Domain Wars: .com.au vs .au Domains – Which One Should You Choose?

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November 8th. 2023

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The Australian domain landscape is undergoing an unprecedented transformation. This shift is proven by a huge increase in .au domains currently registered. Official sources report as many as 4,240,291 .au domains in 2023.

Although, traditionally, Australian businesses have opted for the .com.au second-level domain (SLD) for their web presence, in  2022, auDA introduced the .au direct domain, offering a shorter, more user-friendly and streamlined web address for Australian businesses. 

domain wars: au vs .com.au domain blog image

 

The visibility and accessibility of long-established organisations and startups alike can be deeply influenced by their choice of an Australian domain name, which is why opting for a .com.au vs .au domain can make or break the future of your venture.

If you are reading this, chances are you, too, are wondering whether you should hang on to good old .com.au or move towards the newer .au domain. Read on.

In this article, we will explore the key differences between .com.au and .au domains and assess how your Aussie domain name can impact your business’s search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts. Let’s see.

What Is Australia’s New .au Domain?

Unlike .com.au domains, the .au domain is a fairly new addition to the Australian domain landscape. As such, it offers a fresh option for businesses and individuals looking to position themselves in the digital environment.

What may look like a low-stake change can actually have different degrees of repercussions. To better understand the impact of a .com.au vs .au website domain, it’s essential to pick apart all the elements that compose a URL such as www.name.com.au. These are:

  • Protocol: This defines the communication method, which is typically “http” or, in its secure version, “https.”
  • Subdomain: This prefix (www.)indicates a specific section within a website.
  • Root Domain: As indicated by its name, the root domain indicates the core name of the domain.
  • Second-Level Domain (SLD):. Being the most important part of the URL for brand-placement purposes, the SLD identifies the entity or brand behind the website. 
  • Top-Level Domain (TLD): The TLD follows the final dot of a domain name – In this case, .au or .com.au. It serves as a categorisation or geographical indicator.

Until recently, Australian businesses primarily registered under the second-level domain (SLD), using the .com.au extension. Since it has long been the default option for Australian domains from the beginning of the Internet, the choice was a no-brainer. 

With the introduction of the .au TLD in 2022,  many entrepreneurs are now offered the opportunity to switch from the standard www.name.com.au can to the modern www.name.au. But is the change worth it? Let’s find out.

.com.au vs .au – the difference

With a staggering 90% of Australian websites relying on it, the .com.au domain address is the go-to choice for a vast majority of businesses. This is mostly employed within the following domains:

  • .org.au: Usually chosen by non-profit organisations, this domain extension serves as a trusted platform for entities dedicated to charitable or community work.
  • .edu.au: This is the default domain address for educational institutions in Australia. It signals a commitment to education, learning, and academic pursuits.
  • .net.au: A fairly popular domain extension, it is most commonly found in commercial environments.

The main differentiator between  .com vs .com.au domains is the brevity and directness of the .au. 

By trimming the  “.com” segment of the .com.au, you might contribute to creating a more memorable web address, in turn enhancing brand recognition and user-friendliness. However, this decision should not be rushed, as there are other factors to take into account. Let’s take a look.

Which One Is Better: .com or .com.au?

Although a fairly new introduction, the new .au domain has rapidly ascended, securing the 8th spot among the most popular global top-level domains (TLDs), with 1.6% of all websites adopting it. This is a remarkable achievement, especially if you take into account the comparatively modest size of the Australian population.

Despite the undoubted rise in popularity of .au, the well-established .com.au domain name remains the dominant choice for 90% of Aussie domain names.

In the next session, we will take a closer look at the pros and cons of .com.au vs .au domain names:

The pros and cons of the .au domain name

Below, we will dive into the advantages and drawbacks of a .au domain with the intention of helping you decide whether this is the right choice for you.

Pros

    • Easy registration: Registering a .au domain is a fairly straightforward process that is readily available to everyone. This is thanks to more relaxed eligibility criteria as opposed to other options that are more concerned about exclusivity.
    • Simplicity and uniqueness: The .au domain name stands out for its brevity, all the while letting users know that the business is distinctively  Australian. It is also a more user-friendly and memorable option.
  • Wider selection of domain names:  It is not unusual to have an idea for a domain only to realise that a particular Aussie domain name is already taken. The .au extension widens the availability of domain names, in turn giving you a chance to pick something that resonates with your brand or concept.

Cons

  • Familiarity with .com.au: This domain has been the standard for Australian websites for many decades. As a consequence, the .au domain name might sound unfamiliar and lead to mistrust at first. 
  • Unproven SEO performance: When it comes to au, SEO domains are a relatively new phenomenon, meaning there is no way we can know for sure .au domains are performing at the same level as their .com.au counterparts. This uncertainty may pose a risk for businesses looking for reliable SEO results.
  • User habit: At the end of the day, humans are creatures of habit. Australian users might just be more accustomed to writing “.com.au” in their address bars. The shift towards the  “.au” domain may require going through a period of trial and error.
  • SEO considerations: From an SEO standpoint, .com.au domains have a decades-long track record and perform well within the algorithms. This gives them a clear advantage over .au domains, which are, in turn, still building their reputation in the SEO landscape.

