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I have a customer who's company has changed names from "CompanyX" to "BusinessY". Their domain is companyx.com, and have registered their new domain, businessy.com, with a CNAME to companyx.com.

Would it be better from an SEO perspective to have it the other way around; have businessy.com as the main domain and companyx.com as a CNAME?

The site is new but the content is almost identical, except that all occurrences of "CompanyX" have been changed to "BusinessY".

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I'm not sure how the CNAME factors into the equation, unless you're using a subdomain and need to direct traffic for that. What you want to consider is where to do the 301 redirect from and to:

This depends on if companyx.com is listed in search engines, and if you want to maintain your search engine results for that. If so, you would want to do a 301 redirect from that domain to the new domain, since your content will reflect the new name and you likely don't want to confuse visitors, as well as to start building recognition for the new company name and domain.

Follow the steps here to aid with this: Google Webmaster Tools: Moving your site

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A 301 redirect requires separate hosting for the two domains I guess? I mean, you can't set a 301 for a domain that just lives as a cname to another? –  Bo. Jun 19 '13 at 15:43
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You can do a 301 redirect from one virtual host to another, providing you have the administrative permission to do so. So that question depends on your web hosting environment. Not sure I understand the circumstances of why you would want to do what you ask in your second question. –  dan Jun 19 '13 at 15:49
    
Aha ok! I was under the impression you had to have "real hosting" to be able to set a 301 redirect. So would there be a difference (SEO wise) which domain 301's to which? –  Bo. Jun 19 '13 at 16:04
    
Sure. See my answer about the last question :-) –  dan Jun 19 '13 at 16:10

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