‘Which domain name extension should I use?’ –This question is common for many start-ups.
In many ways I feel sorry for start-ups and especially those new to business. The learning curve is steep, time is precious and working capital scant. It’s an uphill climb, and not every business can make it. In fact, about 60% of small businesses fail within the first three years (ABS).
For those that don’t make it, poor decision-making often begins early-on with poor name choice and/or poor domain name choice.
I previously shared some thoughts about the importance of name choice, but today I’ll talk more about domain name choice and specifically choice of extension.
In Australia, .com.au is king. It’s that simple.
A trip to your mechanic or a bad hair salon with magazines from 2004 will illustrate this point. Before ccTLDs (ie. ‘country code Top Level Domains’, .com.au, .co.uk, .de, .nl) took over around 2007-2008, .com was it. Go through an old magazine from say 2004 and you will see that .com is the dominant extension chosen by advertisers. Now pick up a similar magazine in 2018. –You will find that .com has been relegated to second place and appears about as often as .net.au these days.
.com.au tells your customers that you have a local presence. In fact, .com.au is one of the most trusted and relevant domain name extensions in the world.
Don’t underestimate .net.au
In recent years, .net.au has become very popular among SMEs and those unable to obtain the .com.au name they want. Examples include Sharp.net.au, TravelExpo.net.au (owned by Flight Centre) and Fletchers.net.au.
Back when .com was king, .net.au names were primarily for ISPs and media (eg. abc.net.au), and for this reason .net.au names used to have difficulty ranking well in Google. Today, however, tens of thousands of Australian businesses call .net.au home (there were actually 261,074 .net.au names registered as at June 30, 2018) and the extension has similar benefits to .com.au –it is familiar and trusted.
Can’t get the .com.au name you want straight away? Well neither could Vans, Guess, Bega or JB Hi-Fi’s Stack magazine. These are just a few among many who began using .net.au first, choosing to acquire the .com.au at a later date. (Bega bought Bega.com.au for $50,000 in Nov/Dec 2017).
(Basketball.net.au is another interesting one –it has been used by Basketball Australia for more than 20 years; Basketball.com.au on the other hand was reportedly bought by the National Basketball League (for $90,000) only in Jun/Jul 2015).
Is there still a place for .com in Australia?
Yes! -If you are an international bank, airline, international hotel group, global exporter or global logistics company.
Bear in mind, however, that .com.au is so strong in Australia that most of these choose .com.au instead of .com for their Australian customers (eg. ING.com.au, Visa.com.au). Multinational brands and global online aggregators generally do much better with a .com.au than .com in Australia (eg. Surface.com.au, Kayak.com.au–both used in TV, transit and outdoor advertising).
Generally speaking, .com should be chosen over .com.au only where the Australian site or business is primarily targeting an internationalaudience or customer base. This is why it is entirely appropriate for Destination NSW to favour Sydney.com over Sydney.com.au, or for Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association Inc to favour MargaretRiver.com over MargaretRiver.com.au.
What about other extensions?
With two or three exceptions, the only credible and viable options for commercial business in Australia are .com.au, .net.au and .com. Compromise with something else and you may run the risk of looking like a spammer, hobbyist or even worse, a ‘second-rate’ business.
Do you want to be remembered? Or do you want to lose traffic?
Do you want to rank easily? Or do you want hassles?
Do you want your emails to go straight through to people? Or do you want them to end up in the Junk folder?
Do you want a strong call to action? Or do you want the necessity of printing “www.” in front of your domain name so that people will recognise it as a website address?
These are questions you will need to answer for yourself.
Finally, the best thing any business owner could ask is, ‘What extension are my main competitors using?’ The answer, 9 times out of 10 in Australia, is .com.au.