Why Online Dating Response Rates Have Decreased

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Big topic today, one many of you have been discussing for a while now. I've mentioned it before...online dating response rates have dropped in a the last few years. They've dropped for everyone, across the board, including me.

-By Caleb Jones

I still get laid online, and 2013 and 2012 have still been good years for me in terms of bringing new women into my sex life via online dating. Yet I have to admit that my average response rates are not what they were a few years ago. Many of you have reported the same.

Don't panic. As I just said, online game still works. As a matter of fact, there's actually a benefit or two to this reduction in response rates I'll describe in a minute.

Moreover, as I've said before, it is a very simple process to get laid online while having very low response rates. I have ALWAYS had reasonably low response rates as compared to better looking guys, or guys who are opening women their own age (which I don't do), yet I've always had a steady flow of women via online dating for many years now regardless. If you've followed my stuff for a while you already know all about this. Low response rates do not equal no sex, assuming you're doing everything else correctly.

Today I'll explain the reasons why this overall decrease is happening. There are many of them, and I'm probably not going to cover them all, but these are the big ones.

1. There are far less "serious" women on dating sites. This is definitely reason number one. It's not that there are more or less women on dating sites. It's that there are less women on dating sites who are actually there to meet a guy in real life.

Years ago, most women on dating sites (not all, but most) were there for one reason: to find a guy they were interested in, then get in a car or bus and go meet that guy in real life. This has changed. Today, most women on dating sites have no intention whatsoever of actually meeting a guy in real life. That's not why they're there. They're there for all kinds of other reasons, such as:

Getting attention and validation from guys.
Meeting new friends, including female friends.
Looking to meet other women for bisexual hookups instead of men (she may already have a boyfriend).
Talking to people online; using the dating site as another Facebook.
Temporarily pissed at her boyfriend and angrily looking around at other options, until she makes up with him and quickly deletes her profile before anyone finds out. (This is VERY common, more common than people realize.)
Bored and wants something to do.

With every passing year there is a huge upsurge in the amount of women in the above categories. None of these women, and I mean none of them, have any intention whatsoever of actually going out and meeting you in real life, no matter how good looking you are, how great your photos are, how well-written your profile is, or how strong your online game skills are.

For many women, online dating sites have gone from a mechanism to meet men in real life to a fun way to kill time and get socially validated without ever having to leave the house.

This has become worse over the years, to the point now where women actually get upset with you if you ask them out on a date while conversing with them on a dating site. For the first time ever, this year I've actually had one or two women tell me when I date pitch them, "Hey dude. I'm just passing time here." This was in the middle of an otherwise very pleasant conversation. And that's why they're there, to converse, not to go out on dates.

2. Major dating sites across the board are cracking down on men's ability to communicate with women. This is another negative trend. It's happening all over the place. Just a few examples:

Plenty of Fish is restricting people's communication based on age. OKCupid is blocking you from seeing women who rank as more attractive than you. Match.com is purposely blocking women from your "Viewed Me" results to only represent a narrow view of "matches" based on age and "compatible" hobbies.

Those are just three small examples. I could list another ten or fifteen. As more and more major dating sites follow an increasingly female-centric business model, it makes it more difficult for you to find women you like, message women you find attractive, for those messages to actually reach those women, and/or for those women to be able to respond to you.

Back in 2007 there were none of these crazy restrictions. Any guy could message any woman he wanted, she was guaranteed to get your message, and she could easily reply back to you with no limits or restrictions. If a woman didn't want to receive messages from a certain age or type of guy, she could block them with very easy-to-use filter settings. No longer.

There is light at the end of this tunnel, a big one. New sites and apps, like Tinder, are coming on board and are slowly but surely replacing the bigger, more established sites. This is a very good thing and I'm excited to see what new methods the geeks will come up with in the future. (While I have dabbled with Tinder a little, I have really hit it hard in the last two weeks and the results so far are very promising. I will give you a full report soon.) So while this is a very irritating problem (I've pretty much given up on POF altogether), it's likely a short term one.

This all leads into a much larger issue beyond the scope of this blog post. Culturally speaking, online dating is still a very new phenomenon, and society still does not yet have a 100% grasp on how to "do" it. My prediction is at some point, you'll have two different types of dating sites/apps. First you'll have the more fun, casual dating sites/apps where people can just talk and e-hang-out and maybe go out on a date if they feel like it and if all the planets are aligned perfectly (like OKCupid). Then you'll have the dating sites where people (men and women both) are only there because they really want to meet someone in real life (eHarmony is a good example of this).

