I tend to view new accounts as a new journey I’ll be undertaking – the passengers are my client and my Metric Theory team, the account is the boat we’ll be riding. Any PPC Account Manager probably has a solid routine for their new client onboarding process: review the account, discuss client goals, determine a plan of action, and start optimizing. But wait, there’s one more step: create a benchmark document! Starting an account without a benchmark doc would be like setting sail on a ship without a compass.

At Metric Theory, a benchmark document details performance in an account during the three months prior to us taking on ownership. We look at Bing and Google, and record the data in aggregate and broken down by month.  This document has three main goals:

  • Set context on where the account is starting from
  • Establish any recent trends that might impact initial strategy or priorities
  • Give the client and the Account Manager an objective data set against which to track progress

Having the aggregate 90 days of data helps to set realistic initial goals.   This period gives both us and the client context on where the account is when we start.  Looking at the past three months of data will often raise questions that should be brought up with your client. Looking at the above example, I’d be curious to know why spend dropped so significantly from January to March. I’d also want to know what improvements were made to drive the increase in conversion rate.

If the client’s goal is to increase conversions, are they going to be evaluating us compared to March’s data, or against the three month data in aggregate?  We have seen too many scenarios where the client and agency are both unhappy because these types of questions weren’t clarified at the outset.

Another time period we include in our benchmark document is the previous year’s performance during the time period in which we’re managing the account this year.  Unlike the three month period evaluated above, the year over year (YoY) view gives a picture of any upcoming seasonality that may impact goals. I have a client who sells summer sports equipment – looking at his figures from February to April show a completely different account than what you’d see from May to July.


After analyzing and talking through the data with our new client, we draft our primary and secondary goals. Some accounts are focused on growth and increasing sales, others prioritize decreasing their CPA or increasing ROI. Laying out a clear goals section ensures we are on the same page about what we want to address initially, and what optimizations can be more long-term.


In this example, the client and I agreed that we’d initially focus on decreasing the CPA, and as we started to see noticeable decreases he’d also be interested in increasing our total conversion numbers.  This ensures that we aren’t debating whether 100 conversions at an $18 CPA vs. 110 conversions at a $24 CPA is preferable. 

Although a benchmark document is typically filled out during the first week or two of a client’s contract with Metric Theory, it is by no means a static document. I often find myself revisiting and revising when a client and I decide to update our goals for the account, to note these changes and ensure we’re on the same page.

When it’s time for a client to evaluate our PPC performance, the benchmark document makes it easy to measure our performance against those pre-Metric Theory days. With good navigation, we drive mind-blowing results: 50% reductions in CPA; 30% increases in ROI; 40% increases in total sales.

Benchmark documents are a key organizational piece to being a good account manager. It’s hard to chart where we’re headed if we don’t know where we’re coming from.