.au domain names – how will this affect you?

The potential introduction of .AU domain names has a lot of people up in arms and wondering what to do. Domain registry body auDA have been discussing this for years and it looks like the movement is gathering steam. But is it a good idea?

au domains seo ramifications

.AU Domain Names – A Primer

Australia have been happily using .com.au for our websites – auDA, also known as ‘.au Administration Ltd’ is a self-regulatory body for these domain registrations and was set up and endorsed by the Government in 2000. At the end of last year the Department of Communications and the Arts launched an official investigation into the process of purchasing and ongoing management of domain registrations in Australia.

Wikpedia report that as of September 2017 ‘there were around 3,115,365 active .au domains’. and according to the investigation, “total domains under management will peak and start to decline”. For some reason this means that .au domain names could be a good idea, notwithstanding the total nightmare it will be fore companies who already have a .com.au and don’t want anyone to try and piggyback off their success via registering the .au equivalent.

auDA said the idea for “.au” domains stemmed from the 2015 “Names Policy Panel” report, which saw multiple rounds of stakeholder feedback collected on issues, including on the idea of a direct .AU domain names registration.

“In addition to the public consultations by the panel, auDA’s board also commissioned independent market research, which showed that 60% of respondents were likely or highly likely to register “yourname.au” if it was available,” am auDA spokesperson said. But of course they would! You’d have to, to protect your digital identity. That doesn’t mean that adding superfluous layers of domain management is a good idea.

What about the SEO ramifications?

auDA say it is “not an SEO agency and cannot advise on potential SEO issues”, but it’s pretty easy to see that this change will have ramifications for those already on the web.

The simplest way to move from .com.au to .au will be via a 301 redirect (also known as a ‘permanent redirection – telling Google that yoursite.com.au is now found at yoursite.au). As Google’s John Mueller said on Twitter last year,

“301-redirecting for 404s makes sense if you have 1:1 replacement URLs, otherwise we’ll probably see it as soft-404s and treat like a 404.”

This circumstances (moving a full site across to a new domain) would definitely adhere to the ‘1:1 replacement URL’ stipulation – and it’s likely that the SEO ramifications will be fairly minimal. In terms of being able to register the .au domain in time, especially if you have a great .com.au that others covet, you could have a fight on your hands.

How will auDA manage this situation? Obviously, for something like ‘mvladigital.com.au’, we won’t have much trouble and wouldn’t have much trouble getting back control of mvladigital.au. But what if your URL is cheapfurniture.com.au or something like that? At what point is having an ACN registered enough? Do you need a trademark? What will the process be like where two companies have fairly valid claims for a URL? Why are auDA bothering to do this at all?

Pointless Busywork
If the shoe fits…

Why Do We Need .AU Domain Names?

Short answer – we don’t. Josh Rowe, who used to work with auDA, told SmartCompany he sees no need for it:

“I’m quite open minded about being able to be convinced there is a need, but the issue is, no case has been put forward,” says Rowe, who worked for auDA until 2015, the year they released a “Names Policy Panel” report, which was an amalgam of ‘stakeholder feedback’ collected on various domain registration issues, which included the concept of a direct “.au” registration replacing the current “.com.au” system.

“There’s been no clear case made for the expansion of the domain space, and to my understanding, it’s not like ‘.com.au’ names are running out.”

Current Second-level domains

If you’re interested in the current domain names you can register in Australia, please look below:

  • com.au – Commercial entities
  • .net.au – Commercial entities (historically only ISPs, but the use has been broadened)
  • .org.au – Associations and non-profit organisations (historically only for organisations that did not fit in other categories)
  • .edu.au – Educational institutions
  • .gov.au – Governments and their departments
  • .asn.au – Associations and non-profit organisations
  • .id.au – Individuals (by real name or common alias)
  • .csiro.au – CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation)

What’s Next?

The domain registry body is currently gathering feedback about how these direct registrations for .au domains would actually work. They haven’t released any timelines or specifics with regards to the introduction of this system and the blowback has been intense, with the issue being raised in Federal Parliament and on national TV. It’ll be interesting to see where they go from here. Personally I think it’s very difficult to argue for the necessity of .au websites and it’ll cause nothing but headaches for everyone, but time will tell what auDA think…

What are your thoughts? How do you think this will affect your online marketing strategy? Let us know in the comments below.

Google Search Console in 2018 (Beta Optimisation)

Google Search Console in 2018 – what new information can I get from this program? GSC, previously known as Google Webmaster Tools and renamed as part of Google’s plan to confuse everybody, has seen a large update in 2018 and has a vast number of new features. Let’s take a look at some of the tools available in Google Search Console Beta (as it’s currently technically called).
Google Search Console Beta Optimisation
The updated Google Search Console has been on some of our MVLA Digital sites for the last six months or so, but it’s now available to pretty much everybody. If you see the old site, which looks like this:

Google Search Console Old Site
Google Search Console Old Site

Try and log out and log back into your search console. You should see a little link above the dashboard, which says ‘Try the new Search Console’:

Google Search Console Beta
Google Search Console Beta

After clicking the link you’ll be presented with Google Search Console 2.0, or whatever name they will ascribe to it after it exits beta. It looks like this:

Google Search Console in 2018
Google Search Console in 2018 aka Google Search Console Beta

Google Search Console in 2018 – Beta Features

The new Search Console has some great enhancements over the previous version, which was slow, frustrating, and only had access to a small amount of data from a small timeframe. Debugging any SEO issues on your site was a clunky and frustrating process. We’re happy to report that a lot of this has been fixed in the new version. Google Search Console in 2018 is a new beast, with its own problems, but it’s a massive improvement on what we had to use before.

The first page has been updated to show three main sections – performance, index coverage, and ‘enhancements’ – which is an amalgam of SEO factors – such as Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), Structured Data, and more.

