Beyond Skin Deep: The real top dating sites

To differentiate themselves from the competition, online dating services use "data" like the number of members, criteria used in matchmaking or (my personal favorite) the number of marriages "created." But how do these sites really stack up in terms of traffic?

Looking at the number of November site visitors, Yahoo Personals and TRUE lead the industry, with about 2 times the volume of 3rd place Match.

But ranking online dating sites purely on visitor traffic is flawed; membership is a prerequisite to use the services, and member activity is the foundation of successful matchmaking. Looking at how members use a site gives a clearer picture of the online dating landscape, and changes these rankings dramatically.

The chart above shows overall member involvement (measured as the total number of unique times a member accessed the site). Since this is impacted by both the volume and activity level of members, member visits start to reveal actual engagement.

  • Yahoo Personals grabbed the top rank on every measurement. This great overall performance shows a balance of both driving traffic to the service, and encouraging active participation.
  • While TRUE placed 2nd in visitors, its 8th rank in member logins indicates that much of this traffic came from TRUE’s intense (and apparently misguided) advertising efforts on youth oriented social networking sites. In addition True members represented a mere 8% of total visitors, less than a quarter of the market average.
  • Plentyoffish.com showed that free services can be successful; 9th in terms of visitors, the site leapt to 5th in member interaction. More importantly, it was one of 5 sites with more than 10 million member visits, putting it in a class with much higher trafficked sites and besting its next competitor by a multiple of 2x.

For this analysis, Msn dating, a division of Match.com, was aggregated into the Match.com calculations. eSpinthebottle.com and eCrush.com were also counted as one site.

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