Currently, neither type of these sites work optimally in that they don't really serve the needs of the customer base. It's clear to me that we're in a temporary transitional phase while the free market figures out exactly how to cater to both types of people. And they'll have to, because more people will use online means of dating in the future, not less. I'm very interested to see what the future holds.
3. Dating sites are re-vamping themselves into social media sites.

OKCupid is the biggest offender here, but other sites are also guilty. Many dating sites are trying to became more Facebook-like or MySpace-like. Instead of a site where you go find someone to date, these sites are trying to become places where you just "hang out" and talk to people when you're bored or want attention. This strongly contributes to the increase in non-serious women I described above.

This problem grows noticeably worse every year. OKCupid now has "photo albums" just like Facebook, and ways for women to link their Instagram feeds into their profiles. Oh, that's just great.

4. More men are on more dating sites, so women are getting more picky. There's a lot more men on the sites and women are aware of this. Following the usual rules of supply and demand, women are getting more picky. Add this to problem number one above, and that means reduced response rates for all of us.

5. The newness and "magic" of online dating is gone. Some recent stats:

11% of all American adults have been on a dating site or used a dating app. 11% doesn't sound like a lot, but it is, especially when you consider about half the adult population is already married. That 11% is about 30 million people(!). 66% of those people have gone out on a real-life date with someone they met on a dating site at least once. 23% of those people met their current spouse or significant other that way.

These are surprising stats, even to me. The 66% figure blows me away. Compare this to 2006, when online dating was this strange, exciting new thing, and just putting your picture on a dating site was considered an extremely adventurous thing to do. This all means that online dating is no longer new or exciting. Online dating has become "normal".

Back in the day, if you started conversing with a person over an online dating site, and there was clearly some mutual interest, it was a very exciting event. I still remember the very first messaging conversation I ever had with a woman on a dating site. It was back in early 2007 on Match.com, and she was a very cute 23 year-old, way hotter than any other woman I had access to as the 35 year-old AFC business geek I was back then. I was excited, she was excited, and the whole online dating was, if not exciting, at least interesting.

Nowadays, if a woman gets a message from yet another guy, even if it's a guy she finds interesting or attractive, it's a ho-hum experience she barely registers. I bet it's the same with you when a girl sends you a message. You barely care, even if she's cute. It's become a normal, almost boring thing. This means reduced response rates.

The (Very) Good News

I don't want to depress you, so let me throw some strong silver linings your way. And I'm not doing this just to defend online dating. I'm going to tell you some amazingly wonderful, real things that I've personally experienced and observed over the last few years during this response rate decline.

I think 2011 was the turning point year when response rates slowly started to become noticeably weaker. In 2012 and 2013 it got a little worse. (Likely it will get a little worse again in 2014.) However, during that exact same time frame, I noticed that the women who ARE serious about actually wanting to meet a man in real life actually became a little more serious. It's as if serious women can sense the extra bullshit online and are making an extra effort to cut the crap and get down to business. This is a very, very good thing, as I'm about to demonstrate.

Why do I think this? Because in the last two years, while response rates have decreased, there have been two very good improvements:

1. The time it takes to schedule a date with a woman online who actually wants to meet you has decreased, at least in my experience. I have noticed that with the serious women, there's much less screwing around online, and they want to get that date scheduled as fast as I do (which if you've read my stuff you know is pretty damn fast).

2. Even better, the rate of first-date-lays has gone way, way up. As most of you know, I don't go for sex on the first date. It's just not something I do. (I push for it on the second date). Almost all of my lays happen on the second date, a few on the third. So my average number first-date-lay per year is zero.

However, in the least 12 months, I've had three of them. That's right. Three of them. Without even trying (because like I said, I still don't try to have sex with women on the first date). My first one was last December. She was 19 years old, and she's still a regular FB of mine to this day. My third one was about a month ago...29 years old, blonde, cute, big boobs, just like I like 'em.

Look me in the eye and tell me that's just some bizarre coincidence. I don't think so. Based on the clear evidence I'm seeing, my theory is that while most women have become non-serious time-wasters online, the serious women online, the ones who actually do want to meet a man in real life (and have sex in real life), have become more serious about getting that done.

It's like there's much more hay in the haystack, but the needles you're looking for have become the size of broomsticks. So as I said at the start of this article, while response rates have definitely gone down, I'm not exactly complaining too much about it. 🙂

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  • Sparks 2013-11-10 06:37:00

    Excellent post, I have pretty much given up on POF and am presently concentrating on daygame with some pretty good results. I have noticed that not only does POF restrict me from messaging women more than 14 years younger, it now won't even let me search for women more than 9 years younger. I'm really 37 but my POF age is set as 31 (lol) and I can no longer even search for women under the age of 22.

