Should Your Insurance Agency Advertise with the Yellow Pages?

1stMar. × ’13

If the yellow pages* sales person hasn’t made her rounds to your insurance agency yet, she will.  You probably aren’t budgeting as much for yellow page advertising as you were five or ten years ago, but if you are like most insurance agents, you are likely still spending a good chunk of change each month for some yellow page print and internet advertising.

By now we are all aware of the declining use of print in all its forms, whether newspapers or paper directories like the yellow pages.*  Well over a third of the U.S. populations either do not use or do not own a landline phone, and that proportion is growing.  Distribution and use of the print yellow pages has been in steep decline for years now, though some people still use it.

Those who have moved on from the paper yellow pages have taken their quest for products and services to the internet, where they can search for insurance information and providers using Google, Bing or a private directory like the yellow pages.  It is important to keep in mind that online yellow page directories function essentially like search engines with a narrower purpose:  they help you find only information about local product and service providers.  Search engines like Google will provide information related to searches for just about anything, including insurance.  And most of the time, insurance related searches in Google will produce local results, much like the results produced in yellow page search directories.

So, if most people are predisposed to Google to answer their questions and find information, why would they switch to a yellow page internet search to find out about local insurance options?  That is a hard question to answer, but fortunately, it isn’t the most important question.  A better question, and one that can be answered, is who uses yellow page directories and do their demographics match your insurance agency’s target market?

Back in 2011, eMarketer published a survey with demographic data regarding who used search engines like Google vs. who were more likely to use a yellow page internet directory.  I have excerpted a little bit of that data here:


Age 25 – 34 

More likely to use search engine – 51%, More likely to use internet yellow pages – 25%

Age 65+ 

More likely to use search engine – 15%, More likely to use internet yellow pages – 39% 


High School Education or Less  

More likely to use search engine – 19%, More likely to use internet yellow pages – 36%  

Note:  these percentages don’t tally to 100% because survey respondents also used other sources like newspaper circulars and social  media.

The survey also established that rural residents and those with incomes under $40,000 are more likely to use online internet yellow pages.  The survey was published in 2011 but the data is from 2010, so it is reasonable to assume that the percentages of yellow page users are actually smaller in 2013.  Still, a small percentage of a big number can still be a big pool of potential leads.  But are they the right leads for your insurance agency?  Only you can answer that – the data is there.

What About All the Phone Calls?

A yellow page sales person will have some analytic data for you to review, including how often your agency showed up at the top of their directory, what kind of searches were performed within the yellow page directory, and how many times yellow page directory users clicked-through to your insurance agency website.  As to the last piece of data, the number can also be gleaned from your website analytics by reviewing ‘referrer sources’.  I can tell you that the number will be very small, most of the time in the low single digits in any given month.  But consumers who take action after viewing a local search result, and this is true whether Google or a yellow page directory search is used, are far more likely to place a phone call than pursue fulfillment online.

Often, yellow page sales people will suggest using a special tracking phone number so you can tell when a call was generated from your yellow page ad.  And when it comes to to renew your advertising with them they may produce a report showing that you received hundreds of calls through this tracking number in the prior year.  But are all these calls leads?

Consumers do not necessarily discriminate about the specific kind of information they are looking for when searching online.  That is, they do not necessarily use search engines for one kind of insurance search, like ‘what is my insurance agent’s phone number?’,  and yellow page directories for another kind of search, like ‘car insurance Asheville, NC’.  And people do use the internet the same way we used to use phone books – to find phone numbers.

If your book of business is a little on the aged side, a large proportion of your insurance agency clients will tend to use the yellow page internet directory when they need your phone number (see the statistics above).  And when they do, the analytic reports provided by your yellow page sales person will be peppered with calls, not only from legitimate leads, but from current clients.  I have talked to three different insurance agents in the past few months who discovered  that the ‘hundreds of phone calls’ generated by their yellow page ad turned out to be only a few dozen leads.  This is something you will have to sort through for yourself, but just know that the top level number of phone calls can be misleading.

So, What is the Right Answer?  Advertise or Not?

For some agents, the answer will be no, or if not no, then the right thing to do might be to cut back on yellow page spending.  For others, the yellow pages might be just the place to be.  The data is there, and I hope I have presented it with enough clarity that making a decision is easy, even though I haven’t given you the answer directly.





*I”m using the term ‘Yellow Pages’ generically.  There are many directory providers using the same model.

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