How to make money with your online dating site
Whether you’ve already built a great dating site or are planning to develop one, it’s important to consider how you’ll make money off of your product and build a monetization strategy while it’s still at an early stage. With so many possible ways to make money from online dating sites, it can be a bit overwhelming at first, so we’ve created a basic guide to the most popular ways to monetize online dating sites to make it easier to find the perfect monetization match for your online dating site.
Popular dating site revenue models:
Some online dating sites opt to have users pay to use their site’s services, usually by charging them a monthly or annual membership fee that’s billed at regular intervals. The paid membership model promises sites revenue from every user who signs up, but may show slower user growth when compared to free dating sites. Most paid dating sites use the membership model to their advantage, promising potential customers a more select pool of potential matches who are “higher quality” or “more serious” about dating. It’s important to note that paid dating sites are not limited to revenue from account subscriptions as they can always choose to implement any of the monetization methods used by free-to-use sites.
Some sites, especially niche dating sites, choose to let users sign up and use their product for free. These “free-to-use” dating sites have a low barrier to entry, which can encourage impulse sign-ups. While the free-to-use model may give dating sites a boost when it comes to building a user base, it won’t bring in any revenue on its own, therefore they must incorporate other revenue streams into their business models such as working with affiliate networks, allowing users to exchange gifts, charging for premium content or offering VIP memberships.
Advertising and Affiliate Networks
This is the oldest website monetization trick in the book and plenty of dating sites still choose affiliate networks as part of their overall strategy. In most cases, the CPA (cost per action) model is preferred by both dating sites and affiliates, but sometimes CPC (cost per click) can work as well. Increase your odds of success with affiliates by displaying deals from businesses relevant to the dating industry such as florists, jewelers or candy stores. If your dating site is niche, consider working with affiliates that cater to that niche.
If it matches up with your site’s target customer and overall structure, allowing users to send gifts to one another is one of the hottest and newest ways niche dating sites are monetizing their membership base. You can charge users to send virtual gifts like greeting cards, gift cards, digital flowers, digital candy, or partner vouchers that are redeemable for physical products. Dating sites that support gift-giving between users often do so as an extension of their affiliate programs, but many are now making this a mainstream option to allow users to “stand out” when introducing themselves to a prospective date or as a “Thank You” for a nice date experience.
Premium Content or Add-on Features
Some sites give users access to basic site features and offer access to extra tools or content for a small fee. For example, let users pay for a “boost” to show up in more searches or have them make a small payment to see more information about potential matches. Fair warning: this method will only be successful for your site if you make it easy for users to make micropayments. If you choose to go this route, be sure your payment gateway can tokenize and store card data for repeat purchases; your users will not want to re-enter their payment information for each transaction.
Some free-to-use dating sites choose to offer two or more tiers of membership, users can sign up and use basic features for free, or pay for a VIP membership that gives them extra features or services. Not to be mistaken for premium content purchases, which are made on a sporadic basis, VIP or tiered membership plans are subscription based, meaning users are billed on a recurring basis. Be sure to offer enough extra features to VIP users to justify the cost of the membership; you’ll want to test this carefully.
Offline monetization through live events
Many dating companies have begun hosting local dating events such as speed dating, charity auctions and local dating mixers as an extension of their online services, bringing virtual users together in the “real” world, along with a sense of authenticity to online dating. Dating sites can either host the event themselves and sell event tickets online to site members or partner with local networking organizations and local restaurants or venues.
So what’s the BEST way to monetize a dating site?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Picking the right monetization strategy for your dating site is almost like finding the right romantic partner for yourself. You need to know yourself (your website and customers), be aware of what the competition is up to, and do a little experimenting (but not too much!) to find the perfect match; but unlike your soulmate your monetization strategy is fully-customizable, and you can even change it over time to adjust to evolving technology and market trends.
Remember that while a solid revenue model is critical to your site’s success, in the end it’s all about conversions. If you can’t convert potential users into paid members, your monetization strategy is worthless.