We get asked a lot whether you should obtain either a .com or a .com.au domain name when building a website in Australia. Here's the answer.
What's the difference between a .com. and a .com.au name? Basically, a .com.au domain name identifies you as an Australian business. This has a number of advantages if you are targeting Australian Internet users.
Probably the most important effect a .com.au domain has is that some search engines filter their results according to where the searcher lives. For example, if you conduct a search on Google, it is clever enough to work out where you are. And when it knows that you live in Australia, it will often make the assumption that you will be more interested in Australian websites, and so it may place Australian websites higher up the search results than international ones.
This isn't always the case, but over time you will find that depending on your product, .com.au domains may rank higher in Australia than international domain names. This is important if your market is solely in Australia.
What if your market is global? Then a .com may be more appropriate for you. For example, our domain name is a .com domain, because we can and do provide our services worldwide, even though we are an Australian business based in Australia. We want to be recognised as a global Internet business and so we chose the .com domain.
Having said that, there is no reason why you can't have both. It is certainly possible to purchase both the .com and the .com.au versions of your domain name and have them both point to the same website. Don't go overboard though. If you purchase too many domain names and have them all providing the same content, this can be seen by many search engines as "spamming", and could possibly penalise you as a result.
What about the price difference? There used to be a very big price difference between .com. and .com.au domain names, but in recent years the .com.au domains have dropped significantly in price, so that the difference is no longer so great. Using our prices as an example, a .com domain will cost you $24.95 per year. A .com.au domain will cost you $34.50 per year (.com.au domains can only be purchased for 2 year periods, so the cost will actually be $69 for 2 years, plus GST).
So the price is no longer a huge issue, and if you are trading in Australia it makes sense to get the .com.au domain name so that you are recognised as an Australian business and get the benefits of it within Australia's search engine market.