Dating Service Scripts
In this step-by-step guide we will show you how to make an online dating service, how to build a huge member base, and eventually how to make money from it by charging for memberships.
What is Online Dating?
The internet is the "information highway". But it's also a place where people meet. Online Dating allows people to meet online, and possibly develop a romantic or sexual relationship.
For internet entrepreneurs like you, however, online dating is just another source of revenue.
Online dating services connects with basic human needs. The american psychologist Abraham Maslow saw human beings' needs arranged like a pyramid. The most basic needs, at the bottom, were physical. Examples of physical needs are air, nourishment, and sex. In the middle of Maslow's hierarchy of needs I find love and friendship. Online dating promises the opportunity to meet at least a few of these basic human needs. In The Dating Project we're going to show you how to exploit those needs to make money online.
How To Make Money From A Dating Service
The best part with online dating though: You get the opportunity to help other people while making a lot of money at the same time. That is, if your service is actually serving its members.
There are several ways to make money with online dating:
- Subscriptions: Make your members pay a fee (monthly / quarterly / yearly) to access your dating service (or certain parts of it).
- Traditional Mass-Advertising: Use advertising on your dating site. You could outsource advertising management to programs like Google AdSense and use Pay-Per-Click ads, or manage and sell advertising space yourself.
- Highly Targeted Advertising: You could advertise on the members website, and present them with highly targeted ads, i.e. if a member have choosen "body type: Tubby" in their members profile you could serve them advertising about weight loss pills, dieting, etc. Furthermore you will get access to a lot of private information, like phone numbers, email addresses, postal address and you could use this information to advertise.
- Affiliate Marketing: Use your dating service to recruit to other dating services, or any other appropiate product and service. You could use traditional affiliate networks, or you could arrange your own deals with any appropiate company. For example, you could team up with a florist and gift retailer and make a button on each profile that says: "Send me a gift or flower". There's probably thousands of different opportunities you could use to blend affiliate marketing with your dating site.
- Charge For Extra Services: Create additional services and charge your members to use them. For example, you could charge extra for letting your members see who has read their profile. Believe it or not, members are willing to pay a lot of money for extra services.
- Sell Personal Information: You must be very careful if you choose to do sell other peoples private information to any third parties. Participate in permission marketing, where you permit other companies to send advertising to your members through email, SMS etc. and you will get a percentage of the revenue. Do not sell your members private information unless they have clearly permitted you to go through with this.
The Paradox Of Paid Online Dating
The paradox of paid online dating services is that if people get what they want, they have no reason to continue their membership. The big online dating giants are familiar with this fact. So instead of making it easier to find mates, they do the exact oposite: They make it harder to find your match!
Just think about it: Imagine you owned a dating service with 1 million paying members. If you matched them all in pairs to form "perfect couples", then you'd probably go bankrupt. Why? Your members found what they came for, so there would be no reason to continue paying the membership fee. So instead of matching them, you would keep them searching for months.
However, they do have a reputation to take care of, so they have to maintain a certain level of satisfaction amongst their members. Nevertheless, their business practice is: Don't give the members what they came for in their first months.
I have kept an eye on the industry for years, and it's not a pretty sight. Beneath the surface online dating is just as bad as any other dodgy industry. There are upright and honest participants in this industry for sure, but the average online dating service is mostly serving their owners more than they are serving their members. That's not where I want you to be! Even though it's easy to get away with it, I don't want you to create yet another dating service that makes you a lot of money while leaving your members empty-handed.
If you like the idea of making money with your own online dating service, here's what I like you to do:
I want YOU to create an OUTSTANDING and profitable online dating service that treat its members with respect and dignity. You really can make a lot of money from online dating.
The Dating Project
To make $1,000 every day online from your own online dating site.
Medium (But will take some time if you have no previous experience with HTML, MySQL and PHP)
Time to implement
1 week to setup. At least 6 months to complete all steps and reach the target for this project.
