If you operate an Australian business or an international business with a target market in Australia; your customers will expect to find you online using a .com.au domain name.
.com.au is by far the most dominant domain extension used in Australia. Of the available extensions in the Australian namespace (such as .com.au, .net.au and .org.au), .com.au represents nearly 90% of all domains registered (88% as at the end of September 2017). The second place extension (.net.au) is way behind at less than 10% of total registrations (9% as at the end of September 2017).
For the latest reported period (October 2016 to September 2017), total .com.au registrations increased by 2.6%. Over that same period, total .net.au registrations decreased by 3.3%. This trend shows that the dominance of .com.au in the Australian market is increasing even more over time.
Australian consumers know and trust .com.au domains, so that’s usually the first place they’ll look for your business online.
If you opt for an alternative option, such as .net.au, you’re not matching the expectations of the Australian market. By choosing an alternative, you’re actually making it harder for your intended audience to reach you. Worse still, they may end up at the doorstep of one of your competitors instead, particularly if they’re using the matching .com.au domain that represents that product, service or market.
Scenario: will your target market find you?
When seeking out your business online, Australian consumers will overwhelmingly gravitate towards the most natural fit domain name. For example, if you sell kitchenware and your business is called Kitchenware Shop, then customers will typically navigate to kitchenwareshop.com.au, expecting to find your business.
Let’s say that your business uses kitchenwareshop.net.au for your website address, perhaps because the matching .com.au domain is owned by a competitor.
Many of your prospective (and existing) customers would inadvertently navigate to the .com.au version of your website address. Every single customer that instinctively navigates to the .com.au address, is one more potential sale lost to that competitor. This scenario would mean losing a huge volume of customer traffic to your direct competitor!
It’s not just website traffic that will spillover to the natural fit .com.au domain either, email traffic will also be directed away from your business. If your customer support email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, it’s guaranteed that many, many emails will not reach your support inbox, because a lot of people will instinctively send emails to email@example.com.
If the owner of kitchenwareshop.com.au has a resolving email account for that address (firstname.lastname@example.org), forwarding in place to redirect emails sent to that address, or a ‘catch-all’ setup for emails sent to kitchenwareshop.com.au; then not only did you not receive the email, but your competitor will!
We’ve seen first-hand examples of email loss to the matching, natural fit domain. It can be as high as hundreds of emails a month in some cases. It’s also not just isolated to prospective or existing customers, we’ve seen numerous examples where suppliers or even the business’s own staff slip up and use the wrong email address, because they subconsciously default to the natural fit domain.
When recalling your business’s website or email address, some customers will also mistakenly reduce the address to a simplified form. For example, a customer may decide that they need a new kettle. They recall hearing an ad spot on the radio yesterday spruiking your latest kitchenware sale, so they head to kitchenware.com.au to check out your offerings. Unfortunately, your website is actually located at kitchenwareshop.com.au. If a competing business owns kitchenware.com.au, they just snagged that customer off the back of your advertising spend!
Another common example, is business brands and corresponding domains which include a prefix such as ‘the’. For example, a business called The Kitchenware Shop might use the matching domain name: thekitchenwareshop.com.au. Customers will often recall only part of the brand or website address, particularly when a minor (and very forgettable) prefix such as ‘the’ is used. Customers may recall the core elements of ‘kitchenware shop’ and inadvertently omit the prefix part of the brand (‘the’). Guess where they’ll go… kitchenwareshop.com.au.
When it comes to choosing a domain for your business, make sure you think carefully about what would be the natural fit domain(s).
Make it easy for customers to reach you by using the domain that they’ll expect to find you at!
If your brand is already established, consider acquiring the natural fit domain(s) for your business. You don’t even need to undertake a re-branding exercise; you can simply use redirects from the natural fit domain(s), and you’ll immediately stop the loss of customer traffic.