I have been working in the Search Engine Marketing industry for a while in various capacities and have spent the last 4 years working in an agency setting managing multiple Paid Search accounts. During this time I have come to learn that there is a significant amount of waste (muda) that goes into managing these accounts. Waste in Paid Search comes in many forms such as reorganizing campaigns and ad groups, waiting for 3rd party analytics software to work (and work properly), fixing broken or inactive URLs and much, much more.
Waste in this industry, and any industry for that matter, is considered non-value added work that your company or your client is not willing to pay for. At Toyota Taiichi Ohno, one of the founding fathers of the Toyota Way or the Toyota Production System (TPS) which is part of Lean production practices, described the 7 Wastes of Production as ‘all activity that adds cost but not value’. For all intents and purposes, even though Search Engine Marketing may be perceived as a service, the reality is that what goes on behind the scenes is more like a manufacturing operation. We build marketing campaigns from scratch that consist of various components just like manufacturing a product. Search marketers design and build these campaigns in order to serve ads when the end user requires them – very similar to the pull system used in lean manufacturing.
This comparison might seem way off base for anyone not familiar with lean or new to Paid Search so let’s get to the subject of this article and talk about the 7 Wastes of Production and how they relate to the life of Paid Search Marketer.
The following definitions of the 7 Wastes of Production are defined as:
Waste #1 – Overproduction: Producing more than the customer needs right now. This can be related to things like duplicate keywords across multiple ad groups, too many ad creatives that make testing irrelevant or bidding on the same keyword with multiple match types at the same MAX CPC.
Waste #2 – Waiting: Idle time created when material, information, people, or equipment is not ready. This one is my favorite because to me it’s the biggest contributor to waste. In this case idle time spent while waiting for 3rd party analytics tools to load or refresh and do so properly is #1 on my list. Other contributors to waiting are things like waiting for days until your agency rep calls you back, waiting for your client to make decisions or implement ideas and waiting for colleagues to review client deliverables. Google AdWords has taken notice of the waste of waiting and will dock you Quality Score points for slow landing page load time.
Waste #3 – Inventory: More materials, parts, or products on hand than the customer needs right now. This is similar the ‘too much too soon’ or ‘big bang effect’ of building out a new Paid Search account with more campaigns and stuffing the ad groups with 1,000’s of keywords – much more than necessary. Work in progress is related to the waste of inventory as well. Another form of inventory related waste as it relates to fair competition is the double and triple serving of ads that some companies and agencies get away with.
Waste #4 – Motion: Movement of people that does not add value. Okay so we are not moving people, but in ‘service’ related industries, the waste of motion includes things like searching your desktop or file folders for that excel file you used two months ago. Using multiple tabs in a web browser or having to take multiple steps in UI to make one small change is waste of motion. Moving keywords into more targeted ad groups because they we not relevant to one another can also be viewed as a waste of motion.
Waste #5 – Defects: Work that contains errors, rework, and mistakes or lacks something necessary. This is another big one. Inheriting a Paid Search account from another agency or in-house operation almost always requires rework. Reorganization of campaigns in a way that is logical so that is both cost efficient and effective toward growth can take months depending on the size of the account. Other Paid Search defects include broken destination URLs, landing page offers that do not match the ad creative, ad creatives that do not match search queries and keywords that are simply too broad to be effectively targeted. Low CTR is usually an example of a defective text ad.
Waste #6 – Over Processing: Effort that adds no value from the customer’s viewpoint. Over processing can almost always be attributed to extra steps added to manual work. Building Paid Search campaigns with multiple ad groups and keywords is a very manual process and so is most reporting on the success of those efforts. In some cases there are automated ways to improve the waste of over processing.
Another example of over processing in Paid Search or any similar marketing channel happens when client or user requirements or expectations are not fully understood. Building PPC campaigns or software tools that do not take the client requirements into consideration (voice-of-the-customer) before producing the end product can be viewed as a form of waste.
Waste #7 – Transportation: Movement of product that does not add value. This one is a little tricky for Paid Search. One example here would be trying to replicate an existing Google AdWords account into another platform. Because of editorial differences between the two platforms there can be a significant amount of waste in moving one campaign structure to another.
Besides being knowledgeable about the latest trends in Paid Search marketing, a good Paid Search manager will also be knowledgeable in waste reduction techniques. Hopefully this article sheds some light on the shop-floor production to cube-wall production similarities and sheds the types of waste to be aware of when taking on the responsibilities of a Paid Search manager.