When it comes to deciding which domain extension you should use for your business, it can often feel like you have too many choices.
Before we narrow down those choices, let’s look at a couple of definitions that will help.
A Domain Name – is the “mybusinessname” in www.mybusinessname.com.au
A Domain Extension – is the “com.au” in www.mybusinessname.com.au
Everyone’s familiar with .com and most people recognise that .com.au represents Australia. And while there are over 280 different domain extensions delegated globally, you’ll be glad to know that only a handful will be relative to your business.
To work out which domain extension is right for your business, there’s some things you need to consider regarding your own business:
- What type of business do you have? Eg commercial, not for profit, etc
- Do you want your business to be obviously recognised as Australian? This would be ideal if you only have an Australian market.
- Does your business meet the criteria required for a particular domain extension?
- Will your business be trading under your Sole Trader name (ie your personal name, eg “John Smith”) or your registered business name?
Most businesses are commercial, which by the way, is where the .com extension originated, “com” being short for commercial.
In this case you have three optimal choices: .com / .com.au / .au
Then it’s a matter of which of these are available for you to buy and whether you want your business specifically recognised as Australian.
Things to note:
- .com domain names have been around forever, so there are less options.
- If being identified as an Australian business isn’t a big deal, and your ideal .com is taken, your next best choice would be a .net.
- .au was only released in 2022 as Australia’s own identifying country designation, so it has some traction to gain in the eyes of our consumers. However it’s getting a large push from domain sellers which is good for Aussie businesses, and it’s here to stay.
- If your preferred .com.au is taken, your next best choice is .au or .net.au.
TIP: Never register a domain name (and extension) unless it is available to register immediately. Expect to pay around $25 or less. If the price is higher, a third party is probably involved (as a wholesale reseller of domain names).
Generic extensions such as .com, .info, .net, .org can all be used for general purposes. Generic means they are unrestricted and don’t have any criteria you need to meet, other than paying for the domain name with that extension.
However Australian extensions like .com.au, .au and .net.au have some specific criteria you need to be aware of.
- You need an ABN either as a registered business or a sole trader.
- You can only register an exact match, abbreviation or acronym of your registered business name. Sometimes this isn’t always possible but you will be ok with something as close as possible.
Not for profit – If your business isn’t commercial and comes under a different purpose, for example a not for profit, AUDA (Australia’s domain name regulatory body) has some pretty detailed criteria you need to meet. This link provides all the criteria for .org.au (scroll down to Schedule F) and all of the other Australia extensions.
As a generic extension, .org doesn’t require you to meet any particular criteria. It’s an extension possibility if your business doesn’t fully meet AUDA’s regulations.
If you run your business under your Sole Trader (personal name) you aren’t required to have a registered business name as your personal name as well.
You can still buy an Australian domain extension because you will have an ABN.
HOWEVER BE AWARE there are some legal and ethical loopholes here that could come back to bite you:
- Let’s say you’ve registered a sole trader under John Smith and registered a domain name under www.johsmith.com.au. If another person registers the business name John Smith, they technically have legal rights to www.johnsmith.com.au. (This is only relevant to Australian extensions, not the generic ones we mentioned earlier).
- The person who registered John Smith as a business name can file a complaint to AUDA to have your domain removed as it’s legally it’s the only domain they’re allowed to have.
My best advice? Register a business name if you want a domain name that ends in .com.au or .au or .net.au.
Register an unrestricted domain extension like .com or .net.
There are, of course, other domain extensions you could consider:
- .pro (professions like legal, medical)
The full list of extensions can be found here.
You’ll find most of these are more expensive to purchase but if all the previous options are unavailable to you, they may suit your purpose. However these are not generic unrestricted extensions like .com, .info, .net, .org – they will have criteria you will need to meet, so make sure you do your research if you have a preference for one of these.
From a marketing perspective I’d consider an uncommon extension a con, mostly due to the fact consumers are used to typing in the more well known extensions. It’s easy for a consumer to type on autopilot and put a .com at the end of your web url instead of .accountant for example.
But your marketing efforts should be driving all your traffic to your website where your call to action is (sales, bookings, lead acquisition, etc). If you do your marketing well, your marketing will be providing a direct link to your website; in which case prospective clients won’t get your web address wrong due to a typo.
There’s actually no right or wrong choice when choosing a domain extension. It’s based more on availability, whether or not you prefer an Aussie extension and whether you can meet the criteria.
Does your extension affect your website build in any way? No it doesn’t.