With modern smartphones consisting mainly of glass and metal, accidental drops can easily lead to shattered screens and most people affected then use Google to search for repair options. The problem is, ever since the Wall Street Journal uncovered a bunch of fraudulent advertisements back in August 2018, Google has blocked numerous ads for third-party hardware repairs. These service providers then see reduced revenue as consumers are inadvertently pushed towards expensive first-party repairs instead. According to a new report by Engadget, they are understandably pretty peeved.
Since the majority of searchers click the first result in Google, that top spot right below the search bar is naturally very lucrative. That's also the reason why ad frauds work so well – as long as the linked result looks similar enough to the desired website, a certain number of people are likely to give their credentials to bad actors. Thus, it makes sense to restrict advertisements for tech support potentially involving private or financial data, such as account recovery, virus removal, or software installation. Repair shops have found themselves caught in the crossfire.
Although Google never stated that it would restrict ads for physical repairs, firms suddenly couldn't advertise their services anymore without any heads-up from the search company. iFixit's Kevin Purdy told Engadget: "It's easy to mistake willful ignorance for malice, and in this case, frustratingly, it's that Google is just deaf to the complaints of repair shops." Purdy thinks that Google may have overreached with the decision to remove ads for hardware shops, and may not have thought through the implications of the ban. iFixit and other firms depend on the traffic they generate through Google, and they are already feeling the consequences. Phone Ninja's Bradley Penniment says "repairs are 95 percent of our revenue." He thinks that due to the ad crackdown, his company lost about a fifth of its revenues compared to the prior year.
Advertising on other platforms is no solution: "There is no alternative to Google," another shop owner says. Most people only care about phone repairs once they actively have to seek them out, not while they surf social media or news articles. Many repair shops are still hoping for Google's verification program, allowing legitimate businesses to continue running ads. The search company promised to roll it out "in the coming months" after the WSJ's report, although almost a year has passed by now since the article was published.
The blocked advertisements also stand in contradiction to Google's already vague environmental pledge from a few days ago. The company promises to make its shipments carbon-neutral by 2020 and use recycled materials across all of its Made-by-Google products by 2022. However, reuse should always come before recycle, so hopefully, the company will decide to give third-party repairs more exposure again. I personally remember using an online repair shop to fix my Nexus 4's screen back in 2013, breathing another year of life into it thanks to the relatively inexpensive display replacement.