All you need to know about registering a domain name in Australia

Products mentioned
Your options are endless

Nowadays, it’s rare to find a business without a website — or at least some online presence. You probably know that to have a website, you need a domain name. But what are the rules for registering a domain name in Australia? Can anyone get one, or do you need to live in Australia?

It can be confusing at first, with all the domain name jargon and strict governance around domains.

This article will tackle your questions regarding registering domain names in Australia.

What is a domain name? Is it the same thing as a website?

Graphic showing the difference between domain and websiteMany people think a domain name is the same thing as a website. They are, however, slightly different.

A domain name is the website’s online address and appears within the Universal Resource Locator (URL) for any given website. This is what is typically shared by a business when asked how they can be found online.

For example, gumtree.com.au is the domain name of the popular website, while the URL is https://www.gumtree.com.au.

Domain names are unique — only one entity or person can use a particular domain at a time.

Most domain names purchased for business use include the business name, as in the Gumtree example.

A website is a collection of digital files stored on a server. These files can be accessed by typing the related domain name into a browser.

Does my domain name and business name need to match?

The main difference between a business and a domain name is that:

  • A business name is used for branding and legal identification purposes.
  • A domain name is a digital website address.

It’s always a good idea to have the domain name match the business name — if for no other reason than it cuts down on confusion. But it doesn’t need to be the same in order to have your own website.

A business might have a web address that is different from its business name because:

  • The domain name that matches their business name is registered to someone else.
  • The business is a subsidiary of a parent company with a different name.

For example, Alphabet is Google’s parent company. But Google uses google.com for its website address.

Or sometimes, a business will register a special domain name as part of a marketing campaign, such as boxingdaysale.com.au.

Because anyone — including your competitors or members of the public — can easily purchase domain names, it’s strongly recommended to  a domain name that contains your company name. You should also register the same domain name in several relevant extensions (.e.g. .com.au and .com).

Graphic showing Australian domain namesYou can always redirect any additional domain names to your primary domain name.

By buying related or common misspellings of your primary domain name, you keep others from registering and using them to pull traffic away from your website.

Have a product or service that you want to promote more than others? It might be worth giving it some TLC and registering its own domain name.

For example, eCommerce giant Amazon does that with Kindle. The domain kindle.store redirects to the Kindle product page on Amazon’s home website. This is a savvy strategy, designed to capture all those people who are typing “buy kindle” into their web browsers.

Related: How to name a business

Can you use a language other than English for domains?

Yes. These are called Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) and they are displayed in their native language script or alphabet — for example, the Arabic alphabet or a non-alphabetic writing system such as Chinese characters.

An IDN is a good choice for any website aimed at a population that speaks a language other than English.

Related: The top 20 most expensive domain names

Just like picking the right name for your baby, pet or business, choosing the right domain name for your website is essential. After all, if your business succeeds, you’ll be sharing this name — on the phone, in face-to-face conversations — for years to come.

A good domain name will speak to what people want and stick in their heads.

An unsuitable domain name, or one that infringes on someone else’s copyright, can damage your business and turn off prospectiveCloseup of a woman using her smartphone customers.

An easy-to-remember domain name can help your customers recognise your product or make a connection between your business name and your products.

Another tip when picking a domain name is to avoid hyphens and numbers. No one remembers to put hyphens correctly. With numbers, they can be numerical or spelt out, which can be confusing.

The last thing you want is to confuse potential customers.

Which brings us to the question of whether your domain name should match your business name. From a branding standpoint, this is a good idea. It’s tempting to be clever with domain names, but clarity trumps everything, so it’s advised to stay on brand as much as possible.

When your customers think of your business, you want them to remember your web address instantly. Don’t make them think too hard.

Find more pro tips on picking the right domain name here.

The right domain name is good for your search rankings

Brightly coloured wooden letters
Photo: Ryan Wallace on Unsplash

A bonus benefit of picking the right domain name is that it can be good for your search rankings.

Search engines like Google look for keywords to decide what each page of your website is about. The words on your website provide search engines with an idea about what your business does.

Why does Google do this? Because they want to serve up the web content that most closely matches the searcher’s query.

Savvy business owners research the keywords that people are typing into their browsers when looking for their products or services, then weave those words into the text on each page.

Pro tip: Including a keyword in your domain name could give you an advantage in being found.

An example of this is hobartHVACrepair.com.

 

This domain name has the advantage of containing a popular keyword (HVAC repair) and a service location. If you lived in Hobart and needed AC repair, those are the very words you would likely type in to Google for help.

Search engines rely on keywords in deciding which websites to rank near the top of the search results page. And the top of the page is where you want your business to appear, as the top three get 54% of clicks.

The three types of domain name extensions

In addition to deciding what comes before the dot in your domain name, you’ll also need to decide which domain extension to put after the dot.

Here are the three broad categories of domain extensions:

Original Top-Level Domains (TLDs)

These domain extensions are the highest in the Domain Name System hierarchy and have been around the longest. Some examples of

TLDs include:

  • .com: short for commercial, .com is still the most popular domain extension in the world.
  • net: short for network, this extension is often used by internet service providers (ISPs).
  • org: short for organisation, .org is linked to charities, wikis or not-for-profit groups.

While the three extensions above are the most common, did you know there are over 1,000 possible TLDs?

Country code Top-Level Domains (ccTLD)

Two-letter domains were established and assigned to each country. For example, .au is Australia’s domain name extension.

The intention of ccTLDs is to be used by the country’s residents. Some countries, such as Colombia (.co) and Montenegro (.me), have let residents outside register domain names using their country code.

Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD)

Generic top-level domains serve as a category in top-level domains. There are hundreds of gTLDs in use, including:

Graphic showing extensions available for domain investing

Some of these domains are restricted for use by certain individuals and groups, while others can be registered by anyone. You can scroll through the complete list here.