Less than $20 (for domain and hosting)
Hosting + domain (we'll come to that later)
What To Do
You will create an online dating site, market it, provide services that holds real value to its members, and make money from it. You will make a profit, and hopefully, your members will get what they want. Everybody wins.
The goal is to make $1,000 per day with an online dating site, withouth having to feel bad about doing so. It's almost too easy for anyone to create a lugubrious dating site and then make a lot of money by fooling its members one way or the other. But that's not for you...
You want feel good about yourself when you're making tons of money online. It's hundred times funnier to make money online when you know you serve others at the same time, and in the end it's probably way easier than to trick other people into paying for crap.
Now, if you're ready for this let's begin our Online Dating Project...
So how do I know that this really works? Because I have followed this exact procedure ourselves, and we've made several fairly successful dating site based on the step-by-step guide you're now about to read...
STEP ONE: Choose Your Market Segment
The Online Dating Industry is HUGE. For almost any nation of the western world there's at least a few really big online dating services that dominate the market. To compete with them you would have to buy your way in... and that would have to cost you millions. So forget about competing with them.
The biggest online dating services target almost "everybody", that's their market segment. Of course, "everybody" means everyone with an internet connection and a computer that lives in country X... but that's still a pretty large segment. You have almost no chance to compete with these sites unless you are really REALLY clever.
So what you need to do is find a segment in the dating market. A Market segment is a subgroup of people or organizations sharing one or more characteristics that cause them to have similar product needs.
You should choose a market segment that's small enough to differentiate your service from the giant dating services. Here's one example of a well defined market segment:
Straight people ages 16 to 26 living in Belfast, Ireland.
Choose a segment that you know well. If you actually lived in Ireland and if you knew a few things about young and straight people in Belfast, this could have been a good segment for you. Anyway, it's important that you choose a segment that you understand. For example, do NOT create a service for seniors living in Northern Spain, if you know nothing about this segment – you would have been destined to fail miserably.
Furthermore, do not only choose a market segment that you understand well, but also adjust your market segment so that you differentiate your service from the dominating dating services.
Most big dating sites are target bigger market segments, usually one market segment targets all people of all ages from one country. For example, Match.com Denmark targets both straight and homosexual people from 18 to 105 years of age, living in any region of the country. And they're not the only large dating site in Denmark, there's many others. So, you would most likely have spend millions to buy your way into that market. So instead of going into this market, simply "squeeze" yourself in by choosing a small piece of this market. Example:
Straight people ages 18 to 30 living in Copenhagen.
Now, with this segment, you just might have a chance to get inside the online dating market in Denmark. You can always expand later.
Choose your market segment for your dating service, write it donw, and then move on to the next step.
STEP TWO: Pick Your Niche
Smaller segments are usually termed niche segments, or simply niches.
Let's continue from the market segment from the example above: Straight people ages 18 to 30 living in Copenhagen. This segment is still pretty large. There's 1,145,000 people living in Copenhagen, and that's just in the urban area. Probably more than 100,000 of these people are in the ages 18 to 30, which is your market segment. It would cost a lot of money to market your dating site in such a way that these people would actually spend their money on your dating site.
Instead of paying your way through advertising and brand building you could thghten your market segment further, to the point that it could be seens as a niche.
Instead of targeting every straight person in Copenhagen in the age 18 to 30, you could enter a niche within this market:
Students in Copenhagen
That's a pretty tight niche for a dating site, but still there's enough people in that spesific market that you could make a lot of money from it.
If you haven't been living under a rock for the last two or three years you have heard of Facebook. This social network was initially restricted to students of Harvard College. And now look what happened to the site! Facebook is now it's the largest social network in the world, with more than 62 million active users valued at over 15 billion US dollars (Microsoft purchased 1.6% of the company for 240 million).
When founder Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook it was in a thight niche. If you think "Studens in Copenhagen" seems like a niche that's too small to make money from, then think again...
You can always expand later on, but starting small is always a good idea. Learn how to crawl before you learn to walk etc.
There are several advantages of starting out with a spesific niche when running a dating site:
- Your members have things in common (i.e. they are all students in Copenhagen, many have similar daily tasks and routines, etc.)
