By Tim Mayo
In this review I’m going to be taking a look at Guardian Soulmates, a popular dating site from the Guardian.
It will probably come as no surprise to you that this dating site is dominated by Guardian readers, whom according the Guardians own readers profile are: affluent, food and drink aficionados, well-traveled and finance-savvy.
If these traits are appealing to you, then read on. If not, the UK’s largest dating site for professionals – eHarmony – will definitely be a better choice.
About Guardian Soulmates
First launched back in 2004 – Guardian Soulmates is an online dating site run by the Guardian newspaper. The site has a loyal following or members, mainly acquired through extensive advertising on the Guardians own website.
But this loyalty was put to the test in early 2011, after a major site re-design left many members very unhappy. But this was two years ago now, and it appears that they are putting their troubles behind them, as the site continues to grow and attracts members from all over the country.
Site members vary in age from 18 to 85 years old. But you’ll find the largest number of members in the 25 to 55 age group.
Members on the site are seeking a mix of friendship, relationships, and casual affairs. But the numbers definitely fall in favour of those seeking relationships for the longer term. If all you are after is a little fun without the commitment, then there are other dating sites that would be better suited to your needs.
A Soulmates Story
Creating Your Profile
There’s not a whole lot to say about the signup process. As you can see from the form below, only a few basic details are needed to register your account.
Once you’re registered on the site, it’s time to fill out your profile. You will need to complete at least 50% of your profile before you start appearing in searches on the site. So don’t be lazy here, else you may never be discovered.
There is nothing unusual about the questions asked; all of the typical descriptive questions are there – such as your height, hair colour, eye colour, body type, star sign, relationship status, want children, have children already etc.
You will also find a box where you have a maximum of 2000 characters to tell everyone about yourself. This is your sales pitch, so don’t rush it and risk losing out. Another box asks you to enter what it is you’re looking for in a partner, again there’s a limit of 2000 characters; but try not to come across as to ridged here, this is always a huge turnoff.
You can also upload a photo, or a whole bunch of them. If you prefer, you can leave it blank, but profiles without a photo tend to lose out when it comes to clicks and contact.
Although you are prompted to subscribe to the service at every opportunity, there is no need to do so just yet. You can browse member profiles on the site, read their profile descriptions and view their photos without needing to pay. It’s definitely best to test the waters first before diving in head first, even if you do have more money than sense.
Features You’ll Find
The website itself is probably one of the nicest designed websites I have ever seen. It’s free from clutter and unnecessary cheesy features like winks, ice breakers and virtual gifts; it’s also highly intuitive and easy on the eyes.
There’s a feature called “Your Matches”, where they use the criteria that you select in the ‘Who you’re looking for’ page to create a list of Soulmates that are deemed to be most compatible with you. For each individual criteria, such as age or height, you can choose to set how important these criteria are to you; and if they are also important to other site members, then you will be matched together. It’s nothing like the psychological approach you will find on matchaffinity.com, but it does act as a filter.
Their standard find tool allows you to easily search all members based on their age, location and proximity to you. What’s also nice is that you can select when they were last online. This gives you an indication to the activity levels on the site. As often many dating sites keep profiles online just to bump up the numbers, even if they have not logged in for over a year.
You can hide members that you would rather not appear in your searches, and also block members from contacting you. There’s also an option to recommend members to your friends, just in case you happen to stumble across someone you think they would like.
There is also basic support for mobile devices. However it’s only via the mobile browser, so no iPhone or Android Apps at this time.
The Traffic Test
I always like to perform a traffic test before paying to use any dating service. It would be annoying to pay, only then to discover that there are hardly any members on the site that are living in your area.
If I perform a quick – not too picky – search for females in my local county, between the ages of 25 and 33, and who have been active in the last month; just over 80 profiles are returned. If I then refine this list to only those members who have been active in the last week, it’s reduced to 35.
35 is a fairly small number when compared to match.com, but this is a niche focused dating site after all, so actually the numbers are not too bad.
I would definitely recommend doing a search for your local area before paying for a subscription. Since each region is going to vary. But London stands tall at the top of the charts.
The Scam Test
Online dating is a billion dollar business for the companies behind the dating sites, and the vast majority of these businesses care more about making money from you, than helping you to find your soul mate. In fact, it’s better for them financially if you don’t find anyone. I’ve seen many dating sites using pseudo profiles, automated messages and winks to try and trick people into signing up. Their scams are harder to spot than those that originate from Nigeria.
But you can test if the dating site is above board by simply leaving your profile description blank, and not uploading a photo for the first 7 days. Reals users will not message members without a description in their profile, and without a photo. So if you do receive messages in this time, they are most likely generated automatically or from human scammers.
Unfortunately on Soulmates you do have to fill out 50% of your profile before you will appear in searches. But I can tell you that in the 3 months I’ve had my profile active on Guardian Soulmates, I’ve not yet received a single message that I suspected to be a scam. That said, I’m sure there are some floating around on Guardian Soulmates, so beware of any message that sounds too good to be true.
It’s free to join (just like all dating sites), but as a free member all you can really do is browse profiles, read descriptions and view photos. If you want to initiate contact, or read any messages you may receive, then you will need to subscribe. The costs for Guardian Soulmates in 2013 are:
£96.00 per month for a 6 month membership
£64.00 per month for a 3 month membership
£32.00 per month for a 1 month membership
Subscriber benefits are also outlined below:
Like many dating sites, your subscription will be automatically renewed after your initial membership period. They say that this is so you can continue to enjoy subscriber benefits from month to month. But we all know that it’s really because they want to enjoy us improving their own bank balance from month to month. So I recommend cancelling the renewal as soon as possible, then simply renewing manually if you decide to stay for longer.
Good and Bad Points
Affluent members, mainly readers of the Guardian
Very well designed and intuitive website
The site is optimized for mobile devices
Large membership base
It’s not particularly cheap
Automated membership renewals
If you enjoy spending your time with a fine wine, good conversation, visiting beautiful cities, and appreciating the arts; then Guardian Soulmates is possibly a great match to you.
It’s easy to use, has a very reasonable number of members, and the company appears to be operating above board. It is expensive, but this helps to ensure that all but the most serious of daters signup.
But what about the competition? Guardian Soulmates is not the only dating site that targets the more affluent member, eHarmony also falls into this category. They also have a lot more members, and they keep the prices high (just like Soulmates) to try to ensure that only those who are serious about finding someone will join up.
And what if you’re not looking for an affluent and sophisticated partner? Well, then you may find that the UK’s most popular dating site: match.com is a better fit for you.
But at the end the day the choice is yours, you should know what you want better than anybody.
So are you really looking for someone who is affluent, well-traveled, finance-savvy, food & drink aficionado, dedicated follower of fashion, lover of the arts?