Mainstream vs. Adult Dating

Stewart Tongue

As the internet continues to mature and an increasingly large percentage of digital consumers become more savvy to the methods available for navigating the net, the line between mainstream and adult marketing is quickly headed toward extinction. Virtually every adult webmaster has at least dabbled a toe in mainstream waters by this point and some large publicly traded mainstream companies in several sectors of the economy now either have their own adult entertainment properties or strong relationships with adult content providers. In the arena of online dating this distinction is already being tested as consumers often face parallel offers from mainstream and adult versions of similar online communities. To help fine-tune the marketing strategies webmasters use, XBIZ sat down with several leading brands of mainstream and adult dating to discuss marketing tactics that work for adult, mainstream or both.

“Adult dating is what it is. It’s people looking for sex” said Kalyn, affiliate manager at the Friend Finder Network. “In my case, mainstream is a very big niche. I target mainstream as long as I can find something like the relationship section in the ExperienceProject.com or the women section on GQ.com. I look at what a mainstream company would benefit from by having a dating partner on their site and depending on the purpose of a site, they often do profit from adding a quality dating site outlet for their audience as a method of further monetizing their mature gray-area traffic.”

When I talk with our affiliates, who’ve done promotion on adult dating and mainstream dating, they have usually said it’s way easier to push adult dating. -AK of DatingGold.com

“Finding out who the last dating site they worked with was, when the last campaign took place, why it ended and what kind of ads were displayed is an essential part of matching our best offers with their individual content needs” Kalyn continued. “If they have never worked with an adult dating offer, they may be willing to expand their limits to see how much more they might earn by promoting adult dating sites as an alternative to other less titillating products that are on their site already. Only after I’ve made my final attempt at adult dating would I switch to option #2, which is mainstream dating. The simple fact is, adult dating is a much better play financially for site owners in almost every instance and my goal is always to maximize revenue for our traffic partners.”

While adult dating may be more lucrative for webmasters and publishers, it seems that it may also be far easier to promote as well. “Mainstream dating offers customers the idea of meeting someone that could potentially be their partner for life whereas adult dating provides the idea of hooking up with no strings attached” said AK of DatingGold.com. “For that reason, with adult dating, there is always an important ‘fantasy’ aspect to marketing successfully which mainstream dating customers aren’t necessarily seeking. That also opens the door to many more features for adult dating users to enjoy, such as webcam girls, adult bonus content and things of that nature. When I talk with our affiliates, who’ve done promotion on adult dating and mainstream dating, they have usually said it’s way easier to push adult dating.”

The most lucrative forms of online dating also depend largely on your target audience. “Adult dating and women rarely mix well, unless the right niche and the right community is targeted from the start” said Amber, community manager of GirlFriendsMeet.com. “While many marketers might think lesbian dating is about having fun and simply exploring a taboo love that ‘dare not speak its name,’ it’s much, much more than that. Girlfriends Meet gives women the opportunity to communicate, with profile tools that help them find real and rewarding relationships on their own terms. Affiliates are be able to market it as something real that gives long-term value and we have found that to be the most successful way to market any dating opportunity in mainstream or adult.”

Several experts made the point that webmasters are best advised to at least try marketing both mainstream and adult dating offers. Knowing the market and having a comprehensive sense of what your potential clients are comparing your sites to is a always worthwhile exercise, even if some of your experiments are less profitable than others. “I always suggest that adult webmasters try promoting some niche mainstream dating sites as well,” said Mo of DatingFactory.com “I think adult webmasters are years ahead of many of the mainstream guys, and if they apply some of the same techniques used in adult for SEO, traffic acquisition and traffic generation to promote specific well-targeted mainstream niche sites there is plenty of opportunity make lots of money. At the same time, having a position on the mainstream side of the market also gives you a great chance to see what works there and port it back over to your adult marketing efforts too.”

In the comparison between mainstream and adult dating, it is also worth noting that lower quality adult dating sites thrown together by shortsighted webmasters have created an obstacle of mistrust among consumers. Likewise, many of the mainstream dating sites advertised on television have earned a reputation for being far too rigid and requiring hours of filling out surveys just to get to the point of finally being able to browse other dating profiles. That combination of errors is something quality dating sites continue to work hard to overcome. It has lead to the establishment of a few significant hybrid dating sites positioned to accept members from either mainstream or adult marketing campaigns without leaning too far toward one audience or the other specifically.

‘We’ve all seen many examples of Adult Dating missteps over the years” said Darrell, Program Manager of BeSocial. com. “Most, if not all, have depended on a trial to upgrade business model where very little actual user engagement and transparency can take place until the user upgrades their membership. Mainstream media and many of our favorite TV shows or movies have poked fun at the idea of ‘Sexy coeds eagerly wanting to meet just about anyone.’ That’s why BeSocial and casual dating in general looks to shake off these negative connotations by giving users something fresh — a community where individuals decide how they want to best use the site. At BeSocial, we allow users to simply look for friends, find long-term relationships, or scout out a quick hookup. This choice empowers users and makes women, who remain the life-blood of any dating community, feel much more at ease. BeSocial also gives affiliates more flexibility in who they market to and with adult or mainstream traffic sources.”

When you look closely at the shifting options available in online dating, the move toward adult by many in mainstream and the move toward mainstream by many in adult leaves us with a dividing line that is evaporating and a window of opportunity for adult webmasters interested in crossing over to mainstream dating markets. Among SEO experts, the advantage of a webmaster who has been ‘porn educated’ is real because many of the methods used to successfully rank adult sites remain somewhat foreign to mainstreamers. Simultaneously, adult industry dating sponsors continue to hold a strong advantage with regard to the types of tools available from white labels to custom promo content and marketing expertise. Now may be the best time to put the competitive advantage of top adult companies, who are ahead of the curve already, to use in full monetization of your own traffic networks.