As of next week, Aussie businesses will be able to apply for a new domain name ending in ‘.au’. And aside from reimagining thousands of radio jingles, the change could be significant for Australian SMEs.
From Thursday, March 24, 2022, businesses with an existing domain ending in ‘.com.au’, ‘.org.au’ or ‘.net.au’ can register for a new ‘.au’ domain.
According to the .au Domain Administration (auDA), the Australian policy authority and self-regulatory body for domain names, the change is intended to open up a wider choice of domain names in Australia.
It will allow people and organisations to register “shorter, more memorable” domain names that are easier to type and display on mobile devices, auDA suggests.
What will the election mean to you?
Sign up to our free newsletter, including this weekend’s coverage of the election.
The change is also intended to bring Australia in line with other countries such as the UK, Canada, the US and New Zealand, which already offer similar .uk, .ca, .us and .nz domains.
In order to be eligible for priority access to a .au domain, all applicants must have a verifiable Australian presence. For businesses, that means being registered in Australia.
Individuals must be either an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
Domains can be registered through participating auDA-accredited domain registrars. Prices will likely vary between providers.
Should SMEs try to secure a new domain name?
Speaking to SmartCompany, Michael Sparkes, creative performance director at digital marketing agency Sparro, says there are a few things for small business owners to weigh up when considering the new domains.
The fact that shorter domain names are concise and potentially more memorable could bring branding opportunities, he explains.
It could also give off a “stronger sense of national identity,” he adds, “which may help with trust signals for Aussies”.
At the same time, however, Sparkes suggests we are actually seeing a decline in ‘exact match’ domain names, with domains becoming devalued thanks to the likes of Google.
Here, “branding becomes much more important,” he explains.
There will also likely be costs involved beyond simply registering the new domain. This could include things like website migration, spending to update branding materials and SEO considerations.
“It will also likely force companies into buying both .au and .com.au domains to protect their brands,” Sparkes explains.
And as the .au domains are brand new, there may be a lag effect on any benefits, as consumers get used to the new norm. That means brands should ensure their .au domain is “ever present” in all their marketing efforts, both online and offline, Sparkes says.
“There’s a good argument to say that there’s not much wrong with the current system and if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it,” he adds.
“It’s well established, and many thousands of websites are already using .com.au addresses, so does adding .au just cause confusion?”
How does priority allocation work?
Thursday, March 24, 2022 marks the beginning of a ‘priority allocation period’, during which businesses with existing Australian domain names can apply to get the same name in .au form.
Businesses that already have a registered .com.au, .org.au or .net.au domain name can register for a .au domain from this date.
They can also apply for brand new .au domains if the corresponding .com.au, .org.au or .net.au does not already exist.
All unclaimed .au domains will become available to the general public on a first-come, first-served basis from September 20.
Businesses must apply for ‘priority status’ through an accredited domain registrar. They will then be broken into two categories.
Businesses that have domain name licences created before February 4, 2018, will fall into category one. Those with domains created after that date will fall into category two.
In the case that two entities are claiming to have priority rights to the same .au domain, a category one business will take precedence.
If both entities are category one applicants, they must agree between themselves, otherwise the .au domain will remain unallocated.
If there are only category two applicants, the .au domain will be allocated to the business with the domain licence that was created first.
You can find out more about how to register for a .au domain here.