Shane Gold
Shane Gold Compliance Officer at First State Super

Should I use a .com or .com.au domain name? What are the advantages of using .com or .com.au?

If an online business has customers globally and the .COM domain name (first choice) is not available, is it better to choose another .COM domain name (2nd choice) or stick with the first choice but register it as .COM.AU? If registered as .COM.AU, what effect does this have (if any) in terms of Google ranking? For example, if the website has a page 1 ranking in Australia, is it also ranked #1 if someone from the USA or UK does the same keyword search? Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Top voted answer
Chee Chun (Cheech) Foo

Chee Chun (Cheech) Foo, Director at

Top 30% Website

This is a common question and definitely an important one to clarify. I was involved with a major re-brand and re-design project with a leading Apartment Hotel operator in Australia and we were contemplating the exact same thing about 8 months ago.

A bit of history first. It used to be that 10 years ago, Google uses the ccTLD or the country code Top Level Domains to determine how relevant your site is to a particular country.

Now it has become much more sophisticated and Google is now smarter. If you read up on the reference links shown below, there are many ways in which Google can implicitly try to define your target country without needing to get a ccTLD. These can include your geotargeting settings in Google Webmaster Tools (GWT), your server location, even your geotargeting redirects if you happen to have one or more sites. (We implemented this on a site which was getting confused between two identical sites and the moment we implemented the 302 geotargeting redirects, the traffic and rankings bounced back).

Also, there are instances where if you your site is authoritative and relevant enough you are able to rank in the top spot even if you are a .com. look at the hotel industry where www.wotif.com is consistently ranking highly. The hotels industry is a case where the market is global-based rather than just local-based. Therefore these sites like Wotif have reason to invest in content around hotels in Australia and also because it's a pay-now, experience later service; pre-purchase persuasion is important.

Perhaps a reason why .com (or general TLDs) in other verticals are not performing as well is because there is no reason to. E.g. why would Bank of Canada create large content hubs about Australia, given their limited presence? Also Australian sites won't link to it as much as they would to the Big 4 banks.

In short, if your business is primarily based in Australia, then I would personally lean towards going for a .com.au domain with a server based in Australia (or if you guys are very keen, go for a cloud-based solution such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Akamai or others.

Of course in the end, SEO recommendations go hand in hand with business considerations so you must always take that into account when making such a fundamental change to your site.

Cheers,

Cheech

References:

http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2712858 http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=62399&topic=2371325&ctx=topic 

Wendy Huang

Wendy Huang, Full Time Blogger and YouTuber at A Custom Blog in 4 Minutes

One of the best answers I've seen on the site as yet :) Keep up em coming Cheech!

Chee Chun (Cheech) Foo

Chee Chun (Cheech) Foo, Director at

Thanks Wendy!

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Matt Antonino

Matt Antonino, owner & SEO consultant at

You will have a hard time ranking .com.au on Google.com and vice versa.  It's possible but unlikely to show up on anything resembling a moderate difficulty keyword.

Second choice domain name if it's available in .com, .com.au and .co.uk is best.  Then you can decide how to proceed on the international sites.  I do this with my own site.  I have .com and .com.au  - my .com shows up on Google.com and my .com.au shows up on Google.com.au  

Your rankings will vary greatly across the international versions of Google based on local and international competition, personalized search locations, etc.

Shane Gold

Shane Gold, Compliance Officer at First State Super

Thanks Matt. Does that mean if I choose a .COM site, I will still have a hard time ranking in Australian Google?

Matt Antonino

Matt Antonino, owner & SEO consultant at

Not as hard as trying to rank a .com.au on Google.com, no. You can rank .coms anywhere but country-specific rarely rank off the country-specific Google. With Google trending toward "local" and "brands" the last thing you want to do is try to rank a .com.au on Google.com to a search user in Chicago or London. Unless my businesses were hyper-local and one country only, I'd only take .com domains. If I had a small store in Melbourne, maybe I'd settle for a .com.au but international or online business, no way. .com only, I'd think.

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Peter Jones

Peter Jones, Founder at LinkSmart

Hi,
I have a laymans point of view about domain names. On the whole there are maybe 4 ways a domainname will be found/used.
1. They type it from a business card etc
2. Find it on a Google search
3. Click thu from another site.
4. Someone guessing the domainname.
In my  opinion none of the first 3 of the above will care what your domain name (com or com.au) is as long as it has something relevent to your business name. Only the forth one would you require the .au and most people will include it in Australia
Regards
Peter


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Tom Valcanis

Tom Valcanis at

.au domain names are industry regulated while .com names are not.

