.com.au vs .au Domains: Everything You Need To Know
The digital marketing landscape is transforming how Australian businesses choose to grow more than ever. Businesses are popping up everywhere, making Australia’s internet space as bustling and fast-paced as its high-rise urban life.
Today, .au Domain Administration (auDA) records more than 4 million registered .au domains today, responding to over three billion searches daily.
That said, auDA is expanding its digital real estate to support the rapid growth of local businesses aspiring to establish a strong digital presence. Hence the launch of a new domain called .au direct.
If you’re considering starting a new website as an Australian business or have heard of the launch and are concerned about its impact on your existing site, this guide should be handy.
Let’s break down everything you need to know about .com.au and .au direct and discover how both domains can grow your business through local SEO.
What is a .au domain?
The dot au (.au) domain is a new top-level domain (TLD) that took off last March 24, 2022. Let’s look at a typical URL’s structure to understand what it means:
Our URL example has four distinct parts:
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is an internet protocol that secures all data transfer from your browser to a website. It uses reliable encryption for communication security and is widely popular online.
A subdomain is a piece of information added before a website’s domain name, indicating a domain that exists within another domain.
As you can see in the previous illustration, the domain name is called the website’s name. It’s also known as the root domain and is the main part of your URL that comes after the “www.” or subdomain (in this case, that’s “blog.”).
A top-level domain (TLD) is the highest level in the Domain Name System. Both .com.au and .au are TLDs and are managed by the .au Domain Administration or auDA.
Say you’re starting a new website or running an existing one. You now have the option to opt for .com.au or .au direct. In both cases, your URL will look like this:
But which one is actually better? And would they perform differently in local SEO?
What is the difference between .com.au and .au domains?
As of August 2021, 90% of websites in the Australian domain are operating under the .com.au namespace. Other options include .net.au, .org.au, .asn.au, .id.au, .au direct, etc.
The main difference between .com.au and .au is that the au direct is a TLD that starts without extensions like .com or .net.
In other words, it’s shorter and more concise.
Both country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs) target search traffic from geographic areas. In other words, if you’re a local or tourist browsing in Australia, it’s more likely that you’ll find websites ending in .com.au, or .au on search engine results pages (SERPs).
If you’re at a crossroads between both ccTLDs, read on.
Is there a ‘right’ domain of the two?
People, businesses, and organisations can pick any domain name within the .au namespace if they qualify and use a unique name.
When choosing a domain name extension, it has to comply with auDA’s guidelines. The administration has published a set of licencing rules to define who can register on what type of domain.
AuDA classifies .au namespaces into two broad categories:
Open .au Namespace
Common business and organisation ccTLDs belong in the open .au namespace, including .com.au, .net.au, .org.au, and .au direct.
Anyone can register on these domains as businesses, industries, organisations, charities, and individuals (portfolios, blogs, etc.).
Closed .au Namespace
Closed .au namespace is a regulated ccTLD reserved for government bodies, educational institutions, and specific organisations.
That includes .gov.au for government agencies, .edu.au for academic institutions, and .csiro.au for the Commonwealth Science and Industry Research Organisation (CSIRO).
In other words, both .com.au and .au direct offer flexibility and local identity for businesses and institutions.
But if you’re unsure which domain name extension works best for your website, consult a data-driven SEO agency for specialist advice.
Are .au domains better for SEO?
There is no direct SEO benefit to choosing a .au domain over a .com.au. Instead, consider how a .au TLD will fit into your brand’s marketing strategy.
Whether you choose a .com.au or .au TLD, you must still meet all the same conditions to achieve a top ranking website on Google. Choosing a .au TLD will not provide SEO advantages over .com.au.
Benefits of using a .au domain
Now that we have ironed out how .au domains don’t provide any bonus SEO value, here are some of the real benefits that you will actually receive.
Secure, validated, and trusted
Businesses must meet auDA guidelines and licencing rules to register as a .au domain. The enduring process is crucial to ensure all websites under the .au ccTLD are validated and secure.
As a result, users and customers browsing online perceive .au websites as trusted local businesses and institutions.
Open .au Namespace is available to Australian businesses
Domains like .com.au and .au are open to anyone with Australian identity or connection who qualifies under auDA’s guidelines. Both ccTLDs have no specific rules that apply to closed .au domains.
Moreover, if you’re an existing .com.au website, auDA will give you priority to claim the same domain name in .au direct.
But if an existing domain doesn’t claim the .au direct domain name, it will be released and open for general application. In other words, anyone else can claim it.
Short and concise
Shorter URLs are easier to remember.
A short and concise URL helps your audience type it quickly across many devices, especially if you’re still building a website and want to establish word-of-mouth.
.au domains can work very well for certain industries due to their short nature. Industries such as government, lifestyle and clothing brands come to mind.
Are other businesses using .au? How many .au domains are there?
AuDA’s .au insights report recorded roughly 4.2 million .au domains globally. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- 3.9 million .au domain names for sole traders and businesses
- 192,000 .au domain names for clubs, associations, and community groups
- 41,000 .au domain names for charities and not-for-profits
- 30,000 .au domain names for individuals
- 13,000 .au domain names for schools and research & educational institutions
- 12,000 .au domain names for government bodies and agencies
- 3,500 .au domain names for education and training providers
Source: auDA: Why .au? Report Insights
Out of all websites trading and operating in Australia, auDA reports that 74% of them have .com.au domain names, dominating those with .au at 18%.
It’s safe to say that .com.au remains the most popular domain in Australia’s digital space. AU domains are expected to rise in popularity as more websites claim their allocated domain names.
However, .com.au remains more popular and trusted among users and packs more than enough value and potential to increase your website’s SEO performance.
Does my business need to buy our .au domain?
It’s not compulsory for businesses to register multiple domain names and redirect them to the primary site. Besides, registering your existing domain with a .au is optional and doesn’t impact your .com.au domain.
But if you’re a new business looking to register and start with either .com.au or .au, having both can increase your reach and protect your identity.
Protect my what?
If you don’t claim the exact match .au domain name for your website, like www.example.au, it’ll be available for everyone else to claim.
Best case scenario is that the .au domain name will remain unclaimed and unregistered.
Worst case—someone else might claim the website, decorate it similar to yours, and execute domain spoofing.
Domain spoofing is a notorious phishing scheme where an attacker fakes as a legitimate website or email to fool users, account holders, and customers into trusting them.
Hence, even if you don’t plan on operating under a .au, claiming it makes sense to protect and secure your brand name.
Speak with our SEO specialists today and discover how you can boost your website’s performance with data-driven SEO services.
Both domain names offer their own perks and potential. A well-planned website name will plant your brand in good soil, and a bespoke SEO campaign will provide water and nutrients for growth.
Reach out to our SEO specialists in Sydney today to assess where your business stands and how we can help you achieve your growth targets, regardless of whether you’re using a .com.au or .au domain.