Ultimately, it is up to you to suss out the pros and cons of the .au domain for your commercial website and see if that’s a fitting option for your business.

The pros and cons of the .com.au domains 

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of a .com.au domain and their impact on businesses operating in the Australian landscape.

Pros

  • Recognised Australian presence: A .com.au domain is a quintessentially Aussie domain that immediately lets your audience know you work within the national territory. This allows your prospects to know they are in the right place.
  •  Strong local SEO performance: .com.au domains still rank pretty well within Australian search engine results. Local customers are highly accustomed to typing the .com.au extension when seeking Australian businesses. This translates into less beating around the bushes and a better user experience.
  • Trust and user confidence: Australian consumers tend to place trust in websites sporting .com.au domains, given their familiarity with this extension. This trust factor can translate into higher user confidence, potentially leading to increased conversion rates for your business.

Cons

  • Limited global appeal: Unsurprisingly, .com.au domains are inherently geared towards Australian businesses. If your business requires to reach a more international audience, this Australian domain name might restrict your growth potential. In this case, we advise you to maximise your chance for global success by implementing a .com domain.
  • Eligibility criteria:  .com.au domain requirements are strict. The eligibility criteria include possessing an  Australian Business Number (ABN). These limitations of a .com.au domain particularly affect businesses not registered in Australia. On the contrary, the .au domain is more accessible to everyone regardless of business status.
  • Domain availability challenges: The popularity of .com.au domains among Australian businesses means that finding a desired domain name that hasn’t already been registered can be challenging. This could call for creative domain name choices or opting for a .au domain altogether. 

It’s fair to state that the choice between .com.au vs .au domains ultimately comes down to your business’s objectives, audience, and geographical focus. Both domain extensions have their strengths and limitations, so it is a matter of weighing them out.

What About .com vs .com.au?

Domain extensions such as  .com vs .com.au play an important role in your marketing strategy. The geographical space in which you operate should factor in your decision to use one as opposed to the other.

As Statista rates the .com domain at a whopping 47.8% of websites using it as their domain extension globally, this might be the obvious choice for those businesses aiming to extend their outreach beyond the Australian borders.

On the other hand, businesses operating within Australia have as their primary objective to attract local Australian clientele. Here’s where the distinction between .com and .com.au domains comes into play. 

Search engines like Google take into account the domain extension when determining a website’s location. 

This means that, for instance, a Sydney-based bakery with a .com.au or .au domain will be perceived by search engines as pertinent to local Australian searches. This directly translates to higher visibility in Australian search results, in turn making it easier for local prospects to find your business.

Moreover, as an Australian enterprise, you take pride in showcasing your local identity. This is why most Australian businesses opt for .com.au and .au domains. Along with showing your commitment to your roots, a proudly Aussie-run business is more likely to resonate with your audience and attract or reinforce their interest in your brand.

How to Register Your Aussie Domain Name? 

If you run a business and are considering registering an Australian domain name, you might be curious about the specific requirements for .au and .com.au domains.

 In the following section, we’ll explore all the pertinent requirements to help you navigate the process of securing an Australian domain that maximises your chances of being seen.

Australia domain types you must get familiar with 

If you are in the process of coming up with the best .au domain, you first should get acquainted with the broad range of Australian domain categories laid out by the Australian Domain Administrator (AuDA). 

In the Australian domain space, we find two main umbrellas,  each catering to distinct entities and purposes.

  • Open .au namespace:  Under this category, we find widely recognised domains such as .com.au, .net.au, .org.au, and .au direct, accessible for registration by a number of entities. In detail:
    • .com.au: Aimed at businesses and substantial organisations in Australia, the domain requirements include owning an Australian Business Number (ABN) or an association with state governments for eligibility.
    • net.au: Similar to .com.au, this domain serves businesses and organisations with necessary ABNs or state government affiliations.
    • .org.au: Reserved for charities and non-profit organisations, this domain states a clear mission.
    • .au direct: This Australian domain is open to anyone linked to Australia, regardless of their ABN status. This extension is naturally a versatile choice for an array of ventures, from individuals and businesses to organisations.
  • Closed .au namespace: The closed .au namespace is highly regulated and presents strict au requirements. Under this umbrella, we find the following:
    • .asn.au: This subgroup caters to political parties, clubs, associations, and groups with unique interests, signalling communities with a shared purpose.
    • .id.au: Tailored to Australian citizens or permanent residents keen on establishing a solid digital presence, this au domain is highly screened to ensure its credibility and trustfulness.
    • .gov.au: This most exclusive of au domains, .gov.au, is strictly designated for the Australian government only and overseen by the Digital Transformation Agency to emphasise the official online presence of government agencies.
    • .edu.au: This Australian domain is meant for educational institutions such as schools, training centres and universities that are officially registered with the government. This domain subcategory is meant to highlight Australia’s commitment to quality education.