  • Matt T. 2013-11-10 08:52:23

    @Sparks: same here. I'm 29 and can only search for women over age 20 on POF. The age restriction sucks but is not a dealbreaker with me. Two of the eight girls I have laid since mid-May (when the POF age restriction started) were from POF in my age group. @BD: Is there a good way you have found to identify the serious girls who want to meet? I've started favoring girls that show me above-average interest during the online messaging process. I won't meet a girl unless I get more than the standard lip-service (1-2 sentences) replies from her. My dates-per-response ratio went down from 15% to 8% when I did that. However, my lay-per-date ratio went up from 25% to 60% too! Less time wasted. But I'd like to improve that. I'd like to know if you do something different from what I am doing here (judging her seriousness from her message responses).

  • OBEYX 2013-11-10 11:16:20

    I knew this was a trend. I recall using facebook and myearbook(meetme now) back in 2011 I found plenty of girls to play with. Then in early 2012 my response rates went down the drain very quick(although I didn't put in the usual numbers and I was monogamous at the time). Thank god there are plenty of better options for meeting women because POF is a mess

  • Blackdragon 2013-11-10 11:27:24

    I have noticed that not only does POF restrict me from messaging women more than 14 years younger, it now won’t even let me search for women more than 9 years younger.
    Didn't know that. They keep making it worse. That's great. Soon I'll be running another older-woman experiment and I may use POF for that. Maybe. POF is probably fine for guys looking only for women their own age, but for any other men it's become useless.
    Is there a good way you have found to identify the serious girls who want to meet?
    With the over-33s, yes. I will be making about post about that soon. With women under age 33, not really. There is no reliable way to tell from her profile or her response if she's "serious". As I was just discussing on the forums, I have laid women whose response to my opener was just "hi".
    Thank god there are plenty of better options for meeting women because POF is a mess
    I just had another first date with a woman last night whom I met through Tinder. She was so horny she practically was begging for a makeout, so I made an exception to the rule and gave it to her. Tinder is starting to impress me more and more, despite its limitations (which are many).

  • JQ Public 2013-11-10 12:58:17

    Yeah, , I would just do what SPARKS did and change my age or set up a new profile.

  • Ken 2013-11-10 17:15:06

    I just set my POF age to 21. Than first line of profile text: "I'm not really 21, I'll let you guess". Very obvious from my pics that I'm much older. Then I can hit up who I want.

  • Ken 2013-11-10 17:19:45

    I don't think OKC is actually blocking you from any profiles. Maybe on certain features like "quickmatch", but I don't use those things anyway. I'm pretty sure that if a girl makes a profile, she'll show up with a "who's new" or "last online" search no matter level of attractiveness.

  • Blackdragon 2013-11-10 17:57:44

    I don’t think OKC is actually blocking you from any profiles.
    Yes it is. Read this: http://www.pua-zone.com/showthread.php?9827-MY-OKC-experiment&p=99459&viewfull=1#post99459 The good news is the solution is easy: become a paying OKC member.
    I just set my POF age to 21. Than first line of profile text: “I’m not really 21, I’ll let you guess”. Very obvious from my pics that I’m much older. Then I can hit up who I want.
    That's a good idea and I considered doing something like that. But if you start opening 100s of women with that profile, I curious how long you'll have before POF bans you. They're quite ban-happy over there.

  • Ken 2013-11-10 18:31:19

    If banned, crunch cookies, upload new pics and text, and back in business. Maybe change IP address as well. There's only so many things they can use to correlate you. In any case, I did a few message runs using this and didn't trigger a ban.

  • Ken 2013-11-10 18:33:05

    And new email address, of course ...

  • Ken 2013-11-10 18:37:22

    I read that thread, but not convinced .... of course you got different results when selecting 5 stars (A-list only option), but not because those girls were hidden before, but because they were much further down on the list of returned results, so you wouldn't see them unless you scrolled far enough. Only really convincing experiment would be to put up fake profile of really hot girl, give it a few days, and than see if you can turn it up via (non A-List) search. Would bet money that she would come up if you looked deep enough in your search results.

  • Blackdragon 2013-11-10 19:00:17

    of course you got different results when selecting 5 stars (A-list only option), but not because those girls were hidden before, but because they were much further down on the list of returned results, so you wouldn’t see them unless you scrolled far enough.
    Nope. Before I became a member, I did take the time to scroll all the way down to the very bottom of the list (many screens) until it said there were no other women within my search parameters. I became a member, did the same search just with the 5-star attractiveness added, and boom, NEW women. If you're a free, non-five-star member, OKC is blocking women from your searches. I am 100% convinced of this.
    If banned, crunch cookies, upload new pics and text, and back in business. Maybe change IP address as well.
    Yeah, I know. I'm just not sure if it's worth all the trouble. You have me half-tempted to try it but it still seems like a lot of hassle.
    In any case, I did a few message runs using this and didn’t trigger a ban.
    Well at least that's good.

