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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 commonly used domain extension 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 November 2017). The second place extension (.net.au) is way behind at less than 10% of total registrations (9% as at the end of November 2017).

For the latest reported period (November 2016 to November 2017), total .com.au registrations increased by 2.7%. Over that same period, total .net.au registrations decreased by 4%.

Over a three year period (November 2015 to November 2017), the figures are even more pronounced. Over that period, .com.au registrations increased by 5.9% and .net.au registrations decreased by 13%.

These statistics show a clear trend – the dominance of .com.au in the Australian market is increasing 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 your competitor is using the matching .com.au domain that represents the 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 obvious domain name, the natural fit for your business or brand name.

For example, if you provide security services and your business is called Patrol, then customers will typically navigate to patrol.com.au, expecting to find your business.

Now let’s say that your business uses patrol.net.au for your website and email addresses, because the matching .com.au domain is owned and used by a competitor.

Many prospective and existing customers would inadvertently navigate to the .com.au version of your website address. Every customer that instinctively navigates to the .com.au address, is one more sale lost to your competitor.

It’s not just website traffic that will be lost to the natural fit .com.au domain. Emails intended for your business will go elsewhere.

Let’s say you use ‘support@patrol.net.au’ as your primary point of contact for customer support. A large number of emails intended for your support team will never reach your inbox. Many people will instinctively send emails to support@patrol.com.au.

Missing customer emails is bad enough, but it gets worse. If the owner of patrol.com.au has a resolving email account for that address (support@patrol.com.au); forwarding in place to redirect emails sent to that address; or a ‘catch-all’ setup for any email addresses using patrol.com.au …your competitor will be receiving emails from your customers!

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. 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 defaulted 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.

The owner of a high-end jewellery business is looking to bolster their security arrangements. They recall hearing an ad spot on the radio spruiking your security services, so they head to patrol.com.au to find out more. Unfortunately, your website is actually located at patrolsecurity.com.au.

If a competing business owns patrol.com.au – they just snagged that customer off the back of your advertising spend!

People will often only recall part of a website address, particularly when a domain contains more than two words.

Takeaway message

When it comes to choosing a domain, make sure that you think carefully about what would be the most obvious choice to represent your business.

Ideally, your domain should match the online address where people would instinctively expect to find you.

If your business is already using a domain which isn’t the most obvious fit, then you should consider trying to acquire the natural fit domain that better represents your business. You don’t necessarily need to undertake a re-branding exercise; you could simply use a redirect to your existing domain, which would then capture any website or email traffic going to the natural fit domain.