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PCMAG

Jonathan Strange  blog owns a cell phone repair shop in Montgomery, Alabama, and with the nearest Apple Store about 100 miles away, his establishment has become a convenient place for locals to get a broken iPhone fixed. But lately, his store has been getting a little harder to find online for a reason beyond his control: Google is no longer accepting his ads. “Even though there’s no Apple Store near the customers, we have definitely seen a decrease in traffic to the store,” he said.

Strange isn’t alone. For months now, Google has been cracking down on ads from third-party repair services. The goal is to stop tech support scams from preying on unsuspecting users through Google ads. However, the ad ban is hurting many legitimate repair services, including Strange’s XiRepair shop. “Probably 70 or 80 percent of our customers come from Google. That’s not just us, but all across the repair industry. That’s how much power [Google has] over us,” he said.

Indeed, if you need a cell phone or computer repair, you probably Google it. In a matter of seconds, the company’s search engine or Google Maps can tell you the closest repair services and how they’ve been rated.

These repair services still show up in search results. But originally, businesses could also buy and serve ads on the search results, granting them better online visibility. Matt Ham is among the repair business owners who routinely bought them. “There’s no substitute for Google. The consumer behavior is the same: They break their phone, they Google for iPhone repair near me,” he said.

Ham would know; he owns seven Computer Repair Doctor shops across the US, and also runs a marketing company for 300 different electronic repair shops. “Us alone, we were spending about over $200,000 a month with our (marketing) clients,” he told PCMag. With that money, Ham could buy keywords for when people searched for “iPhone repair,” “computer repair,” and “laptop repair.” An ad for the repair business would then appear in the results.

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