Melbourne, Australia – 30 March 2015: AusRegistry and .au Domain Administration (auDA) today launched the 2015 .au survey in an ongoing commitment to understand the Australian Internet user and their relationship with the .au domain namespace.
The .au survey is the third in a series of yearly research campaigns that examines Registrants of .au domains as well as those who interact with .au websites.
The data collected from the yearly surveys forms a picture of how the industry is evolving and provides insights into perceptions, experiences and understanding of the .au namespace.
George Pongas, AusRegistry’s General Manager of Naming Services, believes the research is essential to understanding user behaviour and the needs of the .au community.
“The picture emerging from the yearly surveys reflects the highly dynamic nature of our industry. From a technical and governance perspective, this type of information is imperative to our operations. We are grateful to the Internet community for their continued support,” Mr Pongas said.
The 2015 survey will be conducted by Effective Measure, a global market research company, on behalf of AusRegistry and auDA. The survey will appear on an extensive number of popular .au websites as well as www.ausregistry.com.au and www.auda.org.au.
A report summarising the survey results will be available in the second half of 2015 and distributed to .au stakeholders and the wider internet community.
AusRegistry and auDA encourage interested participants to complete the survey in support of the .au namespace. The survey is available here: www.ausregistry.com.au/survey2015
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auDA is currently reviewing the policy framework for .au domain names, and will be conducting public consultations during the year. If you would like to know more and contribute your views on .au domain name policy, you can subscribe to the auDA Announcements List.
By George Pongas
Wednesday 11 March 2015
A company’s domain name is intrinsically tied to its brand and service delivery – making it an extremely important digital asset. Several high-profile brands have previously lost control of their valuable online properties and faced significant brand damage as a result.
Tech giant Lenovo recently fell victim to a domain hijacking attack, during which visitors to its website (www.lenovo.com) were redirected to another website featuring webcam images of a young man at his computer to the soundtrack of a Disney song.
The hack comes just days after Google’s Vietnam webpage was similarly hijacked, redirecting visitors to a page reportedly pointing to those responsible for the hack.
While they are the most recent examples, Google and Lenovo are not the first brands to be targeted by domain hijackers in high-profile cases. The last few years have seen the likes of YouTube, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Dell, Kaspersky and even the New York Times embroiled in domain name security breaches.
While the exact cause of the Lenovo hacking is yet to be confirmed, reports have widely linked the Attack Vector to the Registrar serving both the Lenovo and Google Vietnam domains.
The fact of the matter is, you don’t have to be a big brand to be vulnerable to this kind of attack – and it can have significant impacts on your brand and your bottom line.
A matter of time?
Commentators say hackers are using more creative methods such as phishing in their attacks on companies that fail to increase security measures.
For example, Marco Chiappetta wrote for Forbes for example that we can “expect things to get worse” and that taking steps to protect your online assets is vital.
“The only way to solve these problems is to educate the population and to ensure everything possible is being done to protect sensitive data…. Don’t skimp on man-power or technology when it comes to security,” he wrote.
Protecting your .au domain
To increase domain name security and protect website assets, AusRegistry launched a security measure called .auLOCKDOWN, which adds an additional layer of authorisation and domain name protection at the Registry level.
With .auLOCKDOWN, .au domain name registrants are able to lock their domain name records and prevent unauthorised changes. Only verified, authorised individuals are permitted to alter domain records.
.auLOCKDOWN adds significant security and peace of mind for owners of .au domain names, with the important added advantage of preventing mistakes from occurring when domain name records are updated incorrectly – leading to self-inflicted errors such as happened to LinkedIn in 2013.
A more detailed description of how .auLOCKDOWN works is available on our .au LOCKDOWN FAQs page.
Secure your domain - Free 3 month trial
.auLOCKDOWN is a valuable measure for any .au website – you don’t have to be a big brand like Google or Lenovo to benefit. If a couple of hours offline would impact your business, you should be considering additional protection.
