02/01/2013 20:44 | By Siski Green, Contributor, MSN Her

The dos and don'ts of online dating

Catch your perfect match online with our guide to dos and don'ts of internet dating.

A couple happy in the snow (© Rex Features)

Tonight is set to be the biggest night of the year in terms of online dating, when thousands of hopeful singles will be searching sites to find a decent date, or possibly the man or woman of their dreams. But how can you maximise your chances of success? Siski Green, the author of How to Blow His Mind in Bed, shares her top ten dos and don'ts when looking to find a partner online.

Online dating sites can feel a bit like a ‘meet market’ – with people on ‘display’ hoping to attract your attention. But this shop-like scenario is what makes it useful to you – you can look at hundreds and hundreds of profiles, opening yourself up to way more people than you could otherwise. You can also narrow your search to make sure you only spend time viewing people who are likely matches, and you can enjoy hours of window shopping, too! But before you take the leap, be sure to avoid these common mistakes and focus on getting it right instead:

Do research multiple sites. The big sites can be great for getting access to a wide range of profiles but often you’ll have more success if you can narrow your search. “I joined a site that’s linked to the newspaper I read,” says Gaby Blaine. “That way I knew that people I met would have similar outlooks to me.” Think about your interests, your hobbies, religion, age group, the kind of relationship you’re after, anything that helps define who you are, then find a site that matches you best.

Don’t use your real name as your username. Aside from privacy issues, using your real name is a missed opportunity to let your personality shine. “I used the name CalamityJane when I set up my profile,” says Suzy Black. “I wanted to show I had a sense of humour and that I was the kind of girl who’s happier in trousers on a horse than in a skirt on a barstool!”

Do keep your username simple, though. Using underscores, hyphens or numbers in your username makes it more difficult for people to remember your name, so try to avoid it.

Don’t use an old photo. There is no excuse for using out of date or out of focus photos. Most phones have a camera in these days, and if yours doesn’t, borrow one from a friend, use your computer or a digital camera. And smile! A study from  the University of British Columbia, Canada, found that men were more attracted to women who smiled... but for women looking at men, the reverse was true!

Do shop around. One of the biggest advantages of online dating is being able to check potential dates out without going through the effort and time of actually meeting them. Spend at least an hour each week just sifting through profiles. Take your time – you wouldn’t rush into buying a car or a house, so don’t rush into contacting someone online!

A keyboard with a heart (© Rex Features)

Don’t ignore your virtues. But not your physical virtues! Bare all on your photo and you’ll get a lot more interest from guys looking for something purely physical. “I made the mistake of putting up a holiday beach photo,” says Bev Shield. “I got a stream of sleazy and suggestive emails. I took it down and they stopped.” Feel free to show you’ve got a hot body, by all means, but be more subtle – a photo of you wearing a fitted dress will give a guy all the information he needs without being too in-his-face. And play up your personality strengths too. What do your friends say they like best about you? Those are the things to mention.

Do make the first move. Online dating is not like meeting someone in a bar or through friends – you can’t expect to sit back and wait until the perfect guy just turns up, you need to be proactive. Guys love it when a woman is confident enough to show interest, so send a brief hello email. Introduce yourself, mention you liked an aspect of their profile (to show you actually read it!) and be sure to include at least one open-ended question. For example, mention you noticed they like surfing, say you do too, then ask where their favourite surf spot is. Leave the flirting for later – at this stage you’re just feeling men out to see if you want to meet up at some point.

Don’t set impossible standards. Are you perfect? No, thought not, so don’t expect your future boyfriend to be either. Make a list of personality traits you think are most important in a man and order them from most important to least; then make a list of physical attributes and do the same. When searching profiles, use the first two personality traits to find suitable contacts and ignore the physical attributes list for now. When you’ve found several potential partners, use your physical attributes list to narrow it down further. “I had put on my profile that I only wanted to meet men above 6ft,” says Kira Muhammed. “But my now-boyfriend is 5ft 11 – that inch is irrelevant, but if he hadn’t contacted me I would have missed out on meeting him!” While personality is important in ensuring a good match, your idea of an ideal partner in terms of physique is more flexible than you probably realise, so don’t let it hold you back.

Do use spellcheck. You might not think that correct spelling or grammar is all that important, but you at least need to make sure people can understand what you’ve written! Write your profile in Microsoft Word or Pages first, do a spelling and grammar check, then copy and paste it into the online site.

Don’t miss out the details. You love archery? Say so. You’ve got a fascination with all things Manga? Add it to your profile. You’ve got a Dachshund? Tell the world. “I wasn’t sure whether to add that I love Scottish fold cats,” says Niki Lyle. “Cats aren’t usually seen as guy-friendly pets. But actually it helped narrow my search down. The men who contacted me were all animal-lovers, which was perfect and when we met, they didn’t mind me talking about cats non-stop!”

Find your perfect partner with Match.com

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