I’VE BEEN WORKING in the Search Engine Marketing industry for a while in various capacities and have spent the last 3 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 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 of broken URLs and the list goes on.
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, lean management system and the Toyota Production System, 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 Paid Search marketing campaigns, some times 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 and at Toyota.
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 straight from the Gemba – literally…
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 bid.
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 and waiting for colleagues to review client deliverables. Recently Google AdWords has taken notice of the waste of waiting and will now dock you Quailty Score points for destination 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. Throwing nerf-darts at your co-works is a HUGE waste of motion, but a hell of a lot of fun.
Waste #5 – Defects – Work that contains errors, rework, mistakes or lacks something necessary. This is another big one. Inheriting a Paid Search account from another agency or in-house operation 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.
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 these efforts. There are automated (see Pay-Per-Click Autonomation) ways to improve the waste of over processing.
Another example of over processing in Paid Search or any similar marketing channel is not fully understanding client/user requirements or expectations. For example if a 3rd party analytics tool can have all the bells and whistles and even tell you the color shirt a user was wearing when a purchase was made but cannot make the simple export function work properly, the analytics development team produced more than was required by the Paid Search Marketer.
Waste #7 – Transportation – Movement of product that does not add value. This one is a little tricky for Paid Search. One example would be trying to build out a Yahoo Search Marketing account from scratch by trying to import the existing Google AdWords account. Because of editorial differences between the two platforms there can be a significant amount of waste in moving one campaign structure to another.
Hopefully this clarifies the similarities of shop-floor production to cube-wall production and sheds some light on the types of waste to be aware of when taking on the responsibilities of a Paid Search Marketer.
Caution: the 7 Wastes are only a small part of Real Lean.