Help in Marketing a Dating Site

18 replies
Hey All,

We need some help from folks who know how to market in the online dating niche. We have a LGBTQ dating site, specifically aimed at women seeking women personals and Lesbian romantic liaisons, that is having difficulty getting off the ground.

Having made the mistake of not realizing Facebook does NOT accept any new dating clients (basically FB ads was our original marketing plan... apparently they stopped taking small dating websites some time last year) we've turned to smaller niche sites with mixed results.

POF.com does not take any new clients, and for some reason our Adwords account can't target POF ad space...

One that was promising was ToddandClare.com, since it's basically an invite-only women's network (I have a friend at Vistage who was a peer advisory networker on Todd and Clare last year before they joined the UN) but 2 days ago got a form email from their "Risk team" saying that they're no longer allowing our ads.

BTW, Our ads are tasteful and Todd and Clare have failed to respond so far to why we got blocked, which is frustrating to put it mildly. I don't know where else to turn, it's frustrating because I think the t&c ads were paying off, with several subscriptions from NYC women very quickly.

So, how do I market a women/women dating site.

Marketing Budget:
$10k
Over 21s / Mature Segment
Women for Women Only
#account #ads #blocked #clare #clients #dating #pof #taking #todd
  • Profile picture of the author Tom Addams
    Alison,

    I work in dating, among other markets. $10K/ month is a good starting budget for media buying. I'm not comfortable sharing specifics in this regard on a forum (too many competing eyeballs that can drive up costs) but I can generalize and give you specifics in other areas.

    As a dating site owner, this is where the bulk of your memberships will be generated:
    • Media Buys.
    • Affiliates.
    • Joint-Ventures.
    • Socials.
    • Video Sharing.
    • Google.
    • Offline.
    • Word of Mouth.
    The first 3 bullets are highlighted for good reason: that's where you'll find the real money.

    Before you spend a cent on media buys, before you attempt to secure affiliates, before you consider JVs, before you do anything intended to generate traffic, you need to devote yourself to optimizing your dating site in 7 areas:
    • Membership Conversion.
    • Membership Retention.
    • Cross-Sells.
    • Up-Sells.
    • Asset-Building (socials, newsletter).
    • Website Functionality.
    • Affiliate Items: program, ad creatives, landers, etc.
    Trust me on this, the further away you are from optimal efficiency at the source, the site, the weaker your EPC will be. Furthermore, you'll struggle to land the type of affiliates you want (whales) and secure strong JVs.

    And speaking of EPC, you need to concentrate on enhancing the potential of EPC before spending money (this is part and parcel of getting the source optimal). I'm unsure of your retention rates, but industry-wide we're talking about an average of 2.4 months, last I heard.

    In terms of EPC, then, concentrate on optimizing the following:
    • Member Retentions.
    • Up-Sells.
    • Cross-Sells.
    • Media Sales.
    • Affiliate Monetizations.
    • Branded Merch.
    The real money should come from those in bold. You need to think of a dating site not as a dating site but as a means of growing an asset to leverage, primarily, those bold bullets. As I say, that's where you'll find the money.

    I mention a term above: whales. Let me just address that. It sounds like you have a fairly new venture. The last thing you want is 10,000 affiliates generating an average of 1 PPL a day or 1 PPS a week. What is 10,000 affiliates? 10,000 headaches. What you want is a whale. A person or business entity with similar traffic volume to those 10,000 affiliates in sum. 1 whale = only 1 headache. Trouble is, you'll actually find it harder to land the whale than you will 10,000 cretins. You'll need to get my optimizations right, mentioned above, and you'll have to work with the whale; in other words, jump through hoops: custom creatives, preferential payouts, and not can him the first time he generates negative consumer emails (which will happen when he sends volume).

    JVs. Similar rules apply as I've outlined for whales. I don't work in your niche so I can't give specifics without research, but JV setups are actually very easy to establish (when you get the above right). You just use your head and approach IM entities that present symbiotic opportunities. In one of my niches, for instance, ideal JVs come from manufacturers of products used by my core audience. The relationship is therefore ideal. The manufacturer has the traffic the dating site wants; the dating site, has an audience of ready consumers for the manufactured products; win-win.

    I could talk all day but before I finish off, let me return to where I started: media buys. Or, actually, where I didn't start.