- You have better control of who your users (members) are
- You have a better idea of what your members are interested in
- It's much easier to sell advertising space
- It's easier to promote affiliate programs
- It's easier to attract viral (word-of-mouth) traffic
- It's easier to grow and expand your dating site
- You'll avoid direct competition from the dominating dating sites
Okay, to sum it all up so far: Start locally and choose a market segment and (if possible) a niche for your dating service. You can always expand later. Write down your market segment and niche before you continue to the next step.
STEP THREE: Get A Domain And Hosting
I will show you how to create the site itself in just a minute, but first you need a hosting account (disk space where you store the files) for your dating site.
Bluehost is a great hosting solutions for any dating site. If your site would get millions of visitors, then you would have to go with an dedicated server. But until then you could do just as well with a cheaper solution.
Go to www.Bluehost.com now and buy a domain and a hosting solution for your dating site. I recommend the Baby account or the Swamp account (see Bluehost for details) for this project (less than $5 per month for the Hatchling account).
How to select a good domain name for your dating website? There's no definite answer here. Take a look at other dating sites that have succeeded:
eHarmony; Dating Direct; Match.com; Date.com; Friendfinder; PerfectMatch; LavaLife; simplyclicked.com; blacksingles.com; SinglesCrowd; dreammates.com; dreamdates.com; jdate.com; foreignrelations.com; PlentyOfFish.com; lovebrowser.com...
For niche sites you could start with more descriptive names. In our Copenhagen example you could get a domain such as:
CopenhagenDating.com; Copenlove.dk; LoveCopen.dk; StudentsOfCopanhagen.com; etc...
When you buy a hosting account with Bluehost you will get a 45 Day Money Back Guarantee, so if you decide to change to another host later, then there's no problem to do so.
For now, you just need to get a hosting account and a domain, and then move on to the next step. Go to Bluehost to get your domain name and a space to store your dating site.
Once you've got yourself a hosting account from Bluehost and bought yourself a domain name, you're ready to continue to the next step.
STEP FOUR: Download The Dating Script
Rest assured, you don't have to write the dating script yourself. Most of you probably don't know how to write a dating script at all. Hell, some of you may not even know what a script is... In this context, a script is simply a set of commands written in a computer language to automate certain tasks. The script we're going to use will make it possible to run a dating site under your own domain name.
The dating script we're going to use is already written for you. It's already finished! All you need to do is to upload it to your Bluehost server and that's that.
The script we're going to use is osDate. This script is a free, open-source dating system, and it's really great, except the visual appearance of the site which is not very impressive (we're going to take care of the esthetics later).
This is what you get for free with osDate:
- All files needed to install this script on your PHP-enabled web server.
- Web-based Installation Wizard to help you get the script up and running quickly.
- 100% of the Flash source code, including ALL .fla and .as files.
- Free user-to-user support
- Free upgrades
Remember, this script is open source so you don't have to pay for it.
Download osDate here:
Go to the download location by following the link above. Right click the download link on that page and select your disired download location.
STEP FIVE: Installation And Configuration
Unpack the script: First thing you need to do is to unoack the .zip file (or .tgz file) you just downloaded. If you're running Windows XP, Windows VISTA or later you should be able to open this file just like you would open a folder on your harddrive. However, if this fails, you may want to use some software to unzip (open the compressed files) the zip file. I recommend 7zip, which is open source software (free) and you can use 7-Zip on any computer.
Creating a Database: When you created an hosting account with Bluehost you recieved an email with a username and a password. Go to http://www.[your.dating.site.com]/cpanel/ and enter your username and password. Then click on the MySQL® Databases icon and create a database (Fill in the "New Database" field). Create a user (fill in the username and password field). Then Add the user you just created to the database. Really simple. Write down all the details, you'll need them later.
