Ok, so you took my advice and created a profile that follows three basic principles; good pictures, authenticity and positive wording.

Now what?

Before you start just surfing profiles, take a few things into consideration. The most obvious is to have some idea of what you are looking for. Often, dating sites will have questions, surveys, compatibility matching, etc. Fill them out. Take the time. It shows a potential partner that you are serious about your search. It should also help you narrow down your interests and help you determine what you are really seeking in a partner.

Once you have filled out your profile completely and have taken the time to acquaint yourself with the website and its offerings, there really is only one thing left to do… Start looking!

Do keep in mind as you begin looking around that most dating sites pay very careful attention to who is logging on, and give priority to those users. Therefore the more you look, the more you are seen. So, time to profile troll.

Here’s a few additional ideas as you begin your quest for a new partner…

Consider paying for quality. While there are at least a half dozen decent websites out there that are free to join and have basic communication features without a fee (OKCupid.com and PlentyOfFish.com come to mind), it may be a good idea to go ahead and spring for the extra few bucks to join a site as a premium member. While there are a few admonishments, paying for a site is (in most cases) likely to produce results fairly quickly. My strongest advice for those who choose this route is to make certain you can pay a one time fee and cancel anytime, and that you do not agree to recurring fees that indicate you are willing to have them simply bill you on a recurring cycle without you ever being notified.

Caveat emptor: Many dating sites try to find enticements or “special offers” to get you to purchase more time than you need, more promotion than you need, and worse, have tiny little check boxes (already nicely checked for you) in which you agree to terms you are unaware of simply by accepting. Be very cautious.

If you do elect to go with a pay site, try to get the best value for your dollar. Read reviews and make sure that their target audience is indeed your area of interest. For instance, it would be silly to join ChristianMingles.com if you’re not looking for a Christian woman, or CougarLife.com if you’re not a young man looking to hook up with an older women (and, ahem, if you just want to have sex, well, there are sites that specialize in that, too.)

Decide who and what type of relationship you are looking for and find the site that best matches you. Do some research, there are many, many good reviews easily available online (perhaps we’ll review some here in the coming weeks)

Use their search features. Sites often have hidden advanced search features that can help you separate the wheat from the chaff. Some sites only offer these for an upgraded subscription only, though there are a few sites that have pretty good filters right out of the gate.

For example, it took me awhile while I was dating to decide that I did indeed have some basic criteria that I simply required a potential date to have before I even began any communication at all. Also, the longer I have spent online dating, the more clear I am that certain things must be in someone’s profile, or I’m just not interested.

Now when I search, I check a profile for these requirements and red flags first.

If you troll three times, say hello. Perhaps a silly rule of thumb, though I find that if I have gone back to someone’s profile a few times, chances are good there is something I am attracted to. A simple hello probably won’t hurt. Besides, most sites will let that user know that you have been looking so your hello may well be anticipated. Even on the internet, girls mostly do expect guys to make the first move.

If she looks too good to be true…. Surprise! Some profiles are there for one reason only; to scam you. Beware of falling in love with slender Eastern Bloc women, or being pursued by women from Pacific Rim islands who appears far more attracted to you than would be expected. If you are online late at night, and a 22 year old cutie with white panties wants to “chat” out of the blue, well, you have been warned. Generally speaking, you should be wary of any profile or offer that seems a bit too friendly. Of course, you don’t want to miss out on someone’s genuine interest, but there are sure signs you are being led astray when you learn to recognize them. The most obvious is someone clearly out of your league trying to get your attention, or someone from another country who just happened to find your profile.

Finally, once you have selected a potential interest, don’t ever appear over eager, or too available.

Take time to build communication online first. I know this may bother some of you who want to jump straight into a date or at least a phone call, I’m going to recommend against it. You should take your time in developing a rapport. Get the basics out of the way in email, text or messenger services.

Women who are in a hurry are probably a bad idea. If they aren’t taking good care of themselves by requiring you pass a few test questions before handing over their phone number, they are either naïve or impatient.

Your patience will show that you are cautious as well. Take your time in your replies and be careful to use proper language and punctuation (women really do notice). Once you are comfortable that the person you have begun communicating is real and worth delving into knowing more about, then offer a phone number.

Next week we’ll look at what to say, and what not to say when you finally do have that first voice communication.

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