.” And the profile is just where it starts&mdash,we have slew of pro tips, from sending the flawless very first e-mail to picking your very first date location. Here, everything you need to know to find love on the World Broad Web.

1. Your Profile Picture

It can seem difficult to stand out in the vast sea of online daters, the best way to do so is by creating a fine profile&mdash,and be sure to always include a photo. “The amount of times that people are approached when they have photos is multitudes more than when they don’t,” says Gian Gonzaga, PhD, eHarmony’s senior director of research and development and head of eHarmony Labs. So, how do you determine what photos to post? Leave behind group shots, which can make it confusing for other people to identify you, advises Spira, and choose a headshot in which you are smiling. “Your primary photo should be all about you.” She recommends posting inbetween three to five photos only&mdash,any more and “it’s as if you’re already throttling your future playmate.” Also, be sure to include a shot where you can see your assets. It doesn’t have to be provocative (and you most certainly do not have to have a ideal figure!), but it gives the impression that you have nothing to hide, confidence is always attractive. While the pictures you post should be clear&mdash,providing the viewer an accurate peek of what you truly look like&mdash,don’t fully discount self-taken shots (the ones where you hold out your camera to take your own portrait). OkTrends, the data-analysis blog for the dating website OkCupid.com, says that self-shot photos can actually be very effective in attracting playmates, most likely because they are approachable, casual and make the viewer feel close to the subject&mdash,all good things!

Your objective should be to create an engaging profile that piques people’s interest and makes them want to know more about you. To do that, “talk about yourself in anecdotes,” says Gonzaga. Instead of telling that you like to cook (which slew of people will do), describe in detail what your beloved meal to make is. “It gives a richer picture of who you are,” he adds. According to Spira, the tone should be uplifting and glad. Steer clear of sarcasm. “The problem is that because you don’t hear people’s voices, it’s hard to tell if they’re being sarcastic or being rude.” If you write something and are afraid that it might be taken the wrong way, it’s very likely best not to post it.

Three. Take Advantage

Dating numerous people at a time is a strange habit to get used to, and can often seem irresponsible, but when it comes to online dating, meeting a multiplicity of fresh people at once is a clever budge. “It’s a numbers game,” says Spira. “I know people who go on dates three times a day, every day! It may sound like serial dating, but if you’re interested in truly connecting with somebody, then there’s nothing wrong with going out with several people at a time.” Keep in mind, too, that most of the time you’re paying for these sites, so getting your money’s worth means being efficient about eyeing who’s out there.

In your initial e-mail to a potential playmate, it’s crucial to indicate that you’ve read his profile and took an interest in it. According to OkTrends, the top three phrases in initial e-mails with the highest response rate are “you mention,” “good taste” and “noticed that.” So, describe something that resonated with you from his profile, advises Spira, but avoid physical compliments because “they seem too cliché,d.” And keep it brief: OkTrends found that the ideal very first message length is only 200 characters, or one minute’s worth of typing for the average writer. The shortest messages get the best response rate, the reply rate goes down as messages get longer. This is likely because an initial message serves mostly to make your profile available to the other person. The lesson: Spend time on your profile, and don’t stress too much about your very first e-mail!

When it comes to virtual dating, leave behind playing “hard to get.” If someone you’re interested in contacts you, it won’t pay off to “casually” wait a few days to reply. “If you play games and wait to get back to him, he may have already run off into the sunset with someone else,” says Spira. You need to display your interest right away, in the world of online dating you never know how many women one man has contacted, and how quickly the others may express their interest. If you contact someone and haven’t heard back in a week, it’s OK to send a 2nd e-mail. If someone is fresh to a site, his or her profile is often featured in the community and the person becomes inundated with e-mails. So, assume that your interest hasn’t had time to open your message. But if there’s muffle after two e-mails, cut your losses and budge on.