.au domain names are regulated by the .au Domain Administration. They are a not-for-profit company endorsed by the Federal Government. oversee and enforce three main aspects of the domain name industry

- Domain name policy: who can register certain .au domain names (eligibility and allocation)

- Delegation of registry function (who runs the entire .au registry - AusRegistry)

- Accreditation of registrars (companies that register domain names for consumers, such as GoDaddy etc.)

The domain name policy protects consumers because com.au and .net.au domains must be purchased by ABN holders. This means you can trace the .au domain back to a registered entity. This theoretically prevents scams, etc. Policies also cover:

- Monetisation and mispellings (you can't just sit on a domain name forever without using it, nor can you register an obvious misspelling of a known domain to scam people)

- Allocation and eligibility (you can't register a domain name unless it has a close or substantial connection to your business, for example)

- Domain name arbitration (in case there are contested claims to a domain name, such as partnership breakups - which is known to happen.)

This is kind of a long winded way to say .au should be more trustworthy than a .com name, if you are looking for Australian businesses to deal with. a .com could literally be "anyone," where .au is a registered business that is based in Australia (or has dealings in Australia.)

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Geoffrey frank

Geoffrey frank

Well .au is a country code for top level domain whose delegation is discussed in RFC 1591. Using ccTLC can boost SEO of your website by triggering it for that particular country. However there are still two views of experts about the use of ccTLD i.e. few find it useful for SEO while other not.

The ccTLD is a simplest approach to signify Google that site belongs to which country. There are other parameters too that Google uses to identify the belonging country but those are quite complicated.

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Aishah Mustapha

Aishah Mustapha, Content Marketer at

Top 10% Advertising Get quote


Good question. With more and more businesses going online, you need to consider the domain name for your website early on when you’re brainstorming business names to register. I’d argue that your business name, and subsequently your domain name is more important than your domain extension.
 
Between the default .com or .com.au domain extension, you could decide based on the obvious, whether you are targeting local customers or outside of Australia. Obviously, your customers outside of Australia may not even think of typing in the .au extension because they won’t know it.
 
Apart from that, search engines are smarter nowadays and the domain extension doesn’t influence your ranking, anywhere near as much as your content, your site’s SEO and off-site SEOs. You could be a local business with a .com domain, but Google will still figure out you are a local business based on your online listings, reviews, website content, etc. Or you could be a global business with a .com.au extension, and search engines will still figure it out. This is only if you have done your SEO right and put some effort in it. Customers outside Australia can always google your business name and should be able to find your .com.au web address if your SEO is good.
 
If possible, get both for your online address. The uncommon names or unique domain names are usually available across multiple domain extensions and are fairly affordable. This is good to protect your brand and online presence.
 

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Tim Stokes

Tim Stokes, Managing Director at

I used to have a .com website for a few years for my business and then changed it to a .com.au and saw no major difference. I have been researching SEO for 18 years and look at my rank position frequently. 

In Google Search Console you can specify the country you want to target and rank highest in too, which I recommend if someone has told you about it. Its the best kept secret for organic traffic there is for a website by the way. 

I also recommend setting up your Google My Business profile and make sure your business address is Verified. This occurs by specifying your addess in Google My Business and waiting for Google to mail you the postcard (which takes 4 to 6 weeks) and then entering the code on it. This is another way you are telling Google your location. 

Another is to embed the Google map code on your Contact page showing either your registered street address for your business (as in Google My Business) or your region. Running a home office you can still specify the region and embed the map on your Contact page. This helps your business significantly. 

Google is very intelligent these days and uses AI and over 200 ranking factors. I've been tracking its primary ranking factors for many years to identify major factors. Your Contact page address is something Google pays attention to and it will rank your website geographically based on that and the industry you operate in.

Google is smart enough to know if you trade nationally or locally so it can rank you according to where your visitors come from. For example, an electrical contractor in Brisbane that only trades from its office in Brisbane won't rank just as high for other cities because Google recognises you're a local trading business. You can rank in other cities for a national business if you really know what you're doing with SEO. 

I recommend you apply all of these and that will make a bigger difference than whether you go with a .com or .com.au website.

Keep in mind the 'local' appearance factor too. If you are a .com.au site you look Australian based and Aussies love dealing with Australian businesses. That can affect your rank by CTR on organic search results. 

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