Post-mortem report of my free online dating service; Part 2 of 2

My free online dating site launch in May of 2009 after a little under 2 years of work. Now I just need to get people to come to or write about the site and the real work has begun. I post it up to all the social networks at the time telling people to come check out my site. “SPAMMER!” I hear. Crap, how can I tell you about the site but not tell you about the site?

I thought my solution to organic marketing would be to get other people to write about it. I searched for and made lists of blogs and sites that wrote about online dating or dating in general and started crafting individual emails for each site. For hundreds of sites I found I spent a few hours each night trying to first find a method to contact them via form or email. If I was able to find a contact method I wrote up an email about how awesome my new site was and the work I put into it and they should take a look or write about it. After a few months of this I was completely burnt out. I had gotten next to no responses from all my work, less than 1% feels generous. No one responding to me after the hundreds of communications I sent out was crushing.

I tried a couple of paid per post services but that investment didn’t pan out. The services themselves were OK, the posts went up pretty quick but the types of sites doing this weren’t exactly well respected. With all their other pay per posts it was like trying to hold a quiet conversation at a concert. A worthless avenue for marketing.

The only reliable method to get new visitors from day one that I used was online advertising through Google AdSense and Facebook Ads. I setup accounts for both services and right away I was getting click throughs and new members. Everyday I was checking my cost per registration from both services and quickly found Facebook Ads just wasn’t performing well. With just Google AdSense to focus on I created a dozen campaigns with different keywords targeting states, cities and the different sexes. I spent a good amount of money here and it was extremely addictive. I would not recommend pay per click campaigns for anyone without extremely deep pockets or free services to use. Without this service I would not have gotten any users and with it I ended up hating the project more and more. I was spending money everyday and making a little money but it was never increasing over time.

One of my biggest mistakes was not developing a proper site administration system. I underestimated the amount of profile removals I would need to make per day. I spent about 30-45 minutes on some days just cleaning up bad profiles. I finally setup a rudimentary system but even then I sometimes had to resort to my set of SQL scripts to do some tasks.

My largest problem I never resolved was spam. The only people that actually wanted to seek out and use my site were spammers. Mostly from Nigeria and it’s surrounding countries but also from Russia for mail order brides. I had ReCAPTCHA in place but they didn’t care. These weren’t robots I was keeping out but tons of people that sent out hundreds of messages a day. My final attempt was a manual message and user approval process. That meant that before any new users messages were sent I had to approve them. This was just too much work and something I never considered before launching but could never solve afterwards. They ruined the site for me and the legit users that signed up.

I’m going to shut down the service this year and will be open sourcing my code, I need to clean out any S3 key stuff. There was a lot of important lessons I learned during this experience. My product didn’t have an interesting angle. I didn’t solve any new problems or solve an existing problem so well people wanted to talk about it. My marketing was underbudget to compete against the larger players. I under developed my application and failed to think through the spam factors.

I’m happy to have done the project but I’d be lying to say I’m not even happier to have it in the past.

Check out Post-mortem report of my free online dating service; Part 1 of 2 if you didn’t see the ramp up to launch