How To Use OkCupid To Actually Meet Someone

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The Itty Bitty Nitty Gritty Details of Using OkCupid

Pensive man using laptop
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So, you're on OkCupid (my favorite of all the top dating sites), however for whatever reason, you're struggling to meet someone cool/loving/close to your age/cute/who wants more than something casual/_______[fill in the blank].

I get it, because like you, I was in a similar boat with my own dating profile recently, and I also received many questions from readers and friends just like you with the same issues on an almost daily basis.

Instead of continuing the cycle of frustration, I decided to perform some research, talk to a few folks smarter than I, test things out for myself, and report back my findings, tweaking many things along the way to improve results.

I also worked with a few readers and a dear friend I'll call *Matt (*not his real name), who helped me view things from the 'other' side, as well as to see whether the tweaks and tips worked across the board or just for some of us.

I should also note mathematician Christopher McKinlay's small book, Optimal Cupid: Mastering the Hidden Logic of OkCupid, as a major factor in this process. I'll share where I've borrowed heavily from his research and findings, and where it took me on a different, yet related, path.

Ready to get started? You'll want a few hours over the span of about a week to complete everything on this how-to, although you can pick and choose whichever tactics suit your needs best.

Start with a fresh dating profile or use the one you've created in the past - this all works equally either way. You will however need an account with OkCupid, and access to the computer-based version instead of just the app. 

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Why You Want To Change Your OkCupid Profile

Why You Want to Freshen Up Your OkCupid Profile
Why You Want to Freshen Up Your OkCupid Profile. Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

If you've got zero interest in the science of love and dating,or if you're already well versed in OkCupid's algorithm and how it shares information with you and other folks using the website, you can easily skip this section and move on to step three.

For the rest of you, let's talk briefly about the why's and how's of what you've done so far with the popular dating site, and what your focus needs to be from now on in.

How's your experience with OkCupid going? Do you have a plethora of potential mates or suitors, like the gal in the photo above, or are you just waiting for someone "appropriate" to message you or reply?

If you're like me, I had a fair number of folks contacting me with my old dating profile, however most were well outside my desired age range (15+ years my senior), lived more than 1,000 miles away, or sought some form of open relationship.

While I'm superpeachykeeno with polyamory and the like, I've learned I'm wired for more monogamous leanings, so this was a source of frustration for both me and the people trying to catch my attention.

My friend Matt was in a different place, yet just as frustrating. He rarely had anyone look at his profile, and on average received 2-5 messages or replies every six months.

When he shared this with me over drinks, I was shocked; this is an exceptionally intelligent young man working on a PhD, and who has the good fortune of being head-turningly attractive to boot. While he is a bit awkward with reading and responding to social cues, these things are far from an issue online (usually).

So, I went to work. Why were we, and other folks like us, having such a hard time of it?

Nugget #1: OkCupid's Algorithm Limits Your Matches

With every question that you answer on the site, there are folks that essentially get removed from your search results, and you from theirs. Unless you search for a very small subset of the site (more to come on this later), you're only going to see people with certain markers in common.

This means that The Perfect Person For You might have a fantastic picture posted to catch your eye, and match with you 97%, however because of the way the site is setup you'll be hard pressed to randomly run across them, or them you.

Nugget #2: The Words You Use in Your Profile Affect Search Results

Several iterations ago, you could highlight certain words in your profile using double brackets around important concepts, like this: [[I love music]]. Folks who clicked on these highlighted words would then see a list of folks who had the same things highlighted.

You can still use these brackets (again, we'll talk about this more later), however most folks just write whatever comes to them when they sign up, and then leave it at that.

Why does this matter? The words that you use - all of them - are now searchable in some form.

So Matt had a mention of not looking for single parents, and I had on mine the diddy above about polyamory - that while I'm 100% accepting of it, I think it's better suited for other folks.

Well, bingo! Inadvertendly, we both had our profiles showing up more often than not in searches made by single parents and poly couples. 

Nugget #3: The More Often You Update, The More You Appear in Search

Most of the biggest dating sites offer some sort of pay-per-use feature to place your profile at the top of the search results, like and Plenty of Fish.

OkCupid does something similar with their Message Boost feature (just look at your picture on the right side of the page when reviewing messages for a link), however you can do something similar for free by just updating your profile in some small yet significant way on a regular basis.

Ignore your profile and just focus on trying to contact people or answer emails, and you'll quickly drop down in the search results. 

Case in point: When I do nothing to my profile and avoid the site for a few days, I can easily see that my profile gets returned in search results 150-400 times a day, on average. ​Spend about fifteen minutes on the site and update something in my profile however, gets me viewed well over 1500 times a day. 

