opinion

White Labels Turn Gray

Stewart Tongue

White labels are evolving as marketers continue to refine their use is leading to some interesting new developments in the dating niche.

For the uninitiated, the dating site white label phenomena started for several reasons. The main two were a matter of brand continuity and facility. Previous marketing tools and materials like banner ads or click marketing required site owners who wanted to sell dating offerings to send their traffic to another brand name for monetization.

Factoring in DMCA safe harbor provisions and potential 2257 liabilities, it’s easy to see why so many use white labels to take reduce the heat. -Colin Rowntree

Having loyal bookmarkers leaving Site X to sign up at Dating Site Z under another brand name was not nearly as interesting to site owners as being able to quickly create white label landing pages as Dating Site X which share the exact same name brand, colors and theme as the existing host site.

By white labeling, site owners can attempt to sell dating without much risk of losing their own traffic to a dating site’s own marketing chain of offers if the potential buyer chose not to sign up.

Surely most site owners would have preferred to own their own sophisticated dating site network as well, but the amount of investment necessary to build out a fully functioning dating site platform is daunting. Add in potential liability from 2257 issues, moderating user-uploaded content, dealing with extensive customer support requirements and competing with deep-pocket competitors. That made white labeling an easy answer because it gave marketers the facility to provide potential customers with top-quality dating site features at virtually zero cost.

The failings of white label dating sites are not caused by any inability, but are actually due to their well-known ability to generate sales. What was once a small number of dating site networks and a handful of white labels has quickly turned into a mushroom cloud of even fewer exclusive dating site platforms and explosive growth in the number of white labels on the market. Thousands of cookie-cutter dating sites sharing very similar templates, duplicative image content, regurgitated text, and the exact same price points now litter the internet while crowding out innovation. Add to that the increasing awareness of savvy consumers who have now experienced online dating in one form or another somewhere else already — and it is easy to see why many webmasters and potential customers now believe that traditional dating white label sites have become quite stale.

In December the thin content epidemic reached such an unprecedented level that Google mouthpiece Matt Cutts stated in a YouTube Video that the Search provider now believes somewhere between 25 to 30 percent of all the content on the web is duplicative.

Google followed that up in January of 2014 with an official post on their blog. Stating plainly, “If your site syndicates content that’s available elsewhere, a good question to ask is: ‘Does this site provide significant added benefits that would make a user want to visit this site in search results instead of the original source of the content?’ If the answer is ‘No,’ the site may frustrate searchers and violate our quality guidelines. As with any violation of our quality guidelines, we may take action, including removal from our index, in order to maintain the quality of our users.”

Google’s own comments make it undeniably clear that a white label just like all the others is unlikely to gain any organic traction for traffic.

From the site owner side of the spectrum, the desire for an easy to implement white label system still definitely exists.

“Aside from the large concerns about fake profiles and recent FTC actions for false advertising practices, having produced content and run a network of content sites for 20 years, I have always shied away from running my own adult dating site or a community site that allows any kind of user generated images,” said Colin Rowntree of Wasteland.com. “Why? The sheer amount of moderation that needs to occur to keep spammers out results in individual review of all uploaded content, which then removes any umbrella protection as a simple regurgitator of user generated content submitted to the site. Factoring in DMCA safe harbor provisions and potential 2257 liabilities, it’s easy to see why so many use white labels to take reduce the heat.”

The result seems to be a two-headed approach. Some site owners continue to make use of templated white labels in members areas or with a clear understanding that they will need to generate non-organic traffic in other ways to see if the white label can convert it. Others have started to delve deeper to find ways of creating hybrid white labels that include just enough originality to be classed as exclusive websites.

“We have been approached by dating white label site owners seeking ways to overcome the obvious problems of thin content tours” said Colin Melanson, vice president of TranslationsXXX.com “Many dating site providers have already translated the very basic form mechanism which gets shared among all white labels of their sites, but going further to offer the entire tour in other languages can be useful for many reasons. The most obvious is marketing to people who speak that language, but perhaps as important, a site in several languages is thicker and distinctly different from competitors that are available only in English.”

Carefully creating original page titles, adding copious amounts of quality text exclusively written for the site, adjusting templates and layouts, adding original logos and taking other steps can in fact have a very positive impact on placement. To that end, dating site providers have gradually added many new customizable elements to their white label offers — following in the footsteps of what HostedTube.com has done for white label tube site owners. The result is an ecosystem of three kinds of platforms. Full dating sites, traditional white labels and a new hybrid between the two, which is becoming more of a “gray label.”

Will a white label ever do quite as well as a completely original site that is properly constructed from scratch? No, and anyone paying attention should easily understand that. However, there are a growing number of tools available for diligent site owners to use that will allow white labels to outperform the “do nothing” variety without requiring even a tiny fraction of the investment necessary to build out a full fledged dating community for each of your own brands.

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