One perceived barrier many organisations face in adopting new security measures is the financial investment involved. For those considering signing up for .auLOCKDOWN however, now is the time to act.
.au domain name registrants that sign up for .auLOCKDOWN between 1 March and 31 May 2015 are eligible to receive a free three-month trial at participating Registrars. You will need to enquire with your Registrar to find out whether they support the free trial.
Finally, each domain hijacking case suggests that if you wait before taking a security-mindful position regarding your domain name assets, the impact from unauthorised or accidental changes will be much worse and the costs much higher than being proactive and protecting your digital assets now.
Jonathan Leane is the founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Alternative Media. Jonathan manages one of Australia’s leading life insurance and health insurance comparison websites under the exact match domain names www.lifeinsurancecomparison.com.au and www.healthinsurancecomparison.com.au.
“Our business used to be purely an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) business model. Unfortunately this meant we were hit really hard by the Penguin and Panda Google updates in April 2012, which punished business models like ours,” Mr Leane stated.
“Literally overnight, our website traffic dropped by 90%. Over the next couple of months we very nearly went belly-up, but ultimately managed to successfully transition to an SEM business model.”
“I attribute both our initial SEO and subsequent SEM success primarily to having an exact match com.au domain name.”
For Alternative Media, the Search Engine Marketing strategy combined with exact match domains resulted in Google AdWords and Bing click-through rates nearly twice that of the company’s other domain names. Its average cost per click was approximately 30% lower on AdWords and 35% lower on Bing, while they also achieved higher-quality scores on AdWords. Importantly, the average cost per lead was 23% lower on AdWords and 31% lower on Bing.
“The great thing about our exact match domains is that they gave us an initial boost with SEO, and once that ended they facilitated our transition into SEM because of the higher quality scores and lower cost per click rates on Google,” Mr Leane said.
Registering an Exact Match Domain
Because they’re recognised as premium domain names, exact match domain names attract higher demand. More often than not, these domain names will already have been registered, often by a domain name investor or someone outside of the sector.
“A good domain name is really crucial for your success online. If a domain name is taken, but not developed, I view this as an opportunity rather than a road block,” Mr Leane said.
“I’ll generally use the services of aftermarket providers www.netfleet.com.au and www.drop.com.au, while also checking AusRegistry’s Whois tool to try and contact the registrant.”
“Just because a domain name is registered doesn’t mean it’s not available to be purchased for a relatively insignificant cost to your business.”
After the changes to Google’s algorithms it has become commonly accepted today that the focus on keywords and exact match domains has shifted to a more holistic approach when a website is ranked.
The large number of metrics Google takes into account is meant to ensure a type of compliance that guarantees quality websites. Website owners have started to see the benefit from investing in the content and mechanics of their site.
With that said the domain name is still considered an important element to SERP rankings success. SEO consultants and analysts Moz who conduct yearly Search Engine Ranking Factors surveys, recently revealed when looking at Domain Level Keyword Usage (looks at how keywords are used in the root or subdomain name and how much impact this might have on search engine rankings); “The ranking ability of exact and partial-match domains (EMD/PMD) has been heavily debated by SEOs recently, and it appears Google is still adjusting their ranking ability. In our data, we found EMD correlations to be relatively high at 0.16 and as high as 0.20 if the EMD is also a dot-com”.
In support of the strength of domain names, the domain name industry has never been so buoyant. Since October 2013, over 1,000 new TLDs are progressively being rolled out into the market with positive results. According to website ntldstats.org more than 4 million domains from 472 new gTLDs have been registered.
The Domain Name Association, a non-profit business association that represents the interests of the domain name industry, has reported recent survey results that show support for increasing domain name options. Indeed their key findings show:
· There is great openness to new domain name extensions.
· Globally, nearly 60% of all respondents voiced a preference for more domain name and domain name extension options.
· Domain names remain relevant: essentially all users type domain names into browsers as well as use search tools to navigate the Internet.