    Few people on this forum will be able to answer that one; and those of us who can simply won't do it. Now that kind of statement on a forum generally invites cretins to say the odd thing to make you seem foolish. The fact is, though, media buyers live and breath incremental costs and earnings and, while we don't mind sharing information about free traffic generation, we most certainly mind sharing information that will potentially hurt our profits on a daily basis. Having said that, let me at least point you in the right direction.
    • Reverse engineer your top competitors.
    Truly, that is the best advice anyone here can give you. If you RE right, you can learn everything they do: where they run ads, the ads themselves, even how much they pay; that and more. There is a very good reason why ads must constantly be updated and evolved; people RE your efforts and doing so results in increased saturation (of your tactics) and leads to dampened EPC.

    I hope some of that helps. Quick thoughts, really. Sounds like you have a good business. Best of luck!

    - Tom
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    • Profile picture of the author alisonkennedy
      Tom, Thank you so much for taking the time to write such an indepth response. Much food for thought and really appreciated.

      ~Alison
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      • Profile picture of the author Tom Addams
        Originally Posted by alisonkennedy View Post

        Tom, Thank you so much for taking the time to write such an indepth response. Much food for thought and really appreciated.

        ~Alison
        Glad to help, Alison, and it gave me a chance to get my geek on for a subject I'm passionate about. If you need any other specific pointers, I'm generally on WF in the mornings and we have some other members here who work in dating.

        Have a good one!

        - Tom
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  • Profile picture of the author aizaku
    Pay per view and infolinks for cheap lesbian traffic.

    load your targets and start running tests.

    Make sure you have a squeeze page rotator to test which SP brings in the most leads.

    once you find your star squeeze page send every nickle and dime out there to capture more leads
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  • Profile picture of the author DIABL0
    I know you can buy POF accounts from users that have, but no longer use.
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  • Profile picture of the author EPoltrack77
    Pay Per Click in my opinion is some of the best! We so is banner advertising once your on the right site but again that is where understanding your demographics and lining up with where you want to advertise. It's good to learn to handle and juggle two traffic sources at a time I have learned just for the simple fact is you do not want to put all your eggs in one basket.
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  • Profile picture of the author newbim
    Hi Alison, welcome to the forum!

    Firstly, I just wanted to say thanks to Tom (below) for offering such a great value response. It seems responses like his are becoming rarer so nice one Tom!

    Secondly, I don't really have much experience in this specific niche, but to you Alison, don't forget offline marketing: one thing I would try in this situation would be to target your prospective members with a tracked offline method (i.e: discount coded flyers at places your members are likely to be, like night spots frequented by the LGBTQ community - have say twenty different flyers printed and placed in specific clubs etc.). That way, you could track which discount codes are being used will give you a good idea where your're getting the most takeup, then you could ramp up by holding a social event at that place. The information you get from said code takeup would give you a lot of information about places you could focus your efforts on.

    Once you have this, and a growing member base, why not offer a referral scheme (e.g. for every two paying members they refer, the referee gets one free month / some other feature that offers value to them .

    As I say, not my niche, but best of luck with your business .

    All the best.
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    If what I said helps, let me know, throw me a 'thanks'.
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  • Profile picture of the author alisonkennedy
    Newbim and Josh: Thank you so much for all the helpful info guys, in today's world it's rare and unexpected for people to go out their way to respond to a newbie like me, and I want you all to know I really appreciate it and can see what a valuable resource this important forum is... Suffice to say I'm investigating it all.

    Regarding POF.com, I've heard so much about Markus's efforts (the original founder)... did he get POF to where it is through porn affiliates? I've found the thread he originally created at Webmaster World where he is starting out, but he doesn't talk about how exactly he was raking the traffic for the ad revnues in??, but does mention a few specifics: http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum20/1530.htm

    I kind of want to follow conventions, well trodden paths of proven marketing techniques, esp. as I have a tiny budget and can't afford to get screwed.

    Which brings me back to Todd and Clare - heard back from them an hour ago, they say they've converted everything to Adsense now and are no longer running their ads program. As for the $20.17 balance I had left in my ad account, they've referred me to their maze of TOS,saying everything's non-refundable: https://www.toddandclare.com/terms-of-use/ "Payments including stamp payments". V. angry. Just shows how careful you have to be, I can't afford to lose $20 right now or a cent, and it's not enough to warrant a chargeback.

