Do your users or customers find your content useful and meaningful to their goals? If not, your content is likely failing to help them accomplish what they came to your website or application to do. 

It is essential that your organization makes content useful. In fact, we have found this to be so important that Content Science includes Content Usefulness and Content Relevance as two of the six dimensions of content effectiveness we measure with our ContentWRX software. 

ContentWRX evaluates content effectiveness across these six dimensions: discovery / findability, accuracy, usefulness, relevance, polish, and influence. Our research has found that if your customers view your content as both useful and relevant, they will be much more likely to view it as effective. And, our ContentWRX data found that overall effectiveness scores (or what we call ContentWRX scores) were highest when people perceived content as both useful and relevant.

This step-by-step starter guide walks through key ways to get your content usefulness initiative going. 

Step 1: Align Content Creation with Customer Personas and Journeys

Review your customer personas and journeys and ask yourself or your team:

  • Which customer persona or segment is this content for?
  • At what stage or step in their journeys will customers use this content?
  • How can this content answer the questions customers have?
  • How can this content show sensitivity to customer emotions?
  • How can this content help a customer make a decision or complete a task?
  • How can this content help a customer get to the next stage or step in the journey?

Step 2: Specify the Content Audience in the Content Itself

Your customers are busy, so don’t make them waste time guessing who the content is for. Tell them.

For example, Harvard Business Review proudly states it’s the world’s most influential management magazine. TD Ameritrade’s thinkMoney says it’s for “active traders.” This practice applies to a wide range of content, not just digital magazines. Sales content might require a version for business decision-makers and a version for technical experts, stakeholders, or decision-makers. Customer service and support content might require different versions for different roles or levels of expertise. In all those cases, stating who the intended audience is will help your customers know whether the content is pertinent.

Step 3: State the Usefulness in the Content Itself

Similar to specifying the content audience, don’t make customers guess why the content is useful. Say it proudly.

One technique we find helpful is to imagine your customers asking you, “So what?” Provide the

answer immediately in the content.

REI uses this technique in its advice and guidance content. The beginning of an article titled “Bike Suspension Basics” says: 

Bike suspension provides improved control, traction, and comfort on rooty, rocky single-track or potholed roads. It is one of many factors that contribute to your riding enjoyment.

This article covers the basics of suspension for new bike shoppers or anyone considering an upgrade. We then go on to provide a more detailed look at how suspension works.

And, it doesn’t hurt to remind customers of the usefulness if the content is lengthy or requires deep interaction.

Step 4: Check Whether You’re Meeting the Needs of Advanced, Expert, or Specific Customers

If people report that content is not useful in ContentWRX, we ask why. The most common reason? Content is too general or basic. The least common reason? Content is too detailed or advanced. Consider whether you are repeating the same basic, high-level information again and again or tailoring content to the needs of important or high-value customers.

For example, we worked with a credit monitoring company to develop a content strategy for consumers in a post-Equifax data breach world. We discovered that the credit monitoring content ecosystem repeats many basics over and over. We identified many exciting opportunities to better meet the needs of a wide range of consumers with different credit

experiences. If you try to reach everyone with the basics, you risk reaching no one very effectively.

Next Steps 

Follow these steps and suggestions to begin to put together a plan for improving content usefulness. Once you have identified what your organization needs to do to get started with content usefulness, an essential next step is to find out (using a tool such as ContentWRX) how your content is currently performing in terms of usefulness. Understanding where you are will help you determine how fast and how far you have to go to make sure you have useful content. You can also learn more about content usefulness in The Content Advantage or by partnering with Content Science

This article is part of our ongoing series of Starter Guides, developed to help you make improvements across the six dimensions of content effectiveness: Discovery, Accuracy, Polish, Relevance, Usefulness, and Influence.

The Author

Content Science partners with the world’s leading organizations to close the content gap in digital business. We bring together the complete capabilities you need to transform or scale your content approach. Through proprietary data, smart strategy, expert consulting, creative production, and one-of-a-kind products like ContentWRX and Content Science Academy, we turn insight into impact. Don’t simply compete on content. Win.

Last Updated: February 1, 2021

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