I'm Catija. I'm female and I met my (male) spouse on one of these dating sites. We met about 11 years ago and this is what made me respond to his message... and what made me not respond to others.
First off, when I joined said dating site, it was because I wanted to take the quizzes. Yeah, I know that everyone claims that, but it's actually true. My profile is pretty brutal. The "you should message me if" part of my profile reads:
You enjoy failure... You did read the bit at the beginning about not talking to strangers, right?
I also wrote all sorts of off-putting rules:
Yet, through all that, my dearest Andy still decided to message me. And I'm glad of it.
As a female who has used a dating site successfully, this really is what you have to put up with so, thank you, thank you, thank you for asking this question. I really hope that you can get some great recommendations from the users here.
Show some respect I'm sorry, but I'm going to get this out of the way first because it's gross (to me) and I really think that some guys out there don't get it but... Don't proposition someone with sex... of any kind unless they somehow make it obvious that they're interested in that sort of thing. If they have the "hookup" or "one night stand" or other setting turned on or they mention it in their profile.
Focus on their personality. Realize that not every woman wants to be greeted with "hello sexy" or "hello pretty" (yes, I've gotten both and more) or even have anyone mention their looks at all. I personally find it creepy. Do you want someone telling you that you're a big hunk of handsome as the only greeting you get? There's a difference between saying (as part of a longer message) something like "I see we're a really strong match and I also find you very attractive." Is more welcome than "Hey, hottie, wanna get together?"
Show them that you're really interested in them. You're trying to find someone to date, to get to know better... Put some time into your communication with them. Find someone who's a good match for you and really read their profile. They wrote it for a reason... they want you to read it. Show them that you did by writing a nice 2-3 paragraph introduction that tells them about you (so they don't have to look at your profile) why you're contacting them (shows them that you've read theirs) and asks questions that draw them in (people like answering questions).
I wish I still had the message Andy sent me. While I have some of the later ones, the original one somehow got deleted. It did all of the things I list here. He introduced himself generally and told me things about himself that matched up with things I mentioned on my profile, he explained why he was contacting me despite my many warnings not to do so, and he asked me questions I wanted to answer... and I did.
Let's do a little case study:
As you say in your question, women get lots of messages. I haven't been active on the site until today because I'm happily married but even now I have messages waiting for me, all from May... for some reason... let's talk about them.
A message from someone with a username implying that they're in Austin but their location is in India asking for a one-night make-out session, possibly in public. I'm not going to post this one because... Ewww. It's not actually as graphic as some of the ones I've gotten but the location isn't uncommon... lots of people from India contacting me in America.
A message from someone in Hutto, TX (near Austin) that just says "Hello".
A message from a guy named John in Austin who only talks about himself - probably a form message he sends to everyone he reaches out to.
Hi there! My name is John, pleased to e-meet ya! I have to be honest, I never really know how to fill up these types of first-contact messages. I'm not one to send a msg and be all forward and say "i wanna do this or that to your buttcheeks," etc. Plus, it's not exactly the definition of polite. So there ya go.
So a little about me, I suppose? I'm 39, pansexual and have a good sense of humor. I play music. I play a bit of bass guitar, standard guitar, and I am also a drummer. I'm no professional, but I can keep a beat.
Um, I'm not sure of what else you'd like to know, but I'm sort of an open book, so feel free to ask!
Hope to hear back.
This doesn't show that he read my profile but it's funny, open, long but not too long. I like that he makes fun of the people I talk about in the first point without being overly graphic because it shows that he understands what a lot of ladies go through. This has a better chance of getting a response (from me) than most other messages.
- Someone who no longer has an account making negative commentary about my profile
You don't talk to strangers? How do you expect to make any new friends with that attitude? It's, like, everyone's a stranger until you give them a chance. Hope you know where that came from and are having a good night.
Not much to respond to here... not sure why they even messaged me. I do get a lot of these, though... people arguing with my profile, as if I'm required to want their attention. Oh well... moving on.
- Another person who closed their account but felt like telling me how much they like Cowboy Bebop.
cowboy bebop kicks ass, the non dubbed version
This refers to something I mention on my profile, so at least he read it. Still wouldn't get a response from me.
So, in the end, endeavor to be like John but add a bit more that's referential to the woman you're contacting. I don't know how many women you're planning to write to but take your time. Those usernames are actually people (probably)... treat them like it. Think about what you talk about when you meet someone at a party. Go from there.