AusRegistry’s Michael Korjen speaks with Jim Stewart, CEO of StewArt Media, a leading Australian Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) company.
Michael Korjen: Thanks for your time today Jim. Can you tell us why SEO and search is so important for businesses online?
Jim Stewart: Today, when people want to find a business or service they don’t go to the old paper directories. They typically go to a search engine, usually Google in Australia. If your company doesn’t come up on those searches, you’re losing business.
What have you seen as some of the major changes in search over the last couple of years and what are the major challenges that businesses face with SEO?
For the most part businesses don’t understand what’s important in search and that’s partly the industry’s fault. The industry has spent so much time trying to ‘trick’ Google that businesses think that’s what they have to do as well, which isn’t the case. The biggest problem faced by a lot of companies is cleaning up bad SEO practices like buying backlinks.
Over the last few years the biggest changes in search have related to best practice. Previously, if you had 20 backlinks to your webpage and your competitor had 10, then you would rank higher in a Google search all other ranking signals being equal. But that is no longer the case. Google has become very sophisticated in detecting people buying backlinks or backlinks networks, and over the past few years it has been making leaps and bounds to get rid of web spam.
We understand that exact match domains are an important part of SEO but Google’s algorithm updates of 2012 and 2013 seemed to change the playing field. Could you speak to us about how domain names work in search and also touch on the importance of exact match domains?
There’s a lot of misinformation about the importance of domain names in search. There’s no doubt that if you can get a domain name with a good key word in it, you’ve got a good chance of ranking better than someone that doesn’t, but it’s only one signal.
Previously if you wanted to rank highly on a search for ‘blue widgets’ for example and you owned www.bluewidgets.com.au, then that would be a big win. Even today, an address with a key word in the domain name has an edge.
In 2012 Google made an update that effectively ‘turned down the volume’ on exact match domains. This resulted in a lot of website owners losing traction in website rankings.
However since then, exact match domains have come to the fore again. Sites that have the exact match for the key word will rank high.
The important thing to remember is that an exact match domain is not the only thing website owners have to do. They still have a lot of work to do on their site, but at the moment that exact match domain is giving them an edge. When that happens, it stands to reason that Google is going to do another update.
With keywords and exact match domains, you always have to consider how they affect your brand. It wouldn’t be the right fit for a Westpac site to be found at banking.com – it just does not sit well with the brand. You do have to look at all these things together, not just in isolation.
That’s a good point Jim. Is it fair to say a domain name is only one element of a successful search and SEO strategy?
There are over 200 signals that Google looks at to rank a page and your domain name is just one of them. How much weighting it receives is dependent upon your competition. People always ask me; “What’s the one thing I can do?” and my advice is to look at what the number one result is doing, and do it better.
The biggest thing that most businesses can do, that they currently aren’t taking advantage of, is to set up Google Webmaster tools for your site. Many people have Google Analytics, but Google Webmaster tools will tell you exactly what Google knows about your site.
The reason this is important is because it will alert you to any problems Google is experiencing with your site. This may be that your site is slow, there are lots of errors or there is much duplication. These factors have a big impact on SEO and are often neglected.
Google wants to makes sure it only displays results that are going to be relevant to the search done by the user. It wants to provide a good experience for the user. Google doesn’t want to send its users to slow, confusing sites or to sites full of errors because if it does, people will stop using Google.
The other major thing that businesses should be doing (and this applies beyond search) is content marketing. You need to have a strategy around content; you need to have an editorial calendar; and you need to become the publisher. This obviously gives your site more content that Google can rank, but Google can also see that your site is active and updated frequently. In terms of ranking, Google sees sites like these as ‘worthy’ of sending its users to.
Content also has the benefit of generating more genuine backlinks. People will share good content in social media, they get picked up by other mechanisms and it establishes you as an authority in your field.
There have been some recent studies which indicate new top level domains are ranking higher than the .com equivalents. However Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, came out to debunk this misconception by stating they offer no ranking benefit. What are your thoughts on this?