6. Taking the Relationship Offline

The time to take your relationship beyond the boundaries of the dating site will eventually come. And according to Spira, it should be sooner rather than later. Exchanging two or three e-mails is a good way to get a sense of each other’s personality. After that, have a phone conversation&mdash,trade cell phone numbers, never home numbers. Or better yet, call him so that you won’t have to give out your number at all. “If you don’t have any phone chemistry, then it’s unlikely that there will be a spark in person,” says Spira. But if you do, it’s time to meet.

7. The Ideal Very first Date

The ideal very first date is a private decision. For some, a midday coffee is especially effective. “You can get a good feel for someone in 20 minutes,” says Dr. Gonzaga, “and since you both very likely have to get back to work, there’s a specified end time if the date doesn’t work out.” Spira chooses dinner dates because the extended length can give you a deeper sense of your date’s personality. If you display up and your date looks nothing like his photo&ndash,&ndash,and this does happen&ndash,&ndash,don’t run screaming for the exit. The best thing you can do is be polite and keep the date brief, says Spira. You don’t need to call attention to it. “You know he looks nothing like his photo, he knows he looks nothing like his photo. There’s no use in putting him down.”

8. Becoming Sensational

Since being on an online dating site puts you out there for everyone to contact, it can be hard to know when you have become sensational with a fucking partner. You may have stopped checking your profile and messages, but has he? Until you’ve had a conversation about retiring your profiles, says Spira, assume that he is still dating other people. “And don’t go to bed with him,” she adds. How do you treatment this soft subject? Be upfront. If you broach the topic and he says that he isn’t ready to pull down his profile, Spira recommends telling something like, “Well, I am. I think that you’re fine and I hope you catch up. I guess I’ll keep mine up as well and proceed dating.”

If your relationship fizzles after a few dates, it may be tempting to revert back to e-mail to end it. Fight back the urge, says Spira. “Don’t go down in history as the stud or woman who dumped someone over e-mail, especially when e-mails can be forwarded.” Instead, apply the Golden Rule and treat others as you would want to be treated. Make a phone call or meet in person.

Taking safety precautions is always crucial, whether you’re dating someone you met online or in person. Never give out your home phone number or address until you get to know someone, and always choose a public place for your very first date. Spira employs a friend system for initial meet-ups: Tell a friend where you’re going and whom you’re meeting. Midway through the meal, go to the bathroom and call or text your friend to let him or her know whether you’re OK or feel awkward. If it’s the latter, don’t hesitate to leave.

If at very first you don’t succeed, don’t give up! Even if sparks don’t fly with someone you originally meet online, it doesn’t mean that he won’t turn into a fine friend or helpful business contact. “Online dating used to be a rigorously matrimonial endeavor,” says Spira. “You’d go online, find your hubby and get offline. Now, I look at it as a combination network of dating, socializing and business. So cast a broad net, and always be polite. You never know whom people can introduce you to.”

12. Where to Look

Lost in cyberspace? Check out these top dating sites and pick the best one for you.

eHarmony: Pack out a detailed questionnaire and this site will use its unique compatibility matching system to electronically pair you up with other users. In general, eHarmony users are interested in a serious, long-term commitment. The site also features an internal e-mail and phone system, so you don’t have to worry about providing out private information.

Match.com: Search this frantically popular site’s massive (over 20 million) database of singles to find your ideal match. They boast that they help over 250,000 people a year find a relationship.

OkCupid: This free dating site is a mix of social networking, compatibility testing and online dating. It includes an option to compare your profile to other users’ with the click of a button.

Perfectmatch: A popular site for older users, Perfectmatch is focused on serious daters who are looking to lodge down. It features a free personality assessment (tho’ you do have to pay to use the rest of the site).

Yahoo! Personals: As long as you have a Yahoo! e-mail account, you’re free to join this no-cost dating site. The talk feature makes it effortless to connect with other users.

JDate: Jewish users can take advantage of this popular site as well as its planned events for Jewish singles across the country. The site’s mission is to strengthen the Jewish community, so it’s a good place to find potential dates or friends.

All photos by iStockphoto.

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