  • Ken 2013-11-10 19:43:45

    OK, just did some testing side by side A-List vs non-A-List accounts. I used "who's new". I stand corrected ... you are right. There are some results with more "stars" missing from the non-A-List result set. Interesting.

  • Ken 2013-11-10 19:49:31

    Discovered something else interesting (to me, anyway) as well ... I've always been A-List, and have always filtered based on my notion of "acceptable" body type. In other words, leave out the "full figured", "curvy", "little extra", etc from my searches. Turns out I'm missing out on some hot girls in my searches who didn't fill out their body type.

  • jack 2013-11-10 21:47:12

    BD, You may not want to answer this but I'm curious. How many lays are you averaging per yer from on-line game? I'm curious to know what is possible and also because of your age. I know of some young guys (23 -27) that are having sex with as many as 35 girls per year from on-line game. One of them even has approach anxiety so bad, he can't approach during the day. But they're young. Its easy to get laid when you are young so long as you just avoid anti-game (Roissy's term for AFCness). What your doing at your age with young girls using just your computer is impressive. Thus my interest in the numbers.

  • Blackdragon 2013-11-11 00:57:46

    I'd be happy to answer that even though I've already answered it, many times, at least in an indirect way. My pattern is to go online for a month or two, have sex with about 1-4 new women, then immediately get offline and enjoy my new FBs/MLTRs for 8-12 months before I ever bother going back online again. And yes, about 50% of those women will be under the age of 23 even though I'm 41. Quantity of women is not, nor ever has been, my goal. Having many long-term open relationships is. Nor do I enjoy "pickup". I like sex and relationships. "Pickup" and "dating" are boring to me....just give me the sex. So given those numbers, a very heavy year for me would be 6-8 new women added to my roster. However, that would be in addition to the 3 to maybe 6 women in a year I'm already having sex with, who are current or returning FBs/MLTRs. (I don't do one night stands; I don't believe in them.) Again, that would be an extremely active year and I haven't had a year like that in several years. My roster is nice and healthy and I've put more time into my business life in the last 2 years or so. The guys out there pulling in 35 new women per year are following a completely different model than I am. They're more Mystery/Roosh type guys who find pickup exciting and love to bang new women. Whereas I find sex with a woman very exciting even if I've already been having sex with her for years...along with a few other women I've been having sex with for years. 🙂 Neither one of us is right or wrong; just different models for different personalities.

  • Halfbreed 2013-11-12 18:06:04

    Hey BD, I've been using the BDDS for online dating since 2011. And yeah, what you're saying pretty much mirrors my recent experiences. My response rates have gone down quite a bit this year. But, lately first date bangs seem to have gotten easier. And, I've also been able to get a few women to come straight to my house, skipping the first date entirely. That's more rare though.

  • ellie210 2013-11-13 11:13:52

    So I guess the solution is to just keep putting in the numbers! Keep sending more messages, hundreds of messages (if you're not a good-looking guy, maybe in the thousands). Because there are more women, some not serious about meeting someone online. But eventually, you'll hit up a girl who's serious and wants to meet up.

  • jack 2013-11-13 21:02:22

    BD, Awesome response. I like your approach to "pick-up" better than any other "player" I have seen. Nearly every Game/PUA site offers a one size fits all approach that really is only appropriate for guys under 32 and girls under 25. I've seen guys post 50 lay reports a year. That's nice and all but nihilistic to me. I have no intention of living a lifestyle like that. Yours is ideal. One more question (actually a few of them but of a similar theme), how long on average do you "keep" your women? I think I asked this before but I don't remember you giving an answer; about the lifecycle of your women. How long till they ask for commitment? How long till they break up to find a LTR guy? How long they accept the FB status? How long do you keep contact with them from first meet to last time ever seen? Etc. Thanks again

  • Blackdragon 2013-11-13 23:27:59

    Your last round of questions are too off-topic for this particular post. I've had several other men ask me these questions and I'll be making a big post about it soon.

