A Country-Code Top Level Domain (ccTDL) is the the bit in your url that adds the country identifier - so the .au or the .uk - the bit you add to your .com or .org - which does tend to get hijacked by US websites, we all know there isn't really a .us because they consider themselves the boss of the internet...
When you are purchasing your .org's domain name which should you choose?
My view is unless you are truly providing a direct service overseas then always choose .au if it's available.
If your idea for a domain name is so compelling that you want to protect your "brand" then buy both, and you can point both to your site if you like (one will be primary). But remember, the .au is the equivalent of having a big fat Made in Australia sign on your website.
A user testing study on the Moz website from 2014 shows that users are aware of ccTLD's and that they use it as an identifier for country and trustworthiness. See the report on the Moz website - Study: How Searchers Perceive Country Code Top-Level Domains, the article summary states:
- Users are absolutely aware of the TLDs and how they might relate to the contents of a website
- Users are aware of the connection between TLDs and countries
- Users do make decisions about websites based on the TLD; however there are no absolutes. Brand and content absolutely matter. - Eli Schwartz, 2014
Note that Australian's rank higher in their awareness of the use of country codes.
When it comes to not for profit and charity organisations I'd argue that the .au is even more important. When I'm being asked to visit a site for its content, information, to provide data such as my email address, and especially to give money I unashamedly and am more likely visit and to trust Australian websites.
When you just use a .com or a .org you create doubt as to where you are located, who is running your organisation, and importantly where money and information is going. It's even further greyed when you use a .com without the .au!
If I see a site with a .com or a .org I tend to skip it on my first search preferencing local content; when I do visit I often look for the About Us page or the Contact Us page. If the location of the organisation or website isn't clear then I'll rarely stay. So there is a good tip - if you have used a non .au domain make sure you have information on your site that clearly states where you are located.
Being clear about your location is really a must for everyone. Australia is a big place, people support locality nationaly and closer to home. Making a connection to a user based on locality is one of the first and easiest connections you can make, especially when asking people to give or share.
Is the same true for Australian businesses? Absolutely - and your location is even more crucial - I might hunt the page of a not-for-profit to find out where they are based, but I'm less likely to bother with a business, I'll just move on.
If you are having trouble finding a .au domain make sure you are looking at the right place, some domain resellers don't sell .au's and that might be why you are having trouble. Domain Central sells .au domains so take a look there, and yep, they will be more expensive but the cost over the lifetime of your website is minimal so it's not a thing to skimp on!
What about alternate top level domain strings if you can't get the one you want? .net.au is pretty well accepted so this is a low risk one and comparable to the trustworthiness of a .com.au. As far as other choiced go, the Top Level Domain market has been opened up and there are a range of options out there (I'm not sure of the country-code situation with all of them). I've found Adrian Kinderis posts a lot of stuff in this area on his twitter page and he's recently shared some nice .melbourne and .world examples. He's probably a good person to connect with if you want more info - I'll ask him if there is a .world.au
If you are interested on International SEO The 15 Most Popular Myths About International SEO, Debunked is a really good article, it's detailed and a bit technical so it's not for everyone but there is a nice International SEO timeline and there are a few myths covered that might be useful if your organisation is looking for global reach - and a few tips that might stop you from putting things on your site that are unnecessary. Myths in the article include:
Myth #1: I need to have multiple websites in order to rank around the world.
Myth #3: I can duplicate my website on separate ccTLDs or geo-targeted sub-folders & each will rank in their respective Googles.
Myth #10: I can use flag icons on my site to indicate the site’s language.
Myth #11: I can get away with automated translations.
Myth #12: Whichever site layout and user experience works best in our core markets should be rolled out across all our markets.
Read the full article: The 15 Most Popular Myths About International SEO, Debunked