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SEMrush Study: Everything You Wanted To Know About Online Dating Websites

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SEMrush Study: Everything You Wanted To Know About Online Dating Websites

This post is in English
Jana Garanko updated
This post is in English
SEMrush Study: Everything You Wanted To Know About Online Dating Websites

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.

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.

We got these insights using SEMrush Traffic Analytics. You can read about its features and key use cases here.

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.

Key Takeaways

  • 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%.

Traffic Sources To Online Dating Websites

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.

Most Searched Online Dating Platforms

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.

Top Dating Websites by Traffic Volume 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:

  • yahoo.com
  • datingadvice.com
  • google.com
  • myway.com
  • ask.com

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:

Top questions about 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:

Online dating-related search volume 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.

Average Traffic To Online Dating Websites

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%.

Social networks which generate traffic to online dating websites 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.

Spendings on paid search

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".

Emotional triggers in ads

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.

Traffic by countries

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:

Badoo Traffic Distribution by Country 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.

Reveal traffic sources

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Jana Garanko

SEMrush employee.

Jana is Head of PR at SEMrush. Together with her team, she increased the brand awareness of SEMrush brand globally with curious facts and statistics all over the world. Crazy about data, even if she sleeps.
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Adrian Lawrence

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Suprised to see Badoo so far ahead of Tinder, as Tinder is the most well known amongst the general public and even finds its say into regular conversations in the same way that Google does.
Hamza Ali

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

hahaha such a wonderful way of showcasing the power of your tools by using it for such a nuanced industry. Great job! Love it.
Jyoti Thapa

Provides valuable insights and adds depth to the conversation.

Thank you Jana for sharing such wonderful article. Before I just thought that dating websites were actually bots and feels like talking to some bots, but your article made everything clear.
Francesca Oliviero

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

As one of the biggest dating experts in the world, we can confirm that these data are completely accurate! Thanks for sharing these awesome images with little hearth in place of dots! Awesome Job
Jana Garanko

SEMrush employee.

Francesca Oliviero
Thank you! Much appreciated :)

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

Excellent Jana, this article gives great insight into highly competitive space. From my own experience of having a small client in this space I understand how difficult it is to make any real progress. The detail is much appreciated. Is there any other market studies, like this one, that you guys have done? Thanks for sharing.
Jana Garanko

SEMrush employee.

Omnicom Media Group
Thank you! And yes, there are a number of other studies that we worked on, for instance you might want to check out another blog post on traveling industry trends https://www.semrushchina.cn/blog/top-10-traveling-trends-in-2017/ or our annual e-commerce study (please find it here https://www.semrushchina.cn/ebooks/)

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

I think the reason for direct traffic mentioned in this article might be a little flawed. It's not that people already know what they are looking for. I think it because once I sign up for one of the dating sites, from there on, until I decide to quit, I go to the website directly to log in and check for messages. So it's the post-signup process that results in the massive direct traffic and not necessarily the fact that they already know the service they want to use.
Jana Garanko

SEMrush employee.

David Carr
It might be that, too!
C. Alex Velazquez

Provides valuable insights and adds depth to the conversation.

Wow, that is actually a really in depth article on dating sites. I love the 'emotional triggers' section because I think some of those key emotive 'keyword phrases' (if you want to call them that) have value in other markets as well, simply by permutation on the core concept keyword, or concatenating/modifying other words onto them before and after. Going to mess around with some of those today. Great article as usual! ;) Cheers....
Hafeez Safdar Ali

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Nice detail Jana. I especially like the area of "Top questions people google about online dating".

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