    I think Tom and Newbim have set out the way forward... regarding the offline method / guerilla marketing style of postering night spots frequented etc, that's interesting but I think it may prove too expensive for the printing costs and I'm convinced no one ever signs up on those posters! though I have seen some interesting Fiverr stuff of late about sellers offering to poster unis and college rooms that might be also worth looking into. LGBTQ is maybe more accepted in some colleges than others...

    Will keep you posted as to how I get on, & thank you again sincerely
    ~Alison
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  • Profile picture of the author Tom Addams
    Let's start out by talking Frind.

    Originally Posted by alisonkennedy View Post

    Regarding POF.com, I've heard so much about Markus's efforts (the original founder)... did he get POF to where it is through porn affiliates? I've found the thread he originally created at Webmaster World where he is starting out, but he doesn't talk about how exactly he was raking the traffic for the ad revnues in??, but does mention a few specifics: http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum20/1530.htm
    He started POF not to earn money but to bolster his resume. If memory serves, he coded POF in two weeks in order to learn the ASP.NET programming language and have, as a byproduct, an example of his coding skills. His goals changed, though, when the business took off; and I believe him when he says the success took him by surprise. He was a newbie. A programmer, not a marketer. But, lucky for him, he was also (is also) a genius. You can learn a lot from Markus; I even have a vague memory of him sharing his knowlege with the public (it's been a while, though, so the memory is hazy on the whens and the wheres). I'll share some of that knowledge in a moment.

    Before I do, I best answer your question, Alison.

    It was AdSense, initially, which grew at one point to $10,000 a day. Businesses evolve, though; as do marketers. Adult dating (mostly AFF network) was later thrown into the mix (tell you why in a moment). Then, taking a leaf from Google's success with media selling (AdSense and AdWords still being the primary source of income for Google), POF started selling ad spots, as we all know of course.

    To understand the financial success of POF, how it came about, all you have to do is purchase their ad space. POF have 3.5 million members who are active on a daily basis; over 100 million members in sum. And most of those members? The majority want one thing, and I'm sure we adults can guess what it is.

    But POF is mainstream.

    And, while they only have 75 employees (last I heard), their software is literally the most adept I know at stamping out unwanted member actions. Meaning: if you want "that thing," or any other type of adult entertainment, as a POF member you'll be encouraged to click an ad and go elsewhere.

    You like older ladies? No problem, go here. Just want a one night stand in NYC? We got you covered; right over here, buddy. What's that, you'd like to get it on with a large lady? Listen up, you came to the right place. Well, no, actually you didn't, but we've still got you covered. Over here, right over here, there you go.

    All of which, mostly, lead to POF financial success, before Frind (who had setup his business on a shoestring, without any venture capital whatsoever, keep in mind), went on to sell it to Match.com for over half a billion USD. $575 million, to be precise.

    So. What can we learn from Frind? A whole bunch, but I'll stick to how the knowledge can help us in the dating market.
    • You start out by finding a mainstream dating niche where the competition predominantly charges for membership.
    • You enter the very same niche with a free-based business and you monetize with AdSense.
    • Or, you enter the niche with that free-based business and, instead, monetize with relevant adult offers.
    • The real trick, though, is two-fold: make your site sticky, giving members a reason to return each day, and encourage user-generated content; blogs, forums, reviews, image and video albums, and the like.
    • Icing on the cake? Simple design. You need to take a leaf from early Facebook, because their strategy of simple design is the main reason they toppled MySpace.
    Really, the above is simple economics.

    In economics, we predict that the demand for something will be at its greatest when the price for that something is zero.

    So, applying this to the online dating model, if you want to have an edge when penetrating a dating niche, you simply choose one where consumers are charged for the membership experience and, bucking that trend, offer them a better experience - without charge.

    Now for cold, harsh reality.

    All of the above is entirely accurate, you'll be pleased to know, but what might dampen your spirits somewhat is this: those of us in the dating market, and related markets, are keenly aware of this information and a great deal more. I remember, for instance, when the $10K a day was released in the news. That very same day the dating industry changed. To most regular people, it was just another regular day. To entrepreneurs in dating? Big change. The free dating model was not so much born on that day, but it was most assuredly embraced. Which is not to suggest that many of us were unaware of the model or even Markus's success with it prior to the $10K release, only that the majority of entrepreneurs saw that release as a green light. I'm sure you can imagine.