The .com.au domain name extension is a must-have for all Australian businesses. Although the shorter .au domain extension is now available, .com.au is still the most familiar. As a result, Aussies will assume it is at the end of any business web address. So, why not make it easy for them to find you?

How can I buy a domain name in Australia?

As mentioned earlier, .au is the country code domain name reserved for Australia.

The .au Domain Administration (auDA) sets and administers the rules for domain names that end in the .au country code. This includes .com.au, .net.au and .org.au.

You can only purchase an .au domain name in Australia if you live or do business here.

GoDaddy is a leading registrar authorised to sell domain names in Australia. This means GoDaddy is authorised by auDA to provide services to business owners who want to:

  • Register a new .au domain name
  • Renew an existing .au domain name
  • Make changes to their .au domain name record (DNS)

You can search for domain name in Australia right now: 

Times have changed. What is happening with domain names in Australia?

There have been some changes when it comes to registering a domain name in Australia.

Up until March 2022, Australian businesses with a website address ending in .com.au, .net.au or .org.au had priority access to registering a matching domain ending in the new .au direct extension. For example, businessname.au.

However:

  • From 20 September 2022, the grace period of priority registration for existing domain name owners was lifted.
  • From 4 October 2022, all remaining .au domain names became open to the general public to purchase.

Just like you wouldn’t want a competing business with a similar name or product offering as yours setting up next door, you wouldn’t want someone else to take your .au domain name. It would cause customer confusion and only mean more business headaches.

Cybercrime on the rise

As the world has become more digital, cybercriminals are getting up to no good and targeting Aussies businesses. The new .au domain name extension presents an opportunity for them to buy and hold your business domain name for ransom (which is illegal).

Cybercriminals can also carry out business fraud through email compromise, which uses your domain name or a similar one to foolBlackhat — O Que É E Quais Os Reais Perigos Dessas Técnicas people into thinking the email is from you.

This is a type of email scam targeted at organisations to get executives or employees to send money to the attacker’s bank account or reveal private business information such as login passwords.

You should know that businesses, organisations and individuals who have registered a domain name outside of Australia can also register .au direct domain names – so get in quick.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) recommends that  business owners claim their matching .au domain name as soon as possible.

The auDA says there are more than 3.6 million domains that end in .au already registered. That means there are potentially millions of businesses or individuals who should be thinking about applying for the new, shorter domain extension.

Related: How to use Scamwatch to protect your business

How much does it cost to register a domain name in Australia?

Like houses, domain names vary in price. You can expect to pay between AU$4 and $20 annually for a domain name, depending on a variety of factors.

Premium domain names — those that are more valuable because of length, domain extension or domain authority — can cost much more.

What if the domain I want is taken?

If the .com.au or .au domain name you want has already been registered, don’t fret. Depending on your business structure and location, you may consider other Australian domain extensions such as:

  • .org.au is commonly used by charities, not-for-profits and information sites.
  • .net.au was initially promoted for IT-based businesses, but nowadays, it is used across several industries.
  • .sydney is commonly used for businesses located in or around Sydney.
  • .melbourne is commonly used for businesses located in or around Melbourne.

Currently, the most popular domain extensions in Australia are .com and .com.au. Since .au is still very new, it won’t take long to catch up, as it’s a shorter URL. When it comes to domain names, shorter is often better and more valuable.

Read more about domain names, including what to do if the domain you want is taken and when to opt for .com, in this post.

Can you make money buying and selling domain names?

Is domain investing worth it — and is it legal in Australia? Can I sell a domain name?

The good news is, yes, you can sell domain names.

If you do it right, you can even make a profit.

 

Domain names can be bought, traded and sold much like real estate — only that it’s all on the web. There is a massive demand for good brandable custom domain names. All you need to do is:GoDaddy Investor app on Google Play

  • Think of them
  • Register them if available
  • Nurture them so their value increases

In fact, trading domain names has become a multi-million-dollar industry. Since domain names are affordable and easy to buy (even in bulk), entrepreneurs look to cash in on great domain names to own and resell.

SEO professionals use various metrics to assess the value of any domain. The most reliable metric is the Domain Authority. Want to have a general idea of the resale value of any domain name? Type it into this appraisal tool.

Where can I buy and sell domain names?

There are many marketplaces, such as GoDaddy’s, where you can post your domains for sale. You can either set a fixed price, auction it, or allow people to make an offer.

  • Set price: Setting a specific fee is the preferred method for domain sellers with an extensive portfolio of domains who aren’t rushing to sell them.
  • Auction: This is a good place to sell higher-profile domain names where there is a lot of interest, since auctions can result in the highest possible price.
  • Make an offer: Make an offer sales are well-suited for niche domains and industries that are more specialised.

Related: 5 tried-and-true tips for buying and selling domains for profit

Demand is rising for Aussie domain names

With a highly regulated and politically stable climate, it’s no wonder many are looking to do business in Australia.

Australia offers a low barrier and cost to entry which is why it is a great country to test a market.

Foreign investment is welcomed, with all levels of the government keen to promote business, economic development and employment growth according to Minter Ellison in its “Doing business in Australia” guide.

Graphic in the shape of AustraliaDomain names are a powerful way to give your digital marketing efforts a fresh and unique feel. However, a business doesn’t need to purchase dozens of Australian domain names to succeed in the competitive online world.

One or two strong domain names can go a long way in enhancing your reputation and marketing efforts – which means more possibilities to expand your business and keep your potential and existing customers engaged.

If you’re conducting business in Australia, many of your customers will expect a .com.au or .au extension at the end of your web address. So, if you haven’t registered these Australian domain extensions yet, consider doing so now.