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From one online dating veteran to another, I empathize with the slog that online dating can be. It’s frustrating when your inbox seems to only fill with messages from people you have nothing in common with or creepers who are not interested in anything serious (yes, this happens to guys, too). Sometimes you wonder if these pursuers even read your profile because if they had, surely they would see that you aren’t a fit.

Now, I’m no expert at online dating, but I have noticed a few pitfalls on many women’s profiles that I suspect might contribute to online dating frustrations. Every now and again, I notice a profile that gets me thinking, “I wonder if she knows how this comes across.” And if she did, I wonder if she would rethink things a little.

To be clear, this is not advice on how women can better curate their online dating profile to appease one man—or any man, for that matter. But there is a lot to be said for putting your best, authentic self forward so that you can attract someone who is attracted to you—the real you. I would want to know if I were needlessly turning away good women who might be a fit for me. That being said, here are a few thoughts from me and a few other guys on what you might call “profile pitfalls,” for what they’re worth.

Does She Smile?

From duck lips to general pensive model poses, a lot of women seem to be taking their photo cues from Kim Kardashian. A portrait sans smile is fine sometimes and can certainly still intrigue me. In fact, it’s basically a rule that when my family takes a photo together, we have to do at least one without smiling. But that doesn’t mean the smile isn’t an important element to a profile.

A big smile lights up your face. It shows that you’re confident and know how to have fun. Flashing your pearly whites also shows that you have good dental hygiene (never a bad trait in a mate). The data shows it, too: A Wired survey of the most popular dating profiles on OkCupid and yielded this conclusion: “Please, please make eye contact with the camera, and smile with teeth in your profile picture.”

Not only is a smile beautiful, but it’s also a sign that she’s happy—and helps me imagine myself happy if I were dating her, and she was smiling like that at me. As one man, Jaques, said, “Smiling makes her seem approachable and like someone who enjoys life.” A smile is not something to hide but rather something to highlight.

Where’s Waldo?

When every pic is a group pic, guys begin to wonder if this profile is some sick game of where’s Waldo. Too often I find myself clicking through profile photos trying to find the woman who is the common denominator. If I can’t be sure who you even are, this presents a real problem in the online dating world.

If your favorite picture of yourself is a group shot, and you really want that one as your profile pic, fine. But make sure the very next one is clear and obviously you. I’ve seen some women draw in arrows to identify themselves in group shots—bonus points for creativity!

Bottom line, sometimes it takes real work to figure out who somebody is in their pictures, and realistically many guys are going to pass on the extra effort.

‘Don’t even try.’

Given how much attention many women seem to get on these sites, it’s natural for them to want to narrow the field somehow. They’ll include requirements in their profiles for who should and shouldn’t contact them. Presumably, the goal is to try to encourage the right sort of guy to message and discourage the wrong ones. But too often all those requirements are actually turning off the good guys while doing nothing to dissuade the duds.

My buddy John puts it well: “How do you know that you can’t fall in love and have a great life with a guy who has blond hair and isn’t as much of a fan of whatever as you are?” These barriers, well-intentioned or not, give off the wrong vibe and seem overly rigid. It’s almost as if “she expects the guy to acquiesce to her every goal,” another guy, Colin, explains.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t put preferences in your profile, but consider leaving the door open for the right guy. For instance, instead of saying, “Don’t message me if you’re not ready for a long-term relationship,” say something like, “I’m looking for a lasting, meaningful partnership, and I hope you are, too.” Instead of the “must love dogs” thing, maybe consider a more encouraging tone: “Dog lovers strongly encouraged to message :).”

As for trying to ward off the, shall we say, overly sexual messages, think of ways to get the point across while also encouraging what you are looking for. One profile I saw recently said, “I go by Patti’s (Stanger, from The Millionaire Matchmaker) rule: No sex ’til monogamy.” It’s more creative than the standard “Not here for hookups!!!” while also showing that she has a sense of humor about it. You might even consider something straightforward: “I’m much more impressed by a gentlemanly compliment than a sexual pass.”

When it really comes down to it, online dating needn’t be that complicated. Sure, there are a lot of creepers out there, but that’s actually good news, if you think about it. If you choose your best photo and seem friendly and interesting, you’re going to stand out—and the good guys will notice.

Photo Credit: Shannon Lee Miller