With the other tweaks I'll talk about in more detail in the next few sections of this article, I've consistently had my profile viewed in excess of 3000 times a day, while my friend Matt is now so swamped with date offers, he took his profile offline.

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Do You Know What You Want on OkCupid?

What Do You Really Want From OkCupid?
What Do You Really Want From OkCupid?. Mimi Haddon / Getty Images

If you read step two of this how-to, you'll know that what you write in your profile directly affects what people can search about to find you. This is why your focus is incredibly important when using online dating sites, but OkCupid especially. 

Let's experiment a bit.

If you've got an OkCupid profile right now, or even if you're just setting one up, go and do a basic search. Click on Browse Matches on the top left of the screen after logging in, then switch your filters to whatever pleases you, making sure you sort by Match %. Click on Search, and take a quick boo at your first three matches - which technically should be your highest Match % on the site.

When I started this process, I had zero matches over 80%, and Matt had only a handful over 80%. If this is the case with you as well, all is well - we'll fix that soon.

Take a look at the three top matches, and their profiles. Ignore their pictures for now, just read what they've written.

I'll bet you that one, if not all three, have similarly-worded profiles to yours. I know mine did; one actually had five of the exact phrases I did (that weren't quotes) and two had similar musicians listed in their likes.

Take note of these similarities, and look at a few more profiles if need be to see a pattern - because there will be one. Maybe they all have tattoos, or love live music. Perhaps they're all older than you, or of a certain race. No need to write anything down, just take note. 

It should be quite obvious to you very quickly that there's a pattern here, which is great! The thing is, is it a pattern you're happy with? Likely not, or else you wouldn't be here. So what's the first step in changing this? Figuring out what you want.

Easier said than done, I know, so let's start with some rules: you can only have 2-3 things, they must be crucial for you, and they have to be somehow quantifiable.  These things can easily change, so just use whatever comes to mind first.

I started with people within a five year age range that like curvy women, and shared a specific interest. Matt chose women with a specific body type and race with a strong creative bent.

I've had folks choose lesbian-only farmers within 50 miles, men under 30 seeking marriage that read voraciously, and 40-something women who like fit men that are overweight themselves. Really, the sky's the limit here - you decide what you want. 

Now that you have a general list, please write it down and put it next to your computer for the rest of this process. You'll want to refer to it often to stay focused, or change it and start again if you find your wants evolve. 

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How To Answer Questions on OkCupid

Answering Questions on OkCupid
How Do You Answer Questions on OkCupid?. Justin Lewis / Getty Images

Whether you've got a brand new profile or a long-standing one, you're going to want to review the step prior to this one before moving on (Do You Know What You Want on OkCupid?). The reasoning is simple: if you just answer questions nilly-willy, you'll get similar results. You actually do want to meet someone, right?

With your list of 2-3 must-haves in hand, log back into OkCupid, and find your Profile (there's usually a link at the top of every page). Click on Questions, and then look for the button on the right side that says Clear All Answers, and click on it. ​Those of you with brand new profiles can of course skip this step. 

Why are you clearing all your answers though, answers you've spent likely hours cultivating? They a huge part of why the folks you want to meet elude you, and thus we're starting from scratch.

*Note: I get more emails about this step than anything else. Please, let go. They're just questions. If you truly want to meet someone amazing, you have to let go of whatever hasn't worked before. 

Messaging to say this didn't work - but - you skipped this step, will have me reaffirming everything I've shared here. If for some reason you can't let go of the questions, start another profile.  

Now, let's start answering some questions, borrowing heavily from the tactics shared in Optimal Cupid: Mastering the Hidden Logic of OkCupid

Criteria for Answering Questions

Know that most of the questions presented are irrelevant to you and a potential match, and therefore you will ONLY answer questions where they're truly of consequence, they're specifically listed on your handy dandy sheet you just made, and where you can "throw away" one answer, because you know very few people you're interested in would ever choose that answer.The best way I can explain this is to do so by example.

Example: How often do you keep your promises?

Most of the questions on the site are either Yes/No, or offer four options to answer. Try to focus on the questions with four options where possible (in this case, it is).

If the question is a Yes/No question, you want to seriously think about it, and if it's something you must have in a match. One question for me - Would you honestly answer any question concerning your sexual history that a partner might ask? - is a yes, and I want anyone I'm matched with to say yes with absolute certainty, so I answered Yes, will only accept those who answer Yes, and then marked the question as Very Important.

If the question offers four options, such as the promises one, pick your answer. Then, pick three of the four other answers that you can live with your potential match answering, and then choose Very Important. Again, it must be Very Important to you, so just skip anything that's irrelevant.

