Dating sites: Buying profiles amounts to frauding users

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Anyone who’s been on a dating site has seen them. She’s a beautiful girl with poor grammar skills. She wants to talk via her Yahoo email account and within a few emails she’s often asking for money to come visit you. Thats a clear indication of a dating site scammer, and just about everyone who’s ever joined a dating site has experienced a similar situation.

The dating industry is finally starting to come around to protecting the safety of their members in a meaningful way, but only after much legal pressure and several waves of recent bad press. Just Google “Match lawsuits” and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

However, a newer, and more insidious problem has emerged in recent years, and its one that, while not an immediate threat to one’s personal safety or bank account, is no less nefarious in my opinion.

More and more dating site startups that are buying dating profiles in bulk to bolster their user databases. On one hand they purport to take your safety and well-being seriously, while in the back room they’re wheeling and dealing with profile vendors, and other dating sites, to acquire profiles to fill in troublespots, where there’s not enough density for the site to be competitive. It could be a geographic area, or it could be a lack of lesbians or bikers.

The reason that profiles-for-sale have become a topic of discussion is because its expensive to acquire new members for dating site startups, and there is a huge jump in dating startups this year centered around mobile and social dating. I’m often asked about whether or not a site should acquire dating profiles to avoid the empty database problem. Each and every time my recommendation is no. Put on your big-boy pants and do what everyone else does, sign up new members, one at a time.

My reasoning is simple. If you can’t grow a site from zero to several thousand members in a few months through Google, Facebook or ads on POF, you probably shouldn’t be in the business. Dating sites are 100% driven by ad spend and affiliate marketing and as I tell new startups, you’re not in the dating business, you’re in the Internet marketing business now. The fact of the matter is that it takes thousands of dollars to acquire enough customers in a specific geographic area to “take off”, and there’s no way around it.

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