    If anyone aside from Alison is still reading, let me give you some specifics that will really help you.
    • The paid model is not dead. Where it mostly thrives, currently, is in the foreign bride niche. But it will always thrive in a dating niche, or for a dating business, where the free model is not a viable model. The free model is limited, you see. It would cripple profit margins to offer it in some niches or for some business setups. Those niches - those are your niches for paid penetration.
    • The free model is easier. If you're a newbie, it should be your go-to model. But the model alone will almost certainly not help you succeed. Among hundreds of considerations I could give you, some of which can be read about above, let me offer the most important: an angle. Or, if you prefer, a USP. You must penetrate by offering consumers something they want and that no one else is offering.
    • If you have the funds, go custom. By this I mean scripts coded from the ground up. This will enable you to tailor your market entry in such a way that you can embrace the USP, yes, but also give exactly the right user-experience (in your opinion, though backed by research), and have, in itself, another USP: an entirely different experience that you can offer the consumer.
    • If you're on a tight budget, avoid every last dating script you care to throw at me. You have two decent alternatives. You either grab any number of open source scripts and pay for a custom upgrade (cheaper than going full-on custom) or use either vBulletin or XenForo as your dating site CMS. Both are rock solid. Both will continue to be updated. Both tick every box required of a dating CMS. Furthermore, both of them offer add-ons and social media functionality.
    I think I misread your $10K budget, Alison. I think you mean in total, not monthly. This is still great, of course, but if I were in your shoes (just so long as you're not wearing high heels; my wife would freak), then I'd actually avoid the media buying route for now. I'd harness socials. Take a look around many of the top performing media giants right now and pay close attention to how they use viral marketing. You'd be much better off spending that $10K, or part of it, on your website (and other properties, like apps), and growing your traffic with VM.

    Thanks for indulging my blocky paragraphs. Thanks, Newbim, for the kind words. Best of luck, Alison.

    Kick some IM butt.

    - Tom
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    • Profile picture of the author alisonkennedy
      Awesome, thanks again Tom!!

      ~Alison
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  • Profile picture of the author davemiz
    put your offer up on a CPA network. problem solved.
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    • Profile picture of the author alisonkennedy
      What would be a good CPA in your opinion, and does that affect adsense in any way? (Feel free to PM me) I don't want to violate adsense rules.
      ~Alison
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  • Profile picture of the author vikasgupta87
    Use facebook ads and try to target youth audience.
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    • Profile picture of the author alisonkennedy
      Originally Posted by vikasgupta87 View Post

      Use facebook ads and try to target youth audience.
      Thanks Vikasgupta87:

      Unfortunately, Facebook Ads doesn't allow dating sites of any kind now, except the big companies like Zoosk and Match.com.
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  • Profile picture of the author samuelbreezey
    You mention FB ads don't allow dating sites


    But how about you set up some sort of FB group and do an ad to that group which will then generate likes/a following. Simply then put your website in your description of the group and also have a pinned post
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    • Profile picture of the author alisonkennedy
      Interesting, but Facebook's team is extremely thorough in making sure that you're not advertising an unapproved dating service. It's ironic, because the above Todd and Clare dating is advertising their Affiliate program on FB, I saw an ad the other day to this: https://www.toddandclare.com/dating-...liate-program/ . I don't think POF even advertise on FB anymore.... so much a household name now, they don't need to.

      HiDine on the other hand in business insider claims FB turned away $500k: Facebook Ban On Dating Ads - Business Insider .

      So depressing that Facebook Ads won't accept my LGBTQ dating site for advertising...

      What about the Offervault.com for CPA offers, what are the best places to advertise for affiliates?
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    • Profile picture of the author Ivana Adnium
      Originally Posted by samuelbreezey View Post

      You mention FB ads don't allow dating sites


      But how about you set up some sort of FB group and do an ad to that group which will then generate likes/a following. Simply then put your website in your description of the group and also have a pinned post
      YES. Was just about to say this! Make a "passion FB page" (google more about passion pages) in a similar vertical as your dating site: for example your FB page could be something like "Dating tips for women who like women" or "Famous bi/lesbian Women" or something of that nature. And voila organic traffic from FB
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      • Profile picture of the author alisonkennedy
        Originally Posted by Ivana Adnium View Post

        YES. Was just about to say this! Make a "passion FB page" (google more about passion pages) in a similar vertical as your dating site: for example your FB page could be something like "Dating tips for women who like women" or "Famous bi/lesbian Women" or something of that nature. And voila organic traffic from FB
        Thanks for all the suggestions, it's very kind and helpful.
        ~Alison
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