How to Get the Most Out of Online Dating SitesWith Valentine’s Day right around the corner, some may be wondering how they can make the most of their dating experience to potentially land a date for cupid’s holiday. If you don’t already know, winter is peak season for online dating, which means it might be the perfect time for you to give dating sites a try — even if you’ve tried them before. Since trying or returning to online dating can be a bit stressful, we’re breaking down five ways you can make the most of the experience to hopefully have success.

Keep your profile current

Regardless of if you’re an online dating newbie or a hardened online dating warrior, perhaps one of the most important pieces of advice to consider is to make sure your profile is kept up to date for as long as you plan to use an online dating site. This means using your most recent pictures – ideally taken within the last six months to a year – as well as updating your profile content whenever possible. While most people understand that they should keep their more obvious profile details up to date (like where you live or what kind of work you do), there are likely more subtle details that most tend to overlook.

As you begin using an online dating site more frequently, you’ll start to better understand what you’re looking for, which means that you’ll develop a clearer understanding of what types of people you do and don’t want to meet. As this happens, you should modify your profile’s language so that it best reflects your current preferences. This doesn’t have to be as overt as spelling out what you are and aren’t looking for – although many users do this. It can be as subtle as making sure you’re highlighting what’s most important to you, and taking out filler information so potential matches can get to the heart of who you are.

Perfect your messaging strategy

Online dating is, in many respects, an exercise in trial and error, and one of the largest aspects of this is having to message other users. It doesn’t matter who you are; most people, at some point, have felt like sending messages to strangers was as useful as shouting into a black hole. Given that there’s no way to meet people online without messaging, though, it is a necessary evil. That’s why you need to spend as much time as possible perfecting your technique when it comes to messaging. Understanding yourself and your preferences is partly key to this. Another important part of messaging someone on a dating website is to make sure that you consider them as a person, rather than simply sending out copy-and-paste messages to anyone and everyone. Finally, be sure your language and grammar skills are up to snuff – don’t be afraid to use spellcheck or run your messages by a trusted friend. Although messaging is more of an art than a science, bad art still exists. Make sure to note your messaging successes so that you can learn from them and continue to improve.

Perseverance is key

When you’re more active and continuously engaged with the platform you’re on, you’re more likely to be matched with more people, whether that’s by the service itself or through your own efforts. Dating platforms like Tinder only work for those who are active, as you have to swipe through potential matches to find those mutual “likes” which lead to a connection. Even a more traditional dating site, like Match or eHarmony, works best when you log in frequently and interact with the site. Following our earlier advice to keep your profile up to date, including routinely changing photos, is a great way to increase the odds that new people will see you. Tempting as it may be, it’s important to not get discouraged during the search for someone. Having an account that’s active and responsive is an important part of online dating, and will help you find that special someone sooner rather than later.

Continue rediscovering your type

Online dating isn’t just an opportunity to meet people, it’s also an opportunity to learn about yourself and grow. If at any point this year you find yourself in a dating rut, take a step back and evaluate your profile, the people you’ve been choosing to message and those you’ve been attracting. While you should definitely express your preferences, it’s possible to be too picky and wind up excluding people who’d otherwise be compatible with you. This is why it’s valuable to be reflective about your deal-breakers, and to evaluate your preferences periodically, perhaps even reaching out to someone you might not typically think about messaging. On sites with personality questions, like OkCupid, you should also make sure to give your answers another look every once in a while, so that you can be sure they still reflect who you are – ensuring accurate matches. Going back over your answers every so often lets you reconsider what’s non-negotiable, and could also allow you to see some new faces.

Always be on your guard

Unfortunately, online dating isn’t all sunshine and roses. Aside from harassers and any other immature people you could encounter, scammers are also lurking behind some of the profiles you might see. That’s why it pays to be smart and know the all of the various signs of an online dating scam. From catfishing and bots to outright fraud, much of it can be avoided with the right knowledge and the right amount of awareness. Many online dating scammers use common techniques like social engineering, so keeping yourself aware of the dangers lurking when it comes to online scams in general is a good way to protect yourself.

Online dating isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Keep reading our online dating blog to learn more tips and tricks for getting the most out of online dating.