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Dating site search engines and the algorithms used to display results have always mystified me. Often there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the results. Are members who log in frequently listed first? Are people who don’t log in often effectively punished by showing up farther down the list of results? Match and some other sites allow you to sort by activity and new members. Being able to search based on age of profile or last time user logged in would be useful and straightforward to implement. All sites should offer this.

Many articles have been written on how to improve a site’s Google PageRank, but where is the disucssion about dating site search results ranking? What are the unofficial actions members can perform to show up more prominently in search results? Do profiles that contain certain keywords or phrases get preferential ranking?

To shed some light into how dating site search works, reader mauricev sent me details about his experiments with Match.com’s search, which we was nice enough to allow me to repost.

Do any open-ended search in a big-city (e.g., every woman 33-50 within 50 miles) and Match returns a grid of 16 matches per page and 32 pages. That’s 512 total profiles. But such a search will undoubtedly have more matches than that. So where is everyone else?

Once the search somehow gets the first 512, it just stops and leaves out the rest. How a profile gets into the rest is somewhat unclear. It almost seems random, although the returned matches are supposed to match in order of decreasing criteria. I’ve demonstrated this by searching for myself and watching my result get pushed out beyond the 512 mark as I progressively enlarge the search radius in miles. I believe once I got beyond 10 miles, I no longer show up in the first 512 and therefore don’t show up. With even slightly restricted criteria, there are enough women on match to require searches be limited to about a 5-year range; otherwise, you risk missing profiles!

Except when one does keyword searches from a very large starting pool, the reverse seems to happen. It does the initial search on the match criteria, which here is really just age, distance and gender, then it applies the keyword on those that turn up in the set beyond the first 512. As an example, search for the keyword “engineer” for women aged 33-50 in a 50-mile radius around New York. The search will only return a few hits, but if one does the search repeatedly for small age ranges, there are way more matches returned. That and the fact that hidden profiles have always shown up in all keyword and matches searches round out the major bugs.

Try hiding matches you don’t want in keyword or matchwords searches and they come back the next time you log on.

This is very interesting stuff, indeed. He’s right about the cutoff at 512 results. I noticed that I had to restrict my search criteria to 5 miles from my zip code and sort on activity date to get my profile to show up on the first page of search results. How many people stick 50-mile search radius into their saved searches and forget about it?

I have 10 or so saved search patters on Match. Now I have to go back into each one and make sure I’ve cranked down the age range and radius.

Side note: I never use the “don’t show this person in search results” feature because it would take forever to hide the older profiles that I’ve seen on the site for years. Do people really use this feature and fit it useful?

Scores of people are constantly poking under the hood on social networking, to learn more about how they work an also to exploit vulnerabilities. I’ve seen very little in-depth research into how dating sites operate. Hopefully this will change as the industry matures and dating and social networking sites continue to work together.

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http://onlinedatingpost.com/archives/2007/12/searching-on-matchcom/