Installation: Upload all files to your server, then run "install.php" by opening it with your web browser. For example, http://www.your_dating_site.com/install.php During installation, you may need to CHMOD (change permissions of) some files and folders so that PHP can write to them during operation of osDate. If you are unsure how to do that, please contact your website administrator at Bluehost. You will be asked about database name, username, and password. The "host" is simply "localhost" (assuming you use Bluehost).
Admin Interface: The osDate admin panel can be accessed at http://www.[your.dating.site.com]/admin/ and default login is username = admin and password = what you specified during install (default is "pass").
Documentation and Support: For more information on installation and configuration, see the documentation. You can get FREE support via the osDate community, the forum is here
STEP SIX: Test Your Dating Site
By now you should have uploaded your dating site, and it should work just right out of the box.
So do a quick test of your own site, try to register a few members just to see if everything is working, and send some communication back and forth. If everything works as it should, then great!
If you get stuck then re-read the documentation, ask your hosting company for advice if appropiate, or simply go to the support forum and ask for help there (remember to check if your question has already been answered as it's really annoying when the same question comes up again and again, won't make you any more popular in there either).
So before you continue make sure your site works like it should, right out of the box. Now, there's a little tweaking that needs to be done to make the site really good, and that's what we're going to take care of in the next step.
STEP SEVEN: Create Your Own Template
The osDate script uses templates to determine the visual presentation of the dating site. You don't want to use the default template, it's a total mess. And you don't want to use the ready-made templates from Tufat.com either, they're not really good either. What you need to do is to make your own look and feel. As I have already mentioned, the script is great, but the visual presentation is not very impressive.
Make your site fit your market segment and your niche. Make your dating site look good... But how do you create your own templates?
Get ready to do a lot of tweaking. To make money you have to invest money... OR invest your time and energy. This dating projectis mostly about investing time and energy so get prepared.
Outsource The Template Design...
Outsourcing the template design: If you have absolutely NO SKILLS in HTML and CSS, and if you don't want to spend some time learning it, you could outsource the creation of the template. However, we'd highly recommend you learn it though, as basic knowledge of HTML and CSS is fundamental to most opportunities to make money online. To outsource the template design, go to elance.com or rentacoder.com and find someone to do the job for you. For more information on outsourcing, see the bonus section about Outsourcing your work.
Even though if you are a good designer, you might benefit from finding a professional graphic designer to create a sample sketch for your dating site, then go to elance to find a programmer that will adjusts the osDate template accordingly to the sketch. Shouldn't cost you more than $200 - $500 to get this work done (both the design and the template tweaking), so even if you know how to tweak the templates it might be a good idea to pay someone else to do it.
...Or Do It Yourself
For HTML-savvies here's what you need to do: First, convert all tables to div's. This is not a must but it'll improve the script a lot. To do this you will need HTML skills and CSS skills. If you have absolutely no clue what we're talking about, then you should read and understand the basics of HTML and CSS (for an introduction go to www.w3schools.com). Then, when you understand the basics you should at least be able to outsource the work to someone that knows how to convert the tables.
Before you continue to the next step, make sure you have a dating site that is working properly, and that have a unique design that appeals to your spesific market segment.
STEP EIGHT: Getting People To Signup
The hardest part of starting a dating site is to get enough people to sign up. The challange is to get the first few thousand members to your site.
You won't make a lot of money by running a free dating site, unless you have massive amounts of traffic. Now, we're not expecting you to achieve massive amounts of traffic. It's highly unrealistic that your site will be the next PlentyOfFish.com or Match.com. However, you will need at least a few thousand members (don't worry, it's not as hard as it sounds).
However, who in hell would pay for a dating site with NO MEMBERS? The answer is probably NOBODY. If you were honest and told them about your fresh site with zero members, of course no one would pay to register. But we're not suggesting a scam here either. So the deal is: To get your first members you will need to offer your services for free. Payment for membership comes later. Until then you will have to rely on advertising to make money. However, in the beginning you should not even use advertising at all, as your site would offer nothing of real value for your first members.
Okay, so no you offer a free online dating service (make sure you make configurations in admin panel to ensure your site is free to all users). But so what? There's thousands of other sites that also offer similar services that doesn't charge their members anything.
