Never before has it been so easy to find that special someone. Whether it's for a weekend getaway, long-term relationship or a quick lay, seekers with even the most specific tastes can turn to online social networking sites to find their match — and webmasters have caught on.
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Personals sites like Match.com and eHarmony.com boast the guarantee that users will find their "special someone" after filling out compatibility tests, assuming those with matching tests are truly meant for each other. These tests, however, ask users their favorite foods, hobbies and future goals. But what about sex?
That's where adult comes in. The infamous social networking site AdultFriendFinder.com was originally launched as just that: a way for adults to find fishing or golf buddies. But soon its founder, Andrew Conru, was unable to keep up with deleting the hundreds of naked pictures posted by users, and an online source for quick flings was born.
Colin Delia, owner of adult niche dating site AdultDateLink.com, said he launched his site for adults interested in no-strings-attached relationships, but he soon saw a need for a much narrower "dating" focus.
"Adult sites have always offered niches," Delia said, "and somewhere down the line we thought, 'Why not with dating sites?' For the Adult Date Link customer, finding sex is a match."
So Delia and Conru did what any successful adult webmaster does: stepped out of the deep end and started targeting smaller pools of online customers. Delia's Adult Date Link program now has 33 niche dating sites under its belt, catering to a wide range of customers. Many of the niche sites, he said, aren't even explicitly focused on sex.
"It's a big world, and even when only a small portion of it is interested in something like BDSM or swinging, there are a lot of people really interested in these things," Delia said. "There are needs for these things. There are so many people interested in particular fetishes, ethnicities or just dating in a specific region."
And the narrower the niche, the more lucrative it becomes.
Scott Rabinowitz, president of online advertising agency Traffic Dude, said dating sites generate more revenue per user than any other online paysite, and traffic can be shared internally among the various intra-company websites, rather than among different companies.
Most paysites work by signing up a user and holding his interest in the sites' content for a short period, and after a few months, Rabinowitz said, these paysites need to gain more signups in order to stay on top.
"Well-done [dating] sites have a great ability to monetize each user," Rabinowitz said, "making more money per user."
Rabinowitz said that unlike regular adult paysites, dating sites offer users a utility and can guarantee long-term signups. Many dating sites offer users a base signup fee, which includes the use of standard functions like user profiles and message services, but regular upgrades are always available — at an extra cost — to allow users more interaction capabilities. The good news for dating site owners is that these users are willing to pay the price.
"A dating site is great in so many ways," Delia said. "A shy person isn't very likely to meet anyone in a club or a bar. That same person can email hundreds of different people on one of our websites and start getting responses."
For a utility site that not only guarantees users will find like-minded individuals, but also weeds out the unwanted, users instantly sidestep the "getting to know you" process, exchanging bar tabs for membership fees. And by regularly tweaking and updating user profiles, members can reach a whole new sea of fish.
"Meeting people online is more natural for some people than others," Delia said. "Anyone who takes the time to experiment with different profile answers and pictures will improve their response rate."
Users logging in at Athiest Passions.com don't need to ask, "You don't believe, do you?" when they find someone they like, because the site owner has already cleared the path. Those clicking on SmokingPassions.com don't need to ask, "Do you mind?" before lighting up; every user the site has attracted is already waiting eagerly with a lit match.
However, the deal breaker is making the online world aware of a new niche site. Because some of these sites are so narrow — there are personals sites for vegans, vampires and singles with chronic STDs — it's up to the webmaster to spread the word with help from affiliates.
"[When developing new niche sites,] we get feedback from our customers and affiliates, and combine this with research from our employees," Delia said. "They research what the ability to bring that site to the market is, and what the demand for that new dating niche might be."
Once Delia and his team determine a new niche dating site idea to be feasible, the next step is getting as many members to sign up as quickly as possible.
"That's not easy," Delia said. "But there are plenty of places to do niche advertising. You just have to work real hard and real fast at it."
When a new site is developed, Delia alerts his existing affiliate webmasters, who then use banners and other promotional tools to attract potential users. Any traffic these affiliates can bring to Adult Date Link's newest sites benefit both parties, an incentive for both the company and its affiliates to get creative.
"Thousands of affiliates can do a much better job than we could in figuring out how to promote a particular niche," Delia said. "We alert our affiliates in the affiliate newsletter and it pretty much goes from there."