No brag, but I like to consider myself a bit of an online dating expert. Even though I’ve been out of the game for a while, I’m fascinated by the industry. Not only did my fiancé Tracy and I meet online, but I also did my MBA internship at the dating app The League, and even worked as a professional matchmaker. I love to dish out online dating advice to my single friends, and now I’m going to share it with all of you.

Here’s my online dating playbook

Your dating profile and messages are like an advertisement to the world, but most people don’t understand what they’re broadcasting. I’ve analyzed thousands of profiles to get to the core of what makes some profiles irresistible and leaves others matchless.

Pro Tip #1: Perfect Your Pics

No selfies. Just don’t. This goes double for mirror selfies. Some people will disregard any profile that has one.

Don’t make me guess what you look like. Your first photo should be of you and you alone. Limit the number of pics with sunglasses and goggles. A few group photos are fine, as long as they can tell which one is you. I know people who have sent messages asking for the “hot one” in the group shot.

Variety. Your photos should have diversity in all ways. Show a mix of activities and interests. Balance face versus full body shots. Each pic is an opportunity to show off a different reason why you’re awesome. It’s not about any one individual photo, it’s about the whole compilation together.

No weird angles. If your face is posed at the same angle in every pic, I’m gonna assume you have a bad side.

Recent pics. All your photos should be from the past year. Maybe two years if it’s an amazing photo and your appearance hasn’t changed much. If you use a pic from five years ago, people feel misled when they meet you in person. Also, because phone photography has advanced so much in the past few years, people can sniff out an old photo because the quality isn’t as good. Online daters are the best detectives.

One swimsuit photo. If you have a hot bod, show it off. But more than one photo looks vain.

Don’t try too hard. One modeling or professional photo is fine. But unless you’re an actual model, end it there. If you are a model, you should still consider limiting the professional shots; you’ll be more relatable.

Pro Tip #2: A Simple About Me

Short and sweet. Most people don’t spend much time reading these, so don’t kill yourself over it. You have more to lose by making it overly verbose, so keep it short. Write the way you speak (so they get a sense of your personality), and throw in your fave emoji.

Make them laugh. People like funny people. Little quips and (appropriate) witty jokes are a good bet.

Don’t be generic. If you’re going to list off your interests, fine, but make them unique to you. Rather than saying “podcasts and wine tasting,” mention your favorite podcast and a winery you want to visit. This provides a conversation starting point, and could even lead to date ideas.

Baseball stats. People are going to Google you. They’re looking for key pieces of information (ie. school, job, where you’re from, height). Not all dating sites list this information, so consider laying it out there for efficiency’s sake. If something is especially important to you (i.e. religion or that you have a kid), save time by laying it out there. If your Instagram and Twitter are public and represent who you are, consider listing them.

Proofread. Nothing kills intrest lik grammar mistakes and misspelllings.

Don’t be mean. Or negative. Don’t say “I’m embarrassed to be on here.” Or any version of that. It will make others feel bad and no one will want to talk to you.

No lying. You will get caught, and it will be awkward.

Pro Tip #3: Killer Conversation

Start the conversation. Everyone wants to know who should send the first message. Duh, anyone can and should. A good rule of thumb is the person that’s online now, or the person that swiped and got the match first. If you leave it hanging and a conversation never starts, what’s the point?

Don’t write an essay. It’s overwhelming. Women in particular respond at lower rates to super long messages.

Make it personal. Make the message specific to that person, not something you copy and paste to everyone. You don’t have to be Shakespeare or a smooth operator. All you have to do is put in a little thought and make it personal, genuine, and different. Show you noticed them. Mention something from their profile.

Don’t ask them out in the first message. It feels abrupt. Engage in some witty banter, and then ask to meet in person after a few messages. No one wants to be chatting on a dating app forever.

Humor. Laughter always works. Be light, be playful.

Pro Tip #4: Make It a Date

No creeps. Don’t go on a date with anyone sketchy. Always meet in a public place.

Drinks over dinner. You don’t need to commit to a long or expensive dinner on the first date. Meet for a drink, and extend the date if you’re both enjoying yourselves. If not, it’s easy to part ways after an hour.

If you don’t drink, share an interest. Try something active like a hike. No coffee dates. Coffee is a superhighway to the friend zone.

The key to online dating is to be real

I’m not a “rules” person, but in my experience, these are safe guidelines to abide by. The key is to represent who you are in the real world, not to be someone you’re not. If your ideal person comes along, you want them to understand who you are. Don’t fake anything, you won’t fool anyone in real life.

Most importantly, don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

People can smell insecurity and desperation from a mile away. Dating should be fun. Even if one of you isn’t interested, the worst that can happen is you spend an hour getting to know someone new. If you expect much more than this, dating becomes exhausting. If instead, you keep your expectations in check, you just might be pleasantly surprised!

Share this post with your single friends and comment with your most brutal or romantic online dating stories below!

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