Sometimes struggle to find new topics for your content marketing, that are just perfect for your audience? We’ve all been there. Let me explain how I found a way to get a nice long list of fresh topics, and really quickly.

So, you’ve read all the guides, and you follow all the steps, such as the ones in the epic article How to Create Truly Bad-Ass Content by Sujan Patel. You have a clear understanding of who your target audiences are, and you are in a good rhythm with producing tasty long-form blog posts. Even better, they are starting to gain traction with readers, and traffic is on the way up.

Then, suddenly, you start grasping at straws for new content ideas (and just re-writing other competitors ideas doesn’t seem to sit well with you). What do you do?

This is a situation I was in a while back; I had written about our target topics so well, and at such length, that I felt like we were going to start covering old ground again.

I’m going to share an idea I had, one of those 4.30am ideas when your content marketing topics are starting to keep you up (well, they do with me!). I’ve dubbed it the TOC method, and you’ll quickly get why.

The TOC Hack in Ten Steps

Step one. Start a fresh document.

Step two. Go visit the best selling books section on Amazon.com. If you are anything like me, you may want to put your credit card out of reach, so you aren’t tempted to buy them all.

Step three. Think about the type of book your blog posts may appear in, or at least the books that your audience would like to read. For this example, I’ll use the 6Q blog, where one of our main categories is corporate culture.

To find related books, I will navigate from their best seller page, through Business & Money, to Business Culture and finally, I arrive at the bestselling list for Workplace Culture.

Amazon bestselling books

Amazon bestselling books

Step four. Feel smug that you know how to use a web browser. Seriously though, these best selling lists on Amazon are an absolute goldmine for any content marketer struggling to find new content ideas. These give you a real-time updated list of the best selling books that cover your topic, from one of the world’s biggest book retailers. That’s insanely powerful.

Step five. Visit the most appropriate highest selling book in your category (at time of writing, this is Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t for our example).

Step six. Click the ‘Read Inside’ link on the book page. It’s just above the cover image on the left hand side of the book page.

Step seven. Here’s the big reveal; go to the Table of Contents link on the left hand side (Yup, that’s where the TOC comes from). Not all the book previews have them, but many in my experience do.

Table of Contents from Amazon book preview

Table of Contents from Amazon book preview

Step eight. Look for interesting chapter titles, and write them down in that fresh document from step one. You don’t need to copy them word-for-word (for example, the image above shows a chapter called ‘Employees are people too’; I’ll just do point the phrase ‘Treat employees like people’. We don’t want to steal their words, just get inspiration from their chapter titles.

Step Nine. Do this for the next book, the next one and maybe a few more after that. Heck, you may end up going through a dozen or more if you are keen.

Review the list of topics you have listed. You are likely to notice a common theme of subject areas, just in the chapter titles. For example, in the book above, you’ll see that Simon Sinek covers the importance of a sense of belonging for employees. This is a commonly written about topic in similar books I have read.

Short list of new topic ideas

Short list of new topic ideas

Rank these dot point topic ideas you now have by how often they appear in the books you’ve had a quick peek at. The more they appear, the likely the topic is a very important one.

Step ten. Now go check your list of previously covered subjects on your own blog (you have one, right? You aren’t relying purely on memory, are you?); have you covered all of these topics? Unless you’ve been writing articles for years, it’s likely you haven’t, so now you have a list of fresh topic ideas for you to cover in your blog. Awesome!

Bonus step. To get even more topic ideas, go back through these book pages, and read some of the negative reviews. Look for any complaints that a particular book is missing a certain topic. That’s another topic suggestion to add to your arsenal.

For example, a less-than-positive review for another best-selling book in the Workplace Culture category states “I’m interested in knowing how altruists (those who give anonymously) do in life. The book does not have any discussion of altruism or any testable hypothesis that I could see.” Perhaps an article about altruism and the effect it has, should become a topic to add to my ‘potential subjects’ list.

There you have it. That’s it; a fairly simple way to come up with a list of potential new topics for your content marketing. I hope you found this useful, and best of luck coming up with new topic ideas!

Important: I am certainly not suggesting that you should, in any way, plagurise other people’s very hard work (remember, I once wrote a book too; I’m very sympathetic of authors now!), but rather to spark those topic ideas to help you fill in the gaps.

Find this method useful? I’d appreciate hearing how you went finding new topics for your content marketing; feel free to comment below.

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