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Here's what you can expect to do, to make a typical dating site work for you.

We'll follow the whole process from sign up through to the first meeting.

In the Advice and tips section we'll look at fine tuning to get the best results and ways to stay safe on dating sites.

The Sign Up

The first section will be the usual name, email, user name and password setting menu. Choose your user name wisely because this will be the first thing they see. If you call yourself "sexkitten61" you can expect your inbox to get a few raunchy messages, so choose wisely. You'll fare just as well with something neutral for a user name and then spice it up in your profile text, if that's what you are looking for. Make your profile do the talking rather than your user name.

When it comes to your location, put your suburb, not your country. It's really frustrating to see a really promising new member listed as Australia and find out they are two states away. They might as well be in China!

Your Profile

There's the usual hints about travel, the shows, music, food etc. you like, to help you write a profile. This is supposed to be your grand entrance but the most effective profile is one that says what you are looking for - the kind of relationship you want with the kind of person you'd like to meet.

Keep it flexible to maximise the responses at this stage. Rather that make statements, ask questions so the reader has a conversation starter for their reply. You will appear interested rather than appear demanding.

Your Photo

There are some occupations where a person cannot post a photograph. This is the only time you should not add a photo to your profile. The photo should show you naturally, not all made up for a wedding and not as you appeared after installing your mate's gearbox on his tractor. Avoid using blurring or filters to hide wrinkles. Keep in mind you want your partner to be able to recognise you from your photo, when you meet them for the first time. If you take selfies at odd angles because you look good, will they recognise you, front on, in real life?

Don't be tempted to use a picture that was taken 10 years ago. You might get replies but you could also get a lot of rejections on the first meeting or worse, no shows when they see the real you and bolt. That would be more depressing than not getting any replies.

There's more handy tips for photos in the "
Advice and tips" section.

Red line sketch showing couple hugging

Sending Your First Message

Assuming you have seen a profile on the site and you want to contact the person. Some sites have a "wink" feature that allows members to send a token message that just shows they are interested. If they send a response back you can start messaging with no fear of rejection.

Other sites require you to send a typed message of your own, as a first contact. If this is the case, send a message that is more than just "Hi" - don't be lazy. Remember it's what you say that creates their impression of you, so take this chance to show you are observant and interested in them by typing a few lines. Go over their profile and address a few points in their profile. This will show you have taken the time to read it. This will create a positive impression of you and set you apart from the rest of the pack.

Responding To Your First Message

You have received a first message from someone. The golden rule is always reply. If they have taken the effort to contact you, the least you can do is reply. There are a lot of lonely people on dating sites, many are depressed. Be kind or you could be the last set back that sends them from depressed into suicide mode. First, carefully read their profile. If they look like they have potential, reply by thanking them, answer any questions and ask a few of your own, especially if they can be related to something in their profile.

If they look unsuitable, thank them for replying and tell them why you are not interested - keep it positive though. Finally wish them luck in finding a partner.

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