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Online dating: What works, what doesn't

Posted February 6

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— Millions of people use online dating websites and apps to meet their partners, but most of them say their match results aren't always ideal.

Researchers at Consumer Reports studied nearly 10,000 online dating sources to determine which sites -- and user behaviors -- can lead to a more meaningful match.

It's very common for online daters to end up dissatisfied with their results. In fact, a study showed that online dating sites got the lowest user satisfaction scores of any service Consumer Reports has rated for two decades. Melissa Emsley can relate.

"It can be discouraging when you get your hopes built up to meet the right person and then that chemistry is just not there," said Emsley. "It can be discouraging."

"Online dating is different from shopping for other kinds of things like a sweater," said Margot Gilman, a money editor at Consumer Reports. "Once you find a sweater you like, you get it. With dating, the sweater has to like you back."

Even though so many customers report frustrations with the site, a surprising 44 percent of respondents who tried online dating say they have entered a serious long-term relationship or have gotten married thanks to dating online services.

"I was about to give up online dating completely, and then I got a message from Brian," said Emsley. "I definitely have that site to thank for my relationship today, so it can work out. "

Researchers say you can maximize your chances of finding a great partner by choosing the right site from the beginning. Consumer Reports recommends look for a website that caters to your personal interests, values, lifestyle or faith.

The study also found that different age groups use different sites. Free services like OKCupid and Tinder are more popular among millennials, while older users are more likely to use a paid subscription-based dating website or app such as Match.com.

Of course, even if you pick the best site for you, even the best online match can't guarantee that you'll feel chemistry. The most important piece of advice the study offers is to be patient while searching and to meet the matches you like early in the process to avoid being surprised later.

You can learn more about digital matchmaking with Consumer Reports' online dating guide.

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