The online dating industry has come a long way since it first arrived on the digital scene in 1995. The matchmaking service grew modestly in its first few years, but with advancements in technology and the attendant introduction of more sophisticated platforms and apps, the industry has mushroomed into a big business. Facebook has taken notice, recently announcing its plans to roll out a dating function within the core Facebook app.
As one of the more prominent digital industries around, online dating has branched out to include highly specific niche websites catering to equally specific user demographics and preferences, such as those over 50 or embracing a vegan lifestyle. Its depth in niche preferences is matched by its geographical breadth, as users can now shop around internationally.
With spring in the air (at least for the northern hemisphere), SEMrush decided to collect and analyze global data to discover the most popular online dating websites, both in terms of the number of direct search requests and traffic volume, as well as the sources of site traffic.
We further crunched the data to show the top questions people google about online dating, as well as seasonal variations in online-dating related search queries by volume and by the average traffic to online dating websites.
Finally, we looked at the distribution of online dating website traffic by country. Below we break down our findings.
Disclaimer: SEMrush is in no way related to any of the websites mentioned in the article, as our marketing toolkit allows an unbiased analysis of the online data.
The international social network Badoo is the most popular online dating platform by an overwhelming margin, with approximately 38 million direct searches.
The second most searched for platform is Tinder, a geo-localized mobile app that introduced the swipe feature to indicate interest (or not) in another nearby user.
Badoo also captures the most search traffic by volume, followed by The Match Group’s OKCupid, PlentyOfFish and its original online dating site, Match.
Spring ushers in a renewed interest in romance, with search traffic to online dating websites budding in March and April, then blooming in May.
Facebook overwhelmingly dominates the online dating traffic originating from social media, driving 71.34% of the total traffic generated.
The most leveraged emotional triggers in paid ads are those implying credibility and urgency, as well as the impulse-driven word “free.”
English-speaking countries (United States, Great Britain, Australia and Canada) account for 77% of the world’s online dating site traffic.
- Direct traffic accounts for approximately 59% of total online dating traffic, followed by search (23.5%), referral from other websites (14.3%), social media (1.71%), and lastly paid ads, at 1.47%.
Sources of Traffic for the Top Online Dating Websites
The data indicate that well over half of online dating users already know what website they want. Direct traffic accounts for approximately 59% of total online dating traffic, followed by search (23.5%), referral from other websites (14.3%), social media (1.71%), and lastly paid ads, at 1.47%.
Next, we will delve into what we discovered about search, referral, social media and paid traffic.
Search Traffic: Most Searched for Online Dating Platforms & Top 10 Global Websites
So what online dating platforms do singles search for most? And what are the top 10 online dating websites in terms of traffic volume?
Here is what we found.
Most Searched for Online Dating Platforms: Near & Far
The international and multilingual social network Badoo is by far the most popular online dating platform, with approximately 38 million queries. A distant second is hyper-localized Tinder, with less than half as many platform-specific searches, at 16 million.
Badoo operates in 190 countries and is available in 47 different languages, which goes a long way towards explaining its worldwide dominance in the online dating industry.
Tinder pioneered the mobile app swipe feature, whereby users swipe right on their screen to indicate interest in another nearby user and left to decline.
In third place at slightly less than half the number of search queries of Tinder is Grindr, a second geo-localized social mobile app geared towards gay and bisexual men, with 7.2 million.
All of the online dating platforms included in our analysis are free for the basic version. Users who desire more advanced features can opt to enroll in a “freemium” service, usually by paid subscription.
Top 10 Online Dating Websites by Traffic Volume: Badoo Reigns Supreme
Once again, Badoo captures the top spot. OKCupid is the second most-trafficked site, and PlentyofFish (pof.com) claims the third spot.
Note: OKCupid.com, pof.com (PlentyOfFish), and Match.com are subsidiaries of The Match Group/IAC (InterActiveCorporation).
The pioneer of online dating, Match, ranks a distant fourth, even though it is the only paid site besides eHarmony. With a tenure of 30 plus years of operation, Match has the competitive advantage of long-standing brand familiarity and brand loyalty, so users are willing to pay for their service. Also, its algorithm is informed by scads of data collected over its decades of operation.
