I had a nice, long reply typed up, then my browser froze up and I had to reboot the computer... lost the whole message :'-(
@tangor, I think the problem (at least for me) is a blend of ad blockers and social media.
I try to track how many users I get with ad blockers, and it's near 50%! The concern, though, is that the wide majority of those users have no idea they even have one installed. They got a virus or spyware and took their computer to be repaired, then someone installed an ad blocker to stop the symptom instead of removing the malware. So when they get a message asking them to whitelist my site, they have no clue what I'm talking about.
But that doesn't affect the RPM from Adsense, just the total revenue.
Comparing 8/10/2019 to 8/10/2012 is darn near heartbreaking. I have about 5% more users now than then, but about 14% fewer pageviews (which makes sense, mobile users view fewer pages per session). But the revenue was 44% lower! That implies that fewer people are bidding on the same ads.
And that makes sense, too, in large part thanks to social media. In 2012, everyone put their marketing budget on Google. But now, they split it between Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Worse, where the internet used to be the great equalizer between big business and small business, it's becoming next to impossible for small businesses to compete. How can a free information site compete with a company that started out with $350 million from investors, and gets another $350 million in tax subsidies?
And while I'm having to pay my annual taxes with a credit card, they get away with paying virtually nothing:
This means that information companies like mine are going out of business, which means that they're not advertising. Fewer bidders means that the remaining big companies pay less for the same ad.
How can a small retail company compete with Amazon that gets $2.4 billion
in tax subsidies, plus discounted shipping rates?
And again, while the small retailer pays about 30% of their income on taxes, Amazon pays nothing:
It's just impossible to compete against a company that could not sell a single ad or product, and would still make a multi-million dollar profit. So again, these small retailers are going out of business, which means that they're not advertising, which results in lower bids on the ads.
It's a problem that grows exponentially. Free information sites die away, leaving fewer and fewer options for the existing retailers to use to market their wares. So the retailers die away, leaving fewer bidders on the ads for the remaining free information sites.
As long as the government continues to spend tax money to reward big business we're going to continue to circle the drain, until there's nothing left on the internet but Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Ebay.
Sorry for the rant :-(
@Dimitri, my business actually began with me doing web design! At the time, the average contract was around $2,000 :-) But I officially stopped doing it a few years ago when, thanks in large part to Wordpress, I was competing with developers that could build an attractive site for about $200. Sure, they were losing out on the marketing advice and flexibility that custom programming would give them, but it's hard to argue against a $200 option that, to the naive eye, looks good!
We still offer hosting, but it's tough to compete against GoDaddy's $6 /month plan with a free domain.
So in both cases (web design and hosting) I need to get a high number of clients to make it worthwhile. It would take 1,000 hosting clients to pay the bills... I have 24 right now, so that's a long way to go! LOL
I started another thread a few weeks ago about direct ad sales. They do help a bit, but they've never really been huge for me. That's a whole 'nother story, though.