What you need is to create an irresistible offer and you need to create a remarkable dating site. If you don't, nobody will notice your site, even those particular people in your spesific market segment would lift their eyebrows.
You absolutely have to get their attention, and if you create something remarkable and offer them something irresistible, you will succeed. Your site will spread virally and your member base will grow rapidly, and who knows, maybe it eventually will explode to become the next big thing on the internet.
Making something free does not guarantee that people will want it. Making your dating site free will not automatically cause more signups. You have to offer somthing that your market segment want.
Let's go back to our example with the Copenhagen dating site. Here's a few ideas on how to make an irresistible offer for your market:
- Free membership: For the first 8,000 signups, offer the service for FREE, and use as little advertising as possible. Your first goal is to get people to sign up, not to make money immediately.
- Offer free articles on dating in Copenhagen. Make some of these articles free for everyone so that Search Engines can spider them and index them, this will bring you some extra traffic. Then make some articles free just for members, this will bring you some extra signups.
- Offer exclusive student rebates and deals for stores and shopping malls in Copenhagen for your members (and if you're smart you make such deals a source of income in the form of advertising or partherships/affiliate marketing).
- Offer dating nights events (obviously you don't have to arrange them yourself. There's plenty of night clubs in Copenhagen that would arrange the event is you just bring them enough people. Some would even pay you for referring people to them.)
- Offer crazy guarantees: "Find your soulmate in SIX MONTHS or we'll give you a free [offer here]". There's two possible outcomes: One is that your membership base will grow in those six months, and the probablility for any member to "find their soulmate" will increase. The other possible outcome is that they will not find their soulmate, and you simply give them what you offered for free. If you're smart you may simply offer something that they will get for free anyway, but is hard to find, such as an affiliate deal where you even get a commission for offering free stuff to your members (such deals can be found in various affiliate networks).
You can speed up the growth of your membership base through advertising in local media or wherever your market segment hold their attention. Viral marketing, as defined by Wikipedia as marketing techniques that use preexisting social networks to produce increases in brand awareness, is a cheap way to make your membership base grow. However, to succeed with viral marketing you will need a to be creative and think outside the box.
STEP NINE: Search Engine Optimization
You absolutely need to use search engine friendly URL's if you want high ranking in the search engines (translation: if you want to get as many signups as possible). You will have to use Apache servers, if you're using Bluehost then you already are using Apache as default.
Here's what you need to do:
- Mod_rewrite: Ensure that mod_rewrite is enabled
- Upload new .htaccess file: Open the osDate "SEF_URLs" folder, and find the file named ".htaccess.txt". Open this file with a good text editor, like Textpad, and edit the "RewriteBase ..." line to correspond to the docroot variable in config.php. You can ignore lines beginning with "#" as those are comments. Upload the file (not the folder) htaccess.txt to your osDate root folder, and rename to ".htaccess".
- Admin configuration: Enable URL Rewriting in Admin
- If you need a detailed explanation of how to do this, you can find it in the osDate Documentation here.
As I have already mentioned, you should also write articles that are accessible to the search engines. Furthermore, you should add keyword rich title tags, for example:
Copenhagen Studens Dating - Find love, friendship, sex - Copenhagen Dating Site
You can easily edit the title tags in the admin interface.
For more tips on search engine optimization, see how to convert web traffic into money.
Before you go on and implement the next step, make sure you have a fully functional dating site with at least 8,000 members. This may take you several months, so be patient and work hard with as getting much traffic as possible and get high conversion on signups.
STEP TEN: Make Money With Your Dating Site
So, now you have a few thousand members and you're ready to take the next big step: Make Money through paid membership.
This is the most exciting part, and until now you've probably only made pocket change with your site. Even if you have made money from your first 8,000 members, now is the time to think big.
I suggest you offer payment options through both PayPal and Credit Cards. The reason for this is that if you provide only one payment option, less people will register and pay for your services (For example, not everyone has a PayPal account, and not everyone are willing to pay with their credit cards online).
