Online dating is the new normal.

According to Statistic Brain, of the 54 million single people in the U.S., 49 million of them have tried online dating. So, if you’re thinking about joining, you’re in good company.

But, before you start chatting with other singles and going on fun dates, you’ve have to overcome one major obstacle: creating your profile.

Trying to define yourself with a couple hundred words and a few photos is challenging. Luckily, researchers have taken the mystery out of what makes a great profile.

Here are 5 ways to optimize your profile so you look sexier, attract more dates and increase your chances of finding love.

#1 Write About What You’re Looking for in a Partner

When writing their descriptions, a lot of people try to cram as much information about themselves as possible. This innocent mistake can greatly reduce the amount of messages you receive. In the same study as above, researchers found that the most most popular online daters only used 70% of their profiles to talk about themselves and used the remaining 30% to describe what they’re looking for in a partner.

For example, you could say:

“I’m an adventurous person who loves to spend time outdoors and am looking for a like-minded individual to share fun experiences with.”

Action Step: Think about what you’re looking for in a partner and write your description using the 70:30 rule.

#2 Show Emotional Availability

Social Psychologists Stephanie Spielmann and Geoff MacDonald conducted experiments to find out what matters more on online dating profiles: attractiveness or emotional availability. When given the choice between a sexy but emotionally unavailable person or someone who is less attractive but appears caring and emotionally responsive, both men and women tended to the more emotionally available person.

How do you show emotional availability?

Avoid insensitive statements like: “I am a highly driven person who is focused on my career and am willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.”

Remember, you’re looking for a relationship, not a promotion.

Instead write things like: “I enjoy going to music festivals and am looking for someone who shares my love of music and spending time with people.”

Warning: Don’t lie on your profile. If you’re looking for casual, low-commitment relationships, be honest, otherwise you’re going to attract people who expect more from you than you’re willing to give.

Action step: Focus on your hobbies and character traits that are people and value centered to show that you are emotionally available to develop meaningful relationships with people.

#3 Use the Word “Love”

Looking for love?

The dating site PlentyofFish wondered what types of profiles led to the best relationships. After examining 1.2 million profiles they discovered that people who used the word “love” in their descriptions were the most successful at engaging in committed relationships. Men in particular benefited from using similar words like “heart,” “romantic,” and “relationship.”

Action Step: If you’re looking for love, make sure to mention it on your profile.

#4 Choose a Strategic Username

Following your picture, your username is the most influential tool you have to get people to check out your profile. Studies show that straight men tend to zero in on female usernames with words that suggest physical attractiveness such as “cute…”, “sexy…” and “blondie…” Meanwhile straight women are attracted to usernames that sound successful like “cultured…” and “driven…”

Also, among all sexualities there tends to be a preference for usernames whose first letter is in the beginning of the alphabet. This is because many online dating sites list users in alphabetical order, so if your username is toward the end, fewer people flip through enough pages to find your profile. Research also suggests that we subconsciously associate names in the beginning of the alphabet with success.

Action Step: Choose a username that either a) matches what your preferred partner is looking for or b) starts with a letter in the beginning of the alphabet.

#5 Smile and Tilt

Researchers at the London School of Medicine analyzed 86 studies about psychology, sociology and behavioral science to discover what makes an effective online dating profile. They found that the most attractive profile pictures, especially for women, showed them smiling genuinely at the camera with their head slightly tilted.

Action Step: Tilt your head and think about something happy before taking your profile pic so you have a genuine smile.

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and human behavioral investigator in our lab.

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