Search Engine Optimization from the Heart

I raced home to toss together the ceviche. Sure, meeting up at a potluck wasn’t quite the same as the concert date I had envisioned. But, it’s a start, right? Pity no one told me to prepare for a) being ignored by my host all night in a room full of strangers and b) for her being there with another man.

Let’s face it: the odds are not good. If you believe that there is only one person out there that is your true love, this is worse than finding a needle in a haystack. There are almost 7 billion people in the world. And they speak over 6,000 languages. Even if you and your mate are tri-lingual geniuses, the odds of sharing a tongue are slim. And what about age? What are the chances that you and your mate would even find each other?

Even if we allow for there to be many great mates out there for each person, what are the chances of running into the best matches in your own city? How many people do you meet every day? 10? 15? 25? (Stud!) Maybe you meet a few hundred people every year. And there are how many people in your city? 1 million? 2 million? Do you like those odds 500:1,000,000? Wouldn’t you want to up the odds a little, get some help browsing through all the possibilities, and extending your network beyond your school, your work, your friends, and friends-of-friends. I know I would.

Ten minutes after the time we had agreed to meet, I got a text: Can we go somewhere else instead? I’d already grabbed a drink, but wasn’t worried. I’d enjoy my $12 cocktail and then meet her somewhere else. I sent a quick response, surrendered the empty stool next to me that I had been guarding, and turned back to my drink. Only for her to arrive a minute later and have our first meeting awkwardly pass as she impatiently stood behind me while I guzzled and grabbed the check.

Romance is supposed to be an art form. Passion. Energy. Electricity. Chemistry. Yet, there’s nothing sexy about trolling bars for hook-ups or blind dates with a coworker’s roommate. Nor is there in the prospect of online dating. Let’s be honest, this is an equation (or maybe a game) and you have to figure out how it works. Tweak the inputs, alter the process, toss in a few buzz words, take a few more photos… You’ve got to not only find the right match for you — you also have to be right for them. You’ve got to attract and woo them with text messages and “winks ” and “flirts ” and superficial chatting. Help, please! Search engine optimization and marketing consulting never sounded so sexy.

Meeting at 6pm was tough, since I had to race home for a quick shower before heading out. Still drying off, I saw the message: Can’t make it tonight. Worried about the snow… Had it started snowing while I had frantically been getting clean? Nope, and there wasn’t even a cloud in the sky.

Some may fear the techno-pocalypse, as we become ever more dependent upon our phones, computers, robots. To them, online dating is the next step in the demise of human culture. “Turn the fate of our love life, our hearts, our emotional well-being over to algorithms? Crazy!” But think about this: even if it is an evil, self-interested computer running these sites, it’s still going to work out for you. The site’s success is entirely dependent on you finding a true match.

There will always be a demand for love and matching. There will always be a steady stream of customers. But, today’s customers will only come to your site if people are having success there — if people are finding matches, if they no longer need the site. So, even if online dating is a plan for eventual world domination hatched by robots, it still wants you to have a hot date. Pretty much a win-win.

Smiles, laughter, and hugs on the first date? Check. Hours-long conversations about anything and everything over the next few meetings? Check. Wondering whether I should start adding her to one side of the leave-for-New-York vs. stay-in-Seattle equation? Check. Listening to her explain that she didn’t really want to be dating anyone and wasn’t sure why she had a profile in the first place? Check. Wait … what?!?

Sure, it’s been a bumpy road so far, but I can’t give up yet. Any new technology takes a little while to get used to. Would you expect to tie your hover-shoes with your bionic arm on the first try? No. And anyone who says they were like Lance Armstrong the first time they jumped on a bike is an asshole.

It takes time, but it’ll be worth it. Online dating is like a futuristic ice cream machine that has the ability to make any flavor you could imagine. All you have to do is type in a 4-digit code. Problem is, it didn’t come with a manual, just told you 0001 is chocolate and 0002 is vanilla. Now you’re left playing trial-and-error. 3958? Cookie dough, damn. 5869? Coffee, shit. 4857? 0192? 5867?… Eventually you’ll find your mint chocolate cookie, it just may take a few hundred failed concoctions first.