How Does Match Work: A Beginner’s Guide

Two screenshots of the match.com app showing how does match work.

Match.com was the first fully online dating service, and when you open up the site it certainly feels like it. While Match is arguably one of the best known names in the online dating world, it has to share the limelight with newer, more popular services like Bumble and Tinder. And with an interface that feels like it was developed in 1995 (the same year the service launched) and a steeply priced freemium subscription model, Match has to work a lot harder to keep up. So does it?

For the most part, yes. Despite its pitfalls, Match is still a fairly popular online dating site and may be a great pick for older people or those who are more serious about finding someone to start a long-term relationship with. (Or people who are simply tired of the free swiping app scene.).

If you’ve decided to give Match.com a try, it can be a great app. But it helps to know how to use it and what the behavioral norms and etiquette are before jumping in. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to the Match dating app to prepare you to rock it:

Step 1: Create your account.
First you’ll go to either Match.com or download the mobile app to create your account. The site will ask you whether you’re a man or a woman, whether you’re looking to date a man or a woman (you can only pick one), and the age range of men or women you’re looking to date. Once you’ve selected your dating preferences, you’ll have to link either an email address or your Facebook account to start your profile.

Step 2: Select your subscription package.
Usually this is the last step of signing up for a dating service, but since you can’t write potential matches without paying I suggest you tackle this now. If you don’t subscribe, you may be frustrated to find that you can’t actually message people after setting up the long profile section.

A subscription allows you to send and receive messages, receive read receipts on those messages, and use profile boosts to stand out. A Match.com subscription is $38.99 for one month, $20.99 per month for three months, $18.99 per month for six months, or $17.99 per month for a year. Each package will be paid in full for the entire subscription duration upon purchase.

Step 3: Put together your profile.
Now that you’ve subscribed you’re ready to dive into the deep end of customizing your profile. There’s no tutorial section so read closely. Match.com has one of the most intensive and comprehensive profiles out of all the major dating apps and online services out there.

The first thing you’ll want to do is start uploading photos. A few things to keep in mind:

– You can import these from Facebook or locally from your computer or mobile device.
– Match allows daters to upload up to 26 photos but in most cases as long as you have at least six you’ll be okay.
– Try to select photos where you’re the main focus and wearing your best smile.
– Make sure to include at least one or two full body shots. (Also, action shots are great. If you have a photo of you on top of Half Dome or windsurfing in the Pacific, throw those in as long as you’re face is readily visible.)
– Keep group shots to a minimum. If you do choose to include a group shot make sure that it’s immediately clear which person is you.
– You also have the option of captioning each photo. If you have some particularly interesting shots, this can be a good way to break the ice with your potential matches.

Once you’re finished with photos, you’ll probably get a notification numbering off how many profile elements you’re missing. You’ll want to start with the bio. Your bio can be up to 4,000 characters, but somewhere in the 750-1500 range should be OK. Use this as an opportunity to crack some jokes and talk about your passions, hobbies, or work.

After you’ve finished up with the bio section there are over 10 additional sections to complete, these include things like exercise habits and political views, but also your interests and whether you have pets. These aren’t required but you’ll want to fill out as many as possible to maximize your chances at catching a match’s eye.

Step 4: Find your match.
Now that you’re all set up, it’s time to get to matching. There are two ways to sift through matches: a stripped down yes or no swiping format akin to newer apps like Tinder or Bumble or the Discover section that lets you scroll through profiles. If you’re looking to match rapid fire the first option is probably best for you, otherwise dig into the Discover tab.

One of the cool things about Match is that you don’t need to have someone like you back in order to send them a message. If you see someone you think is a good match, go ahead and send them a message. The key to sending a good opening message is to be yourself and be personable. Try not to take yourself too seriously.

Besides the normal collection of profiles, the Discover section is also useful for its Mutual Match or Reverse Match features. Mutual Match displays daters whose profiles have characteristics you’ve indicated you’re looking for and Reverse Match displays daters who have indicated they’re looking for characteristics that your profile displays. They’re a neat couple of features that could help you get noticed quicker.

A downside of Match’s recently declining popularity is the potential difficulty in finding matches. I live in a metropolitan area and selected women between the ages of 21 and 60 within 7 miles from me and found just over 70 potential matches, which is a very small number compared to similar apps I’ve used under the same search parameters. There is a possibility that people have excluded me from the search due to my age (24) so keep that in mind.

Step 5: Plan those dates.
Once you’ve started sending some messages get some practice keeping the conversations going. Conversations on Match tend to be longer than those on similar services, so don’t be surprised if a conversation carries on for days or weeks before you meet. If you feel like the the flow is good between you and a match, don’t hesitate to set up a date.

As always, feel free to tweak different elements of your profile or your message strategy if you’re not getting responses. Sometimes these things take time. Also, if you’ve chosen the six-month subscription Match will guarantee you another six months free if you don’t receive a message back within that period.

Well, that’s it. Keep these things in mind and you’ll be on your way to becoming a Match.com superstar. 

Alex Bocknek

Alex Bocknek is the senior editor of The Date Mix and works at Zoosk, the online dating service. He’s also a recovering music critic and an aspiring fiction writer (probably lost) on the way to an independent bookstore near you. He can be found occasionally musing about politics, philosophy, and love in the modern world.

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