When selecting a domain for your new web site, one of the first decisions that you need to make is whether to choose an international domain (one with three or more characters after the last dot) or a country specific one (with two characters after the last dot). There are several factors to take into account in making this decision but the mail one is whether your web site is intended for an international or a local audience.
The decision is easier to make if you live in some countries than it is in others depending on how popular the local top level domain is and what restrictions are placed on its use.
For example, in Australia if you are creating a web site targetting a local audience then a .com.au domain is the most obvious choice provided that you have a registered Australian business. Not only does your using a domain ending in .com.au inspire a lot more confidence in local visitors who know that you have to be a proeperly registered business in order to get such a domain but Australians are inclined to automatically type the .au on the end of domain names anyway. This means that for Australians targetting both an international and a local audience that it is probably worth obtaining both the .com and .com.au domains to use with your site simply in order to not miss out on the local audience.
Much the opposite is the case in the USA where the .us domains are very seldom thought of by people intending to set up a domain for a local audience. Instead, those in the USA tend to get an international .com domain even for sites intended only for a local audience and get themselves loads of bad publicity with those from outside the USA as a result when the site which from its domain name claims to be targetting the whole world only works properly for a small percentage of its audience.
One area where the top level domain you choose is not going to have much effect is with the search engines. The general search engines do not take that part of the domain name into account at all in working out where to display pages in the search results. Where there is a country specific search engine then it will be taken into account either by giving the local domains a slightly higher placement than they get in the international results or by restricting those sites that can be listed to just those from that country. Where you have a popular search engine in your country that does the latter then that is another good reason for getting a country specific domain (in addition to the international one if your site is targetting the world).
The one thing you need to be very careful of is all of those people who claim that a .com domain is always the best choice because it isn't. The people who make that claim have a very limited experience of the web. That statement is mostly true when you are wanting to target an international audience. It may also be mostly true in those countries where the local country specific domain isn't very popular but then you of course need to consider that many people from outside your country will visit your site and will expect that because you have used an international domain that your site should work for them.
There are only three exceptions to the rule that the three to seven character domains are intended for international use but since each of those three has very specific restrictions as to who can use them they are not going to cause you confusion in working out which are international and which are country specific top level domains when you are choosing your domain for your site. The exceptions are .mil .gov and .edu all of which are specific to the USA It is very unlikely that you are a part of one of the groups entitled to use one of those and so treating any of the 3+ character top level domains as being for international use and the two character ones as being for local use is a reasonable first step in deciding on a domain name.
This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.