While Badoo is not alone in operating internationally, it does operate in the greatest number of countries (190) and offers the most prolific number (47) of different languages, as noted in the above discussion of the most searched for online dating platforms.
Referral Traffic: The Top 5 Sources
After direct and search traffic is referral traffic, accounting for 14.3% of the total traffic for online dating sites. Our analysis of backlinks revealed the top five sources of referral traffic, listed in order here:
The Top Questions People Ask about Online Dating
So what are the top questions people ask about online dating when they enter their query into the search box?
Our analysis uncovered a spectrum of queries conducted in search, from open-ended “how to” questions to specific questions around online dating:
‘Online Dating’-Related Search Volume
We found search requests related to online dating fluctuates somewhat month to month, as well as with the seasons:
Searchers were most active in September (2017) with their queries about online dating, and least so in April (2017)
Average Traffic to Online Dating Websites
As with online dating related search volume, the average traffic to online dating websites shows changes by month and season.
As one might expect, spring ushers in a renewed interest in romance. Search traffic to online dating websites builds in March and April, then peaks in May with over 1.6 million before declining over the summer (perhaps summer love is alive and well?). Average traffic spikes somewhat in September then falls off sharply to less than 1 million in December.
Social Media Sources of Traffic: Facebook Dominates
A remote third largest source of traffic for online dating websites is social media, accounting for 1.71% of total traffic volume.
Of the social networks, Facebook overwhelmingly dominates, driving 71.34% of the total traffic generated. Reddit is the remote second largest source, with 8.94%, followed by YouTube, with 6.73%.
The Russian-based Vkontakte illustrates the international mix of social networks generating traffic to online dating websites worldwide.
Paid Advertising: Spend & Emotional Triggers
Lastly, paid ads account for 1.47% of the total traffic for online dating websites. Our analysis shows that the vast majority of ads by online dating websites -- 81.6% -- represent an investment of less than $5,000.
Emotional Triggers in Ads
The frequency of phrases used in ads shows that those implying credibility with the word “site,” both "Dating Site" and "Official Site", are heavily favored. The irresistible word “free,” appealing to human impulsiveness, also appears in a number of variations, from the second most leveraged emotional trigger of "Join Free" to the less used "Browse Free".
The phrases using urgency as an emotional trigger include "Free Today" (coupling the power words of “free” and “today”), "Singles Near", "Join Now", and lastly, "Start Dating".
The phrase "Singles Near" compounds the emotional trigger of urgency with expediency.
The Geography of Online Dating Website Traffic
The data show that the United States accounts for the lion’s share of traffic to online dating sites, with 62.86% of the total worldwide. Great Britain comes in a distant second with 7.34% for an individual country.
All told, English-speaking countries (United States, Great Britain, Australia and Canada) account for 77% of the world’s online dating site traffic.
Badoo Traffic Distribution by Countries
As Russian-founded Badoo commands such a lead in both direct and search traffic among online dating websites, we broke down the data to show its own distribution of global traffic:
Brazil drives the most traffic to badoo.com, as shown, followed by the United States, France, Italy, and Russia.
As an industry, online dating has become big business since Match first introduced its site in 1995. Since then, Match has consolidated its realm to include OKCupid and PlentyOfFish, and its trilogy of websites appears to be the largest competitor Badoo faces.
While it may seem that between Badoo and The Match Group of online dating websites there is little room for smaller players, the evidence indicates otherwise. The sheer number and diversity of sites and mobile apps has exploded over the past several years, reflecting the number and diversity of online dating users.
For marketers and the owners of online dating websites trying to capture more business, the dominance of direct traffic indicates marketing campaigns to raise brand awareness would be an important part of an overall strategy. So even while social media and paid ads are relatively small sources of site traffic, both hold value in augmenting efforts to create the brand awareness that can attract unique (new) site visitors.
Finally, given that search and referral from other websites are significant sources of site traffic, combining to drive roughly 38% of the total global traffic, investment in SEO with smart optimization and quality backlink profile development are organic strategies that should be pursued.