Bill Tancer on online dating sites
Photo: © 2010 Jupiterimages Corporation
As I mentioned in my last column, the first few weeks of the new year are peculiar time in terms of our online behavior. Each year resolution searches are always present as we look to improve ourselves; we look to slim down, get in shape, stop smoking and get a job.
  One phenomenon that I've noticed over the past several years is an increase in searches surrounding online dating. Based on years of analysis, I'm convinced that there are two key reasons for the January dating frenzy. First, we see relationship building as a way we can improve our lives. Second, is the rush to find a relationship before February 14. In fact, we start to see a decline in online dating in the first days of February, perhaps to avoid the awkwardness of going out on a first date on Valentine's Day?
When I look at the top 1,110 dating sites visited by U.S. Internet users (yes, there are that many), it's clear 2010 brings with it significant change in dating behavior
. First, the economy. Sites that provide premium dating services and matchmaking have dropped in their rankings, while sites such as Plenty of Fish, which bills itself as a "free online dating" site, are more prominent.

There's also a spike in age. More than 47 percent of Internet users visiting the dating category were older than 45, with 22 percent older than 55. The younger generation, 18- to 24-year-olds, which several years ago made up the leading age group, are now the smallest, accounting for only 14 percent of all visits. The most likely reason?  The growing popularity of social networks such as Facebook. In fact, more than 18 percent of those leaving online dating sites continue on to a social networking site.
Among the younger set, the trend is also to shy away from sites that encourage long-term relationships to sites where the goal is much shorter in term.
  Top 10 Online Dating Sites (Week Ending January 16, 2010)
1.Plenty of Fish
4.Yahoo! Personals
7.Date Hookup
Source: Experian Hitwise
How about you? Are you an online dater? Did you make a New Year's resolution to start a relationship? Do you prefer to meet people on social networks versus traditional dating sites? Put your answers in the comment section. I look forward to hearing from you.

Bill Tancer is an Internet trend analyst, columnist and author of the New York Times best-seller Click—What Millions Do Online and Why It Matters.


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