What is your primary goal when you join an online dating website? If you are like most people, your goal is to find a partner for hanging out, dating, and probably a whole lot more. Step one to succeeding at that goal is having a profile that stands out, which leads to the obvious question:

What makes a profile stand out?

There is no easy answer to that, but before even trying to answer the question, lets clarify it a little. The real question you want to ask is:

How do I make my profile stand out in a positive way?

This is a much more important question, because it is easy to make a profile stand out in a negative way. It just isn't particularly effective at actually resulting in dates. So here are a few tips that will help your profile stand out in a positive way.

Hook 'em With Your Profile Picture

Choosing the right profile picture is a topic that you could write a graduate thesis on and still not fully cover it, but the basics are simple. You want a picture that is flattering, inviting, and interestingly provides others with some information about your life beyond that you have brown hair and look good in blue.

The real secret here, though, is that you don't have to sell it with your main profile picture. You just have to pique their interest. Once they click on your profile, you sell it with the dozen or so other pictures you have uploaded. You want varied, exciting pictures where you are smiling for the most part.

Furthermore, profile pictures help you in another subtle way. Most dating sites will briefly feature profiles for a few days shortly after profile pictures are updated. Thus, feel free to game the system by uploading a new profile picture approximately once a week.

It's How You Say It

Too many profiles talk about exactly the same things.

"I love cooking."

"My family is the most important thing to me."

"I enjoy watching movies and reading books."

Yawn. No, seriously.... YAWN

Take a page from any good writer: Show, don't tell. When describing your hobbies, or things you enjoy, paint the picture.

"Every week I try to master a new recipe from my favorite cooking book."

"I have never missed a single one of my nephew's little league games."

"I often have long discussions with friends about the subtle differences between the book and movie versions of Jurassic Park and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

Compare these examples to the previous examples. The latter examples encompass the former examples while providing specifics that are much more compelling and interesting to read.

Narrow Down Your Respondents

Now that your profile stands out, you want to make sure it only truly stands out to people who you are actually interested in dating. This is where things gets a bit tricky, because you want to narrow down your respondents without actually introducing negative phrases to your profile.

The trick is to exclude the people you don't want responding by emphasizing the opposite traits in respondents. You may find yourself spending a lot of time with a thesaurus and looking up antonyms.

As a simple example, imagine that you want to date younger men. Rather than saying "Older men and couch potatoes need not respond," you can say "I am seeking men my age or younger who like spending their weekends outdoors." Older men and couch potatoes will get the message that they aren't a good fit for you without you ever saying it directly.

Find an Editor, Preferably of Your Preferred Gender

One reason that profiles are often weak is people are embarrassed to admit they need assistance finding a dating partner. There is absolutely no reason to be embarrassed. Dating has been difficult for all of human existence.

Put aside any embarrassment you have and ask for help, preferably from someone who is the gender you would date. Show them your profile, before you post it, and ask how they would interpret the person behind those words. The important thing here is perception. If you have accidentally written a profile that creates the perception that you are just looking to have sex, you want to know it before you post it. Your editor needs to be blunt and point out what phrases create what specific impressions, so that you can make changes that create a more accurate impression of you.