I read John’s comments which appeared to be harking back to a 2012 post from Matt Cutts, an engineer in the search quality team at Google. This has always been a point of contention because in actuality, the only TLDs Google puts any real weight behind have been the country code TLDs. For instance a .au is going to rank higher than another ccTLD, such as .nz, in google.com.au.
It’s difficult to make a prediction about new TLDs because Google has never looked at that before. I think what could be happening in some of those studies is that the people have built a website to SEO best practice – incorporating all of the necessary elements required for high rankings – which uses a new TLD such as .melbourne.
What people should be doing is looking at the new TLDs from a branding perspective. The domains are specific and allow for greater creativity. People can put them on a billboard and get their message across more easily. I think purely as a search strategy, the jury on new TLDs is well and truly out.
Finally I wanted to pick up on your comments about .au and how Google favours country codes for specific countries. What would be your advice to startup businesses primarily focused on Australian customers? Do you recommend getting a .au domain name?
We recommend that you get the domain name for every country that you want to operate in. Some people will say you should only have one website, but that’s not entirely true. If you’re going to operate in Australia and New Zealand, getting both .au and .nz will make it easier for you to rank in those countries. While some think this will only lead to duplication, Google is very good at understanding that content in .au is for Australian users and content in .nz is for New Zealand users. This eliminates any duplicate content problems.
There is a setting in Google Webmaster tools where you can choose to geographically target certain users. With a TLD (non-country code), it is not automatically set. So for instance .com doesn’t necessarily mean you are targeting people in the United States – you have to specify that in Google Webmaster tools. So certainly if you want Australian customers, get a .au address.
Fascinating stuff Jim, thanks for having a chat with us. You’ve given us some valuable information for people considering their search strategy and the importance of a .au domain name to reach Australian audiences.
It seems that the Internet has evolved. As we enter this era of new TLDs it is important that all stakeholders contribute not just to its development but its betterment. Betterment takes time with periods of experimentation, but the end should always be to provide users with the best experience.
Best practice now dictates that website owners need to take into account a number of factors when developing a website. For those who do the right thing the rewards are higher rankings, more traffic and increased sales.
What is unlikely to change over time is the importance of a domain name. A domain name paints a picture. It’s your brand, your business, your calling card. It’s the memorable name that navigates a person through the Internet maze and brings them directly and logically to you.
Regardless of future algorithm changes, a domain name holds its own in the world of search, always being the first thing to consider when establishing an online presence.
Melbourne, Australia – 5 February 2015: As .au domain registrations approach the 3-million mark, Melbourne-based company Information Brokers has become the newest accredited .au Registrar, receiving accreditation approval from the .au Domain Administration (auDA).
Among a suite of business search, intelligence and registration services, Information Brokers will now be able to sell .au domain names to the general public. This approval from auDA brings the total number of accredited .au Registrars to 48.
Receiving accreditation from auDA authorises a Registrar to provide a range of services, from the registration of new domains to domain renewals and changing domain name records.
AusRegistry, the Australian .au domain name Registry operator welcomed the announcement, explaining that Information Brokers’ focus on service and a broad range of capabilities made them a natural fit for .au accreditation.
Established in April 2010, Information Brokers provides a full suite of Australian business search, intelligence and registration services that facilitate client investigations into personal property, company, individual verification, commercial viability, registration reporting and management.
Founder and CEO of Information Brokers, Rod Keys said that the company was pleased to add .au domain name services to its already extensive product suite and look forward to adding ICANN accreditation in the near future.
“We abide by a dedicated ‘service before price’ model and are constantly looking to expand our business product suite.
“.au domain registration will be added to our existing web hosting and website building services, and we are confident in our ability to deliver high quality services to customers.”
Information Brokers was the first Australian registrar to comply with the mandatory ISS certification introduced by auDA, compulsory to all registrars by November 2015. This certification has been modified from previous standards in accordance with the unique attributes of the .au registration network.