The real measure of content marketing success

You’re engaged? Congratulations!

Of course, being ‘engaged’ in the context of content marketing means something rather different – but it’s worth considering the wider meaning of the word.

This blog will argue that building an engaged audience is the real measure of success for your content marketing. Metrics such as pageviews, leads, and even ROI, cannot communicate the whole picture.

What content marketing is, and isn’t

All professionals will have trusted sources of information that they turn to again and again. And some of these sources are from companies that understand they can create deeper relationships by consistently providing content that is useful, informative, and compelling to the audience:

"Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action." Content Marketing Institute.

Note that word ultimately. Content marketing isn’t usually designed to tip audiences straight into the top of the sales funnel or into the arms of a rep. It’s a savvier, steadier approach that plays the long game:

“Content marketing is a long-term, always-on marketing practice through which brands can attract and retain customers over time. At its core is the consistent production and distribution of quality, relevant, useful and helpful non-brand-centric content that establishes and nurtures a relationship between brand and customer. Through the practice of content marketing, brands can build new audiences that they can then monetise, and increase their reach, reputation and results.” Aiden Neville, Head of Marketing at Xap Technologies

It’s also crucial to understand what content marketing isn’t. Content marketing is not the same as content used for marketing. Referring to web copy, brochure copywriting, SEO efforts, or social media content as ‘content marketing’ undermines the art of content marketing.

Measuring content success

Content-led brands and marketing teams fundamentally understand that an engaged audience is a long-term asset. One that will help achieve sustainable growth. Andrew Davis, Marketing thought leader, calls an audience a “pre-customer database.”

The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute’s 95:5 law states that 95% of B2B customers are not in the market for your services right now and possibly won’t be for months or even years. You need your content marketing to build brand memories with that 95%, so your brand is easily recalled when they are ready to buy.

Marketing professionals reading this will be familiar with content marketing from the company Hubspot. The recent Hubspot article on writing the perfect LinkedIn bio is just one of many thousands on their blog. When you find that great new marketing job and have to implement a new CRM system, Hubspot will come to mind!

Example of scientific content marketing

General Electric (GE), which operates in the areas of aerospace, healthcare, and energy, among others, is one brand that has leveraged content marketing to build a loyal audience. Their web-based magazine is updated with daily content, and they issue a weekly newsletter with over 100,000 subscribers.

Tomas Kellner, editor-in-chief at GE, explains why content marketing is so important for GE: “Brand journalism is really a transaction where the reader or viewer is paying us with their time, and we are rewarding them for the time spent with a piece of information they can use in their lives.” (Multinational Conglomerate GE Goes All In On Content Marketing)
Example of scientific content marketing

Tech company IBM creates relationship-building content for technology buyers. Former content strategist Andrea Ames exclaimed “when you realize that content has a bigger relationship-building potential than talking to a (sales)person, that’s huge. Your content is your sales opportunity. Not only that, but these people who are reading your content aren’t researching just for themselves. They curate it. They share it with executives, who send it out to their evaluation teams. Your readers are influencers.”

Beware of vanity metrics

Vanity metrics in marketing often focus on quantity rather than quality and do not provide meaningful insights or contribute to the overall business goals. Common examples of vanity metrics for content marketing include pageviews and sessions.

Having lots of people view your content might seem impressive but it isn’t very useful if those visitors aren’t the right audience for your brand or don’t actually engage with your content.

However, some vanity metrics can be combined with other metrics to provide more powerful insights. For instance, combining pageviews and geographic location allows you to see how different parts of the world engage with your content. You might even discover you have an untapped market. And combining pageviews and traffic source gives you a better idea of what content to promote on which channels.

Beware of ROI

Measuring the ROI from content marketing is notoriously difficult because the journey from content to revenue is rarely straight, or quick.

Prospects who interact with your content will not always go directly to a sale, but take tiny steps toward an eventual purchase each time they view your content. Certainly for a large, complex purchase involving multiple stakeholders in the scientific sector, the journey from content to product acquisition can be very long indeed.

HubSpot estimates 47% of buyers view three to five pieces of content before making an inquiry with a sales rep, while according to Forrester, a consumer engages with 11.4 pieces of content prior to making a purchase. As a result, measuring the ROI from a single piece of content is only ever going to be the tip of the iceberg.

And this is without taking into account the inherent issues with measuring ROI – namely that the easiest way to grow your ROI is to simply spend less. Music to the ears of your CFO perhaps but not a sound methodology for marketing planning.

ROI is the net profit from your marketing activity, divided by the total cost.
ROI = (Profit – costs) / total costs

(To explore the ROI debate for yourself, see Tom Roach’s Marketing’s most marmite metric).

Content marketing with Springer Nature

If you’re interested in expanding your content marketing to new and influential scientific audiences, have you considered our Branded Content service?

We help life sciences and health sciences organizations create captivating content and enable them to tap into our extensive audiences of researchers and healthcare professionals (totaling over 43 million every month!).

Our award-winning team of writers and editors work with you to create a compelling narrative about your research. Your article is hosted on our websites, such as, and promoted by our marketing team to our influential audiences, within your specific field.

You receive a reporting dashboard for your Branded Content, packed with meaningful engagement metrics – strong indicators of how much your audience like your content and want to see more of it. Your engagement metrics include:

  • Completion rate – the percentage of readers that read to the bottom
  • Average read percentage – how much of your article is read by users on each visit
  • Scroll depth – how far readers scrolled through your article
  • Average time on page
  • Social media engagement rate, reactions, comments, and shares

Plus, you’ll see metrics to understand who your audience is and how they engage with your content:

  • Geography
  • Traffic channels
  • Device
  • Audience demographics

For even greater audience-building, and leveraging of Springer Nature’s vast scientific audience, we offer the option to serialize your branded content with a series of multiple articles. And you can add video for attention-grabbing visual messaging, and webinars to engage directly with your audience in real-time!


So, why is it that we get engaged before we get married? Because engagement is the precursor to a long, committed relationship – in life, and in content marketing.


See all posts