Why are we doing this? McKinlay explains this better than I ever could in Optimal Cupid, but in a nutshell, you want to match with the highest number of potential matches, while still filtering out anyone who fits someone else's perfect criteria. 

Repeat For Ten Questions

Wow, really? Yep. Ten questions. You're going to find very quickly that you're skipping more questions than you're answering, and that's okay. For most people, it'll take 100 or more questions to find ten that you can and want to answer using the criteria listed above. Feel free to take a break after you've found your first ten, because this will likely take you an hour or more.

Start Searching

When you're ready to keep on going, search your matches by percentage within your desired age range and area. You'll definitely see people you've never seen before, which is great! 

Like in the step where you figured out what you want in a partner, go look at your top match's profile. Note any words or concepts in there that resonate with you, and write them down next to your List.

Next, go look at this match's questions (look at the top of their profile, then click on Questions or The Two of You - it'll depend on your Match % as to what you see), and filter by Unanswered By You. Now go and find 2-10 questions of theirs that resonate with you, and answer them in the same fashion. If they only have a few questions answered, go back and do the same with the next match on your list.

Rinse, Repeat

Each 5-10 questions you answer, re-run your Search by Best Match %, and go through this process again. Why? Again, refer to Optimal Cupid for specifics; briefly, the questions presented to you will change depending on how you answer, and you want control of what you're sharing.

When I erased all of my questions and went through this process, it took both me and my guinea pig friends about a week with an investment of 15-20 minutes a day to get to 100.

That's your goal as well: 100 questions answered. You'll see with each search that the folks you come across changes (in some cases, dramatically), and that some keywords appear more often than others. Keep on taking note of those words, especially if they're important to you.

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Final Touches To Make To Your OkCupid Profile

Dimitri Otis / Getty Images

Now that you've figured out what you want and answered specific questions on OkCupid, you're ready to make some final tweaks to your profile to best utilize all the work you've put into it. 

Get Some Unusual Pictures Posted

It's a tricky balancing act, those pictures. You want something that clearly represents your face to meet with the Terms of Service of the site, plus it makes a huge difference when on the app looking for locals. ​

More importantly, though, you want something that shows off your uniqueness to the world, while still quickly and easily displaying who you are physically to a potential match. This main picture must also be recent (i.e. within the past three months) and offer something to start a conversation over. 

Great pictures involve you celebrating with friends or dolled up for a special event, doing something you love like playing and instrument or showing off something you've made, or that showcases a recent trip or experience that meant a lot to you.

This is where your friends and family come in really handy: ask them to take many, many pictures of you the next time you're out together, and then have them send them to you. Pick one that looks dynamic, preferably where you're smiling, and puts you in a favorable light, then post it.

Whatever you do, put up a new one ASAP, and keep changing it when a better picture emerges. (Remember, changing your profile = good!)

Use Those Keywords

I've harped on about those keywords in more than a few places in this mammoth article, and for good reason: those words affect who you see, and who sees you in search.

Therefore, take those words that you've compiled, found in other profiles, and that mean something to you and add them to your own online dating profile.

Erase anything that you dislike, want to avoid, or come across negatively about in turn -- otherwise you'll attract folks looking for the same in turn, as I and my friend Matt did prior to rewriting.

**If you do only one thing from this how-to, I strongly suggest this.**

It's a Constant Process

At this stage, you're going to have a significant number of folks that you're matched with at 80% or higher - fantastic!

Know that you'll want to rejigger things every once in a while, and review people's questions each time that you look at a new profile to see where you disagree strongly on something.

While you'll have to wait 24 hours to change your answers (unless you delete everything and start again), you will want to edit or refresh things as you come across things that make you go, "Hmmm". 

For both me and my friend Matt, we reduced the number of people outside our interest contacting us dramatically (in my case, to almost zero), however, we both noticed getting responses and dates with folks that were more focused on the smorgasbord approach than actually dating someone, or building a relationship. A quick tweak to both our answers to reflect this over several weeks made a huge difference in the quality of matches almost instantly.

Stay at the Top

To stay at the top of everyone's search results, you want to update your profile every single time you log in to OkCupid. If you can't or don't want to take the time to do this, the site offers an inexpensive feature to get your profile more page views with a similar response. 

How Did You Fare?

Phew! Congrats on making it to the end of this article, I know it was a long one. Hopefully, you gleaned some valuable information that assisted you in finding better, more aligned matches with whatever it is you're seeking in your dating life. I'd love to hear about how it worked out for you, and any further suggestions or comments that you have: what worked for you?