  • You’re now able to get up to 16 months of data as opposed to 90 days. This is a HUGE deal for those actively working on their SEO! Make sure you are looking over this data carefully as it can give you ideas on pages you should create based on keywords, pages you should optimise based on clickthrough, pages you should update based on total clicks/impressions, and more.
  • The Index Coverage section shows you pages the Googlebot has crawled on your website. It now includes ‘Crawl Errors’ as well – so in one graph you’re able to see which pages are being crawled, which errors are occuring, and which are excluded (generally due to you excluding them in your robots.txt file). The new bar graph style is much more conducive to getting clarity on the status of your site in Google’s database and makes cleaning up any errors a lot easier than it used to be. And on that note:
  • Google Search Console now has a LOT more to say – we’ve been getting plenty of emails about upgrades we could do or errors on some of our sites. We then get an email after submitting the sites for review, and another email letting us know how it went. It’s a lot easier than going in and checking Search Console with your fingers crossed every morning!
  • Enhancements: click here to see Google’s list of structured data sections. As you’ll see in the screenshot above we are testing out a ‘Job Postings’ markup (which is currently recrawling and should be valid any day now!) – presumably the Enhancements section will have information about any/all of the structured data available on your site, making it much more simple to make sure everything’s set up correctly.
  • Sitemaps seem to be about the same as they always were. They’re still super important so keep an eye on yours!

MVLA Digital is a Brisbane Online Marketing Agency. We help your business succeed online with Web Design, SEO, Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, & More!If you have any questions please feel free to comment below, contact us, call us on 07 3891 1575, or learn more about our Brisbane-based online marketing service (we’d be happy to help if you need a hand with Google Search Console beta).

Google mobile first strategy 2018 – tips & tricks

Google mobile first strategy 2018 – since late 2016, Google have been talking about a transition in their algorithms to move towards a ‘mobile-first index’.  With well over half of website traffic coming from mobile devices, this has started to roll out and is something you need to be on top of if SEO plays any role in your online marketing efforts (which it should!).
Google Mobile First Strategy 2018
Google’s first mention of mobile-first indexing was on November 4, 2016, when Doantam Phan wrote on the Google Webmaster Central Blog about the eventual shift in their indexing. Obviously something of this magnitude is something to be rolled out slowly and carefully and Google have done just that.

According to the document, their eventual goal is for the Google algorithms to “eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results.”

So what does that mean for you as a website owner looking to grow your traffic and not get pinged for having your mobile site set up incorrectly? Read on below where we have some tips to benefit from Google’s mobile first strategy in 2018:

Three Ways to Benefit From Google Mobile First in 2018

  1. Ensure your site follows Google’s Responsive Web Design (RWD) protocols. This involves sending the same website to all devices and using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to render the page based on the size of the screen. They have released a ‘Mobile-Friendly Test’ which you can run by clicking here. Although you can theoretically have a totally separate site (e.g. we could code mobile.mvladigital.com.au and send mobile traffic to it rather than sending everything to the main site), this is generally inefficient and means you’ll have to do all the work twice. For some situations a separate mobile site is the better option, though. If that’s the case for you, please keep in mind:
  2. If you have a mobile site and a desktop site, work on content parity. Google have said they will start to crawl the mobile site first and treat it as the ‘primary’ site in the future – so it’s important that your mobile and desktop sites have approximately the same amount of pages. There won’t be separate indexes for mobile/desktop so those with ‘m-dot sites’, such as the Australian Stock Exchange, will find themselves in trouble. Jim Stewart did a deep dive into their sites and found that the mobile site only has 16,500 pages and the desktop has 279,000. This means 94% of their content will be lost as Google transition to Mobile First. If you have a separate mobile site and you plan to keep it that way, it’s time for a massive audit of both sites to ensure you don’t lose Google rankings for content you’ve already created and are ranking for. Use the robots.txt testing tool to verify that your mobile version is accessible to Googlebot and add and verify your mobile site in Search Console.  If you’re looking to start increasing rank, there’s another thing you should be taking into consideration:
  3. Structured Data and Rich Snippets will be even more important in 2018. ‘Rich Results’, also known as Rich Snippets (and, to complicate things in classic Google fashion, previously known as rich cards), refer to Google’s search results page showing information more than just the ‘standard blue link’ – they may include a carousel, image, or other non-textual UI elements. You can use structured data to make your website stand apart from your competitors and we strongly recommend reading more about the different rich results Google can serve. Google have released a tool ‘Does your page support rich results?‘ which is a little buggy right now but will test a page on your site to see whether it can generate rich results. This will be based on the structured data on the page. Structured data is code you can place on different parts of your page to show Google what they’re looking at, which will give the Google Search algorithms a ‘strong signal’ (their words) to use this information in SERPS. As a very basic example, you can use structured data markup to tell Google what your company logo is:

    {
    “@context”: “http://schema.org”,
    “@type”: “Organization”,
    “url”: “http://www.example.com”,
    “logo”: “http://www.example.com/images/logo.png”
    }

These are a few examples of the importance Google mobile first strategy will have in 2018 . If you haven’t sat down and had a good look at every page on your site on your phone, undertaken a content audit, and explored the structured data options available to you, we recommend you get started as soon as possible, as you’re already behind. Google mobile first strategy 2018 will be more than just a ‘nice to have’ – it’ll be leaving many websites behind in the dust.

MVLA Digital is a Brisbane Online Marketing Agency. We help your business succeed online with Web Design, SEO, Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, & More!

If you have any questions please feel free to comment below, contact us, call us on 07 3891 1575, or learn more about our Brisbane-based online marketing service (we’d be happy to help if you need a hand with Google’s mobile first strategy).