The Kitty Cat Experiment

One of the best places for testing online dating profiles is craigslist, since its posts are not linked to a unique identifier or username. Anonymity makes it possible to post two different ads and determine which one gets more responses. (At the same time, craigslist is a terrible site for finding actual dates or relationships.)

The Kitty Cat Experiment illustrates the point I make in Online Dating Mistake #1: Being Vague About What You're Looking For, which is that it's important to be specific about what you're looking for in a partner.

My first few ads tried to describe me in safe, general terms that would appeal to any woman. The response rate was okay, but not phenomenal. So I threw caution to the wind, and wrote an entire ad focusing on one specific (but true) aspect of my personality. The headline was "Here Kitty, Kitty," and here's how it began:

My two cats taught me everything I need to know about love. No matter whether a cat wakes me up at 4 a.m. to beg for food, or pees on my pillow when I'm away, it's completely useless to lecture a cat, get angry at a cat, or make it act against its nature. All you can do is feed it, pet it and accept it for what it is—because you make a conscious choice to accept and keep such a loving and delightful creature in your life, day after day and year after year, even when bad things happen. I'm looking for a woman who I can have that kind of relationship with... except for the part about peeing, because I'm not into that sort of thing.

It's the kind of ad that makes many women think, "This guy is insane!" I even got a few responses from women who complained that I compared them to animals. But a small percentage of women who read it thought, "Yes, finally! This guy will be able to understand me," and those are the only people whose opinion I care about. A generic profile will never get that response—trying to appeal to everybody appeals to nobody—but a highly specific one will. Ultimately, the Kitty Cat ad got twice the response of every broadly targeted ad we tested, and was one of the most successful ads we ran.

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