  • Greg 2013-11-14 01:49:27

    If you run into these type of women on dating sites and I do very regularly, who no matter how good your online gaming skills are as BD says, have no interest at all to meet you in person for a drink and primarily use a dating site for an ego boost and/or as a quasi Facebook site, is there a creatively witty paragraph about these type of women, that a guy can put in his profile, to weed them out, in response to girls like that, who are a total waste of his time. Plus if you've exchanged several messages with a girl and have done everything right, if she's too flaky to meet up in person when you politely bring it up without being too pushy, what do you suggest saying to to them.

  • BA 2013-11-14 09:12:17

    Greg, I'll ask twice. I use the BD method which is low key and works well. After I've pitched meeting up for drinks/ice cream/coffee in a public venue twice, if she doesn't agree to meet, I never message her again and move on. I've got better things to do. Like BD says, the few who have responded to me have been very serious about meeting up. Usually hinting at it their second email to me. They obviously still want ME to do the asking of course. I do need to qualify this for age though as these women are early to mid-40s, which is a almost decade younger than I. I haven't cracked the code for the 30s online yet. In person, I do fine down to the late 20's. I continue to watch & learn.

  • Just Saying 2013-11-19 13:12:46

    I learned long ago that dating sites are like "wish lists" for women. They will compare a man to her idea of what she will date, and reject him based on that list. I am no woman's ideal - yet I can have my pick of women. Why? Because they cannot control attraction when you are in front of them. They no longer compare you to their laundry list - you are there, she is excited by you, she WANTS you. The dynamic is entirely different. I stopped wasting my time with dating sites. I also found that in general if you "stack the deck" in your favor you have much better results. But the "how" is dependent on you, and your strengths and interests. I'm over 50 and haven't dated (bedded) a woman older than 25 in years. It's all in how to "hunt" your prey. Each has their preferred way of being hunted.

  • dave 2014-01-10 07:13:36

    what is the current state of pof? its a massive site, everyone uses it cuz its free. but if you can't copy and paste messages, then what? that thing totally screws up everything. does anyone know if its 4 of the same messages you can send? I heard its like 14-5 emails, then you should stop. I had an account shut down i setup showing me in another state.... but my main one is still active. weird. not sure what happened there. messaged pof support, but weeks later, still waiting.

  • Tyrion Lannister 2014-03-22 08:49:08

    I examined the online mating dynamic on these posts:

  • Felix 2016-02-01 21:36:12

    Hey BD, Are you doing to update your books based on these new findings about online dating? Do they require updating to deal with these problems?

  • Blackdragon 2016-02-01 22:02:01

    I already did. I updated my main online dating ebook in 2013, which is when this article was written. As for stuff coming in the future, I can't say anything yet so you'll have to stay tuned.

  • Bitzer 2016-04-16 05:16:53

    You guys seem to be doing pretty good. How are you meeting all of these women?  My experience is that most of my luck comes from women who initiate email with me. Those are becoming few and far between, perhaps because I've been on and off online dating for years (I'm in my mid 50s) and so have they and maybe we are all just tired of it by now. If you don't post a photo, few women will reply and even fewer will initiate contact with an email because they will think you're either married, weigh 400 lbs or are much older than you state on your profile. If you do post a photo, won't the other women you're juggling see you there? How do you guys get around this? Thanks

  • Blackdragon 2016-04-18 10:24:15

    My experience is that most of my luck comes from women who initiate email with me
    You can't rely on these women. You need to send hundreds, if not thousands of openers.
    If you do post a photo, won’t the other women you’re juggling see you there?
    Only if you live in a very small town. I've never had a problem. I also take my profile down once I'm done blitzing.

  • Bobby 2016-12-10 07:59:17

    Most "matches" eharmony sends out are not even subscribers to eharmony. They are former subscribers. Eharmony uses our attempt to communicate with them as a means to lure them back into a subscription.

  • CM 2017-04-16 16:08:46

    I just tried POF this weekend (previously was quite successful back in 2007-2012). I have dismal results. That led me to research about POF response rates which brought me here. I'm glad to see that I'm not suddenly ugly or pathetic online, and that it's a mass problem right now. So I guess the only options are, live in a big city, send out massive amounts of e-mail, and work the girls who respond. Too bad I'm living in a 100K city and the 30 or so women I've e-mailed are the only semi-attractive ones there... really sad state of POF right now.

  • What Is A Good Response Rate For Online Dating – Singles Date Match 2018-03-17 03:41:52

    […] Why Online Dating Response Rates Have Decreased – … – If you run into these type of women on dating sites and I do very regularly, who no matter how good your online gaming skills are as BD says, have no interest at all to meet you in person for a drink and primarily use a dating site for an ego boost and/or as a quasi Facebook site, is there a creatively witty paragraph about these type of women, that a … […]

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