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Marketing a vacation home on the Internet can be daunting. It’s a maze out there on the World Wide Web with a confounding number of prices and features. Here is the lowdown on the most popular sites for marketing vacation homes for rent by owners nationwide.

Local Tourism and Chamber of Commerce Sites

Type in the names of cities and towns where the vacation rental is located. Usually the local tourism organization or the Chamber of Commerce (sometimes the same agency), appear first in the search engines. Potential renters most often research upcoming trips using terms based on the locale. In many markets it is worth the fee to register with these agencies. They typically have tremendous perks unavailable to outsiders, such as the opportunity to provide quotes for group travelers or business travelers staying for an extended amount of time. They do not provide the level of information that the following sites make available to users but allow links to personal sites.

The following websites receive the most visitors, according to Google Trends. They appear in order of traffic.

The VRBO home page
VRBO.com

Better known as Vacation Rentals by Owner, VRBO.com is a subsidiary of HomeAway, Inc that maintains its own database of listings. The homepage design is a basic listing of hotlinks to each state and a clickable map of the U.S. Registered owners have the option of enrolling in iTravex, a company that helps vacation homeowners trade stays with other owners based on a point system.

The lowdown:

  • Listed second on Google for search term "vacation rentals" and third for “vacation rental”
  • Pay $229 per year per listing; 25 percent discount for 10 or more listings
  • Post up to five photos; additional photos cost $24 each
  • No links to other sites
  • Lacks in visual appeal, but has a significant amount of listings; provides listings for entire state making it cumbersome for travelers to navigate

The HomeAway home page
HomeAway.com, CyberRentals.com, GreatRentals.com and A1Vacations.com

HomeAway, Inc and its three nearly identical sister sites are dominant contenders in the marketplace. With strict policies for complaints (three strikes and the property is out; sometimes one serious complaint can be cause for termination of a listing), travelers hold their listings in high regard. The four sites have similar appearances that feature an attractive home page with a top-notch search function. Delivers quality monthly newsletter to registered travelers’ e-mail addresses.

The lowdown:

  • Listed second for search term “vacation rental”
  • Pay $299 per year per property listing (posted on four sites listed above)
  • Post up to 12 photos
  • No links allowed
  • Visually appealing and intuitive navigation for travelers and owners

The VacationRentals home page
VacationRentals.com

With its plain, out-of-date look, this site is a sneaky competitor that reaches a wide audience. VacationRentals.com is a subsidiary of another listing site, HomeAway.com, yet maintains its own database of listings. A free 30-day trial is available to owners.

The lowdown:

  • Listed first on Google for search terms “vacation rentals” and "vacation rental"
  • Pay $174 per year per property listing; multi-listing and multi-year discounts
  • Post up to eight photos
  • No links to other sites
  • Clean layout and simple search function makes it easy to use for travelers

Other notable sites with great features and prices include:

The RentalsNow home page
VacationRealty.com, RentalsNow.com, MyVacationRentals.com and VacationByRental.com

An easy-to-use site that features the search function and a map of the U.S., making it traveler friendly. These four sites look and function like the HomeAway sister sites, but with a perk for owners. When owners choose to pay for listings on all four sites, they are able to customize listing pages with themes (cabin, beach, etc.). There is a 30-day free trial available for owners.

The lowdown:

  • Listed fifth on Google for search term “vacation rental”
  • Pay $200 for one listing on all four sites; discounts on six or more properties
  • Post up to 12 photos
  • Allow one personal link
  • Great search function with excellent display of listings

The VacationRentalDirect home page
VacationRentalDirect.com

Updated looks and user-friendly features make this site an exceptional bargain. There are many features, including widgets to use for advertisements on MySpace and Facebook, and they plan to roll out more marketing tools in the near future. Join soon to receive the low price and free features. Another valuable resource is the section dedicated to fraud reports, available to all site visitors.

  • Listed sixth on Google for search terms "vacation rentals" and “vacation rental”
  • Pay $50 per year per listing
  • Post unlimited images 
  • Allow one personal link
  • Modern looks and sleek design

While the HomeAway, Inc sites are the recognized leaders in the industry, these sites are not always the best value. Photos are great marketing tools and coveted features, as are links to property websites. Sign up for the newsletters to decide if the website’s marketing to travelers meets expectations and is worth the value of the listing fee.