For this osDate project there are three services that are relevant for you:
SSL versus non-SSL?
For advanced users: You dating site could offer Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to hadle cryptographic protocols that provide secure communications on the Internet. This could be used as a sales argument, as online users are becoming more tech savvy and they are aware of the benefits from the use of https's instead of http's when providing private information online.
However, you could simply go with a non-integrated payment method, as it's much easier to implement.
PayPal integration with osDate is easy and fast, and here's how to do it:
Step A. The first thing to do is to setup your Instant Payment Notification URL. Login to your PayPal account, then click on the "My Account" tab at the top, then the "Profile" sub-tab, as shown below. You should have a link titled "Instant Payment Notification Preferences". Click on that option. If this option is not available, you may need to upgrade your PayPal account by linking it with a bank account or credit card.
Step B. In the Instant Payment Notification (IPN) area, there is a checkbox to check, and a textbox where you can input the full http:// or https:// URL to your "checkout_process.php" file. For example, if your site is at http://www.yourdatingsite.com/date/ the url will be http://www.yourdatingsite.com/date/checkout_process.php.
Step C. You will probably also want your users to be directed to a "thank you" page after completing a payment. You can input this URL in the "Website Payment Preferences" section of the Profile tab. If you use checkout_process.php again, then users will be presented with a simple thank you screen (this is built in to osDate). Or, if you'd prefer to create your own thank you page, or re-direct users to a different domain altogether, you can do that as well. Your system will still be correctly notified of the successful payment by virtue of the IPN system that we've already set up. Thus, setting up Auto Return is recommended, but not required.
Step D. Finally, log in to the osDate admin panel, and edit the PayPal payment module. Leave all options at their defaul values for now, but input your PayPal email address in the "Business" field.
Now, when a user chooses the PayPal option for payment, they will be redirected to PayPal for payment. On successful payment, PayPal will send a response back to your server (to the checkout_process.php file), notifying your system.
PayPal Data Transfer
osDate 2.0 uses PayPal's Payment Data Transfer technology. However, to use this you must do following if you already have a PayPal account with IPN or PDT enabled:
- Login to your paypal account.
- Using account management functins, disable IPIN and PDT in the account. Also, remove any URL given for IPN or PDT.
- In osDate's admin panel, provide the account details needed to access PayPal.
Ensure that the PayPal module is enabled, and that at least one permission level is defined that requires non-zero monetary payment.
You may also want to implement other payment systems. For information on how to implement 2CheckOut and Authorize.Net, see the documentation for osDate.
Need help with this? As always, if you get stuck when working with osDate, simply ask for help in the community forum, it's a great resource where dating site owners just like you contribute and help each other out.
STEP ELEVEN: Outsource Administration
You don't need to spend a lot of time working on your dating site. The solution is to outsource all non-critical tasks once your dating site has become profitable.
For example, theres always a lot of work related to admenistering membership status (upgrading from free member to basic member, to V.I.P. membership status etc.). You can easily outsource such tasks by using Virtual Assistants (list of outsourcing services).
You could outsource daily tasks to webmasters and site admins. Get a virtual asssistant to pay attention to day-to-day profits. Hire an accountant and occasionally whatch your online dating business grow. While this may sound like really expensive you could get all of it for less than $800 per month, and that's close to nothing if you make, say, $30,000 per month from your dating site. We'd doubt you begin to make that much your first year online though. However, you should be able to outsource daily tasks already in your first months after reaching 8,000 members while still maintaining a profit.
Don't pay for outsourcing if you can get it for free: Here's just a few words about non-human automation... Much of the processes could be automated even withouth outsourcing. For example, you could establish community forums (already integrated with osDate) to setup member-to-member support, where members help each other out. Another example is cancellation of memberships which could also be automated easily.
You can make good money with an online dating service based on osDate, but it's not going to happen if you just put up another site right out of the box–you will have to think and act outside the box if this is going to work.
And that's it. A complete guide on how to make money from online dating scripts!
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