Online dating has two major problems. Member inauthenticity and the inability to search across dating sites. Until these issues are addressed, much of the industry will remain stagnant and in many cases continue suffering ongoing declines in traffic, with few exceptions.
Nobody in the dating industry will go near member authenticity except a few brave companies like eHarmony, Mate1 and a few others. Trufina, Backgroundchecks, HonestyOnline and a number of other vendors have had a disheartening experience attempting to bring identity verification and background checks to the online dating market.
Verified profiles = less people on site = less subscription and ad revenue. At least this is the thinking, or should I say fear. This has been tested on several sites and appears to be the case. And yet there is no site with any traction to speak of which employs identity credentials exclusively, which amazes me. It might be that they have trouble raising the millions required for such a site to gain credibility and audience, especially when investors talk to dating site operators who have looked into member authenticity previously.
Singles complain about scammers, spammers and people not being who they thought they were all the time. A solution is delivered on a silver platter and boom, as with so many assumptions we make about human nature, all of a sudden what people say and what they do diverges and we’re left scratching our heads.
Member inauthenticity is going to be around forever, even after the perfect matching system is created and singles suddenly face the awkward reality of extinction.
Ok, enough about trying to solve the impossible. Like most online businesses, the online dating ecosystem is a big sales funnel. Attract, convert, retain, millions of times a day to satiate the never-ending need for fresh profiles.
If dating sites are sales funnels, buying and selling profiles and leads from each other, why can’t we search across them from a single Google-like service?
Google search for online dating is a common subject here. I’ve worked with a number of companies who have not been able to come up with the right mix of vision, capability and resources to make dating meta-search a viable alternative to effectively searching with blinders on.
Not content with being a large network of niche sites (and raising money to acquire more) and a white label dating provider, EasyDate is the latest in a long line of companies to take on the task of creating Google for online dating.
And you know what? EasyDate just might be the company to do it. Disclaimer, I worked with EasyDate last year.
In fact EasyDate has had a search engine running for a while now at Canoodle. Not a lot of traffic but at least it’s up and running. (What was the Spark Networks search engine called?)
The ability for EasyDate to continue to improve Canoodle is not so cut and dried. The business of acquiring the cheapest traffic that converts well is quite different from running a dating meta-search engine. Killer marketing exposure, batch processing of profiles, solid search functionality, seamless transition from search site to destination site, customized billing process and a host of daunting challenges I’ve barely begun to touch upon.
As with Lycos dating search, Spark and others, partnering within their own network of sites is the easiest way to start. If Canoodle wants any chance at success, it will have to watch out out for deals with weak free sites outside of their control. this is what killed off every other meta-search engine in the past. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told this story to dating site executives, only to pick the absolutely worst initial free dating site partners.
The big win is when subscription sites are searched alongside of free sites and potential search filters like profile freshness and other new search parameters are implemented (and not without kicking and screaming from other sites do doubt.) Ask Are You Interested about their short-lived deal with Match on Facebook.
Speaking of Match, I hear things are “very tense” right now and an executive shuffle is in the works.
The reality of dating search is not going to be anywhere near my utopian vision, which I hope at least colors the efforts Canoodle must put into their site if it’s going to make any sort of difference. Such is life. Canoodle is probably going to expose a number of EasyDate sites, maybe one or two trusted external sites and the holy grail is a deal with a big International site willing to risk working with Canoodle. Just getting one big site outside of the EasyDate network could be difficult, but knowing Bill and Max, I’m sure they have something planned to get over this not-insubstantial challenge. These deals take time, and as EasyDate raises money and acquires additional dating sites, it may become easier for competitors to open up and share profiles with Canoodle.
Will Canoodle become the Google of dating? Who knows, but at least they are publicly making an effort. If you run a dating site and want to better understand how Canoodle works and what it takes to participate, contact Canoodle.