In order to successfully craft the ideal Australian domain name aligned with your entity type and objectives, it is important to understand which of these subcategories are more suited to your venture.

.com.au domain requirements

.com.au domains in Australia follow specific requirements. These include:

  • Eligibility criteria for registrants: It is a strict .com.au domain requirement to be a registered business with a valid Australian Business Number (ABN). Otherwise, organisations working in collaboration with Australian state or territory governments may also apply. This domain aims to assert a solid connection to Australia. 
  • Documentation and information: To register a .com.au domain, you are required to provide essential documentation such as your ABN or equivalent proof of association with an Australian registered business. Lack of current ABN details can quickly derail the registration process.
  • Restrictions and usage guidelines: .com.au domains are designed keeping Australian commercial entities in mind and boost promotion within the national borders. The use of an Australian domain beyond these bounds might fall outside the scope of the domain’s intended purpose and could be audited by the Australian Domain Administrator (AuDA).

In a nutshell, .com.au domains are meant to position your Australian business in the local digital sphere.

.au registration 

Registering a .au domain is a fairly uncomplicated process. What’s more, eligibility criteria are evolving and becoming more inclusive. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Eligibility: .au domains are less strict and open to individuals or organisations regardless of their Australian citizenship status:
    • Individuals have an open-door policy when it comes to acquiring an au domain.
    • Businesses and organisations have two separate processes to set up  .au domains and .com.au domains. Unlike .com.au domains, designed for commercial use, .au domains offer increased flexibility and are suitable for a wider range of entities, from charities and non-profits to personal websites.
  • Registration process: .au domains are best left to the expertise of accredited registrars who will guide you through domain availability checks, gather necessary information, and facilitate payment of registration fees.
  • Documentation: Depending on your personal and professional circumstances, you might be required to show proof of an Australian Business Number (ABN) for businesses or proof of Australian connection for international entities.

Staying on top of the eligibility criteria and registration processes will help you easily acquire your .au domain, in turn establishing a unique online presence within the Australian online space.

Which Aussie Domain Name Should You Choose?

Even after gathering a lot of information, you might still have doubts regarding the best choice of Australian domain name for your business. 

While a .com.au domain might be great for specific businesses, .au websites might be more relevant to enterprises willing to cater to a specific audience.

To see which option is best suited to your needs, read on.

.com.au vs .au: Our recommendation 

As specialists in online solutions, we at  A.P. Web Solutions recommend you acquire the .au domain alongside your .com.au for brand protection. By doing so, you foolproof your brand’s online identity. 

Moreover, a 301 redirect from the .au domain will help you streamline traffic to your primary .com.au website. This two-fold approach helps your brand’s placement and authority as well as let customers organically come to you. 

Why Operate Under Both .com.au and .au Domains?

Choosing the combined approach of using both a .com.au and .au domain can significantly boost your online presence.  As well as offering brand protection, this strategy can also offer heightened diversification. 

By securing both domains, you foolproof your brand’s online identity, keeping competitors or malicious actors from impersonating your business and potentially damaging your reputation. 

This choice also appeals to all your target audience segments, catching the eye of both those users who naturally type the shorter .au domain and those who are more prone to trust the traditional .com.au.

From an SEO perspective, the combined strategy can maximise your ranking. This happens as engines such as Google might pick up on your multiple domains and interpret it as a signal of authority.

Opting for both .com.au and .au domains will help your brand’s protection, user-friendliness, and SEO benefits while also placing your enterprise and brand within the Australian digital landscape.

How to manage multiple domains?

Managing both a .com.au and an au domain is easy when you know the steps to follow:

  • Select a reliable registrar: As you set up the website for your business venture, rely on a reputable domain registrar that specialises in managing multiple domains.
  • Utilise a central control panel: The registrar’s central control panel should provide tools for a streamlined management of all your domains.
  • Implement 301 redirects: A 301 redirect allows your prospects to easily move from one of your domains to the other. 
  • Keep details updated: Always ensure all your business details are updated and easy to locate.
  • Frequent monitoring: Monitoring and maintenance are vital components of your overall strategy. Catching any issue early on will allow you to troubleshoot and repair it before the problem blows out of proportion.
  • Customise content and branding: Tailor content and branding for each domain if targeting diverse audience segments.

Safely Migrate Your Website to .au Domain With Us 

Want to migrate your website to the new .au domain or redirect your new .au domain address to your existing .com.au address? 

Website migration is a delicate process that can jeopardise your rankings and domain authority. With our SEO Migration service, you are in good hands.

At A.P. Web Solutions, we specialise in crafting the best solutions to drive your website’s rankings and organic traffic. Our team will support you every step of the way in your migration, from SEO and mapping to redirects and structure optimisation. 

If you are concerned about safely migrating your .au domain without losing traffic or SEO standing, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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