Launched on 24 March this year, the .au direct domain name was created as a shorter, simpler domain for Australian websites to use. Many existing businesses that already use .com.au or .net.au or similar, have asked the question whether it’s worth buying this new domain and using it for their website. Since this domain will become available for general sale on 4 October, what’s the best solution?
Australian websites have been able to use .au since 1986 as the country code top-level domain (ccTLD) although this has, until now, been required as part of a TLD such as .com.au, .net.au, .gov.au and so on. From March this year, a shorter .au domain name was announced, known as ‘.au direct’ so that this is the only part now required after the unique URL (such as yourdomain.au).
Between March and September this year, businesses with an existing domain name (i.e, whose websites end in .com.au or .net.au) have been given priority to reserve their matching .au domain name. This reservation period has now ended and so from 4th October domains can be purchased and registered by anyone with the .au direct extension.
Securing the domain for your business
So if you already have an existing business domain name in Australia, what is the best course of action? Firstly, if you are concerned about anyone else buying and using your domain name in this format, you should buy it and secure if for your own business to safeguard your brand’s identity on the internet.
Secondly, if you don’t reserve your business’s .au domain name, there is a risk that impersonators, web name campers or cyber criminals may potentially take it. The Australian Cyber Security Centre has issued an alert on the risk of cyber criminals using your brand’s domain to impersonate your business and conduct fraudulent cyber activities, which you can read here.
Existing .au domain name holders had priority to apply for a match of their existing .au domain name (e.g. yourdomain.com.au) in the .au direct namespace (e.g. yourdomain.au) under the Priority Allocation Process, although this has now closed at the end of September. From 4th October 2022, .au direct domain names on priority hold that did not receive an application under the Priority Allocation Process will become available to be registered by eligible members of the general public.
So, if you want to protect your domain name in this new .au direct format, and you haven’t already registered under the Priority Allocation, then you should ensure that you purchase the domain version as soon as possible after 4 October from your usual domain registrar. You don’t need to use the domain, but you will secure your ownership.
You can read more about these new .au direct domain names from the .au Domain Administration..
Using the new .au direct domain
Once you have registered your .au direct domain name for your existing business, we would not necessarily recommend moving your site to this domain as the primary version for your site. This is because it could create issues with your SEO performance and you would need to ensure the use of the 301 redirect from the old domain to the new version (in the same way that the change from http to https domains should have been managed).
There is no immediate need or benefit to change your domain extension, and it may cause confusion with customers if they aren’t aware of the new format. The best option is therefore to set up the new .au direct domain as a redirect to your existing domain, so that if anyone uses it, they will still find your website. However, don’t allow your site to appear under both versions of the domain, or use a cloaked redirect, as this will confuse Google and potentially affect your website indexing and search ranking performance.
If you are unsure, please contact us for more information or speak directly to your domain name management company or web hosting firm (if different) and ensure that – at least for the short term – you have the new domain under your ownership and connected to your existing website.