I think I read and/or played a google video about cname redirects and their effect on rank. The takeaway that I got was that using a cname that redirects to the main site was OK as long as the site content was consistent with the cname.

Has anyone tried this with good result? Did you need to register the cname as another site?

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Either CNAME or A-record is fine but you friend will need access to the dns records of the domain to be able to make any either change.