Content creation is extremely time consuming. It can be a lot of fun to write guest posts and create linkable assets, but in order for your SEO to be successful it needs to be scalable. Spending two hours milling over possible content ideas is not an efficient use of time.
When it comes to creating content, you need to hit the ground running - not spin your wheels. By harvesting data from niche specific social bookmarking sites you can build up a library of content ideas that you can easily send off to a writing team. During Link Love Boston, Ross Huddgens shared his strategy for using Hacker News to come up with content ideas - I was floored by this tactic.
Without a doubt, Ross' strategy is top notch, but it wasn't right for me. Hacker News is insanely dense and it isn't broken down into categories. As an agency, we don't have the time to go digging through this website for content ideas, So we have taken to using a site that has more digestible information:
Reddit is one of the most popular sites on the internet. If you aren't familiar, submissions get posted to a category specifc "subreddit," users then vote up or down on the submissions and if they receive enough upvotes the post can reach the home page. A few subreddits dominate Reddit, but when you start digging you can find some very active and interesting subreddits that are at least tangentially related to your industry. This is content gold. Reddit is a link builder's library of content ideas that are industry/keyword specific from passionate people that are very engaged.
Perfect for content that requires background knowledge
Say you have a web design client and you are looking to guest post for them. The only issue: you don't know anything about web design. r/WebDesign, r/Coding and r/Wordpress are good places to start. Instead of going for content that has the most upvotes, look at what has the most comments. Posts like "best tool to search through code for keywords" are ideal. This thread can easily be turned into a "round up" featuring the tools that Reddit users posted in the comments. You don't even need to know how to use these tools, members of these passionate online communities will weigh in with their opinions and provide you with the specifics. However, fact checking is highly recommend.
That's Great, But I Don't Have Time To Surf Reddit!
One of the reasons we love Reddit for data harvesting is that each subreddit has a unique RSS feed. You can use RSS-Everywhere (Thanks to Wil Reynolds for turning me onto this Chrome Extension) to easily snag the RSS feeds of each subreddit you want to track and import them into directly into a Google Reader.
The best part about this process is that it's scalable. You can easily train your link building and content creation team to follow this process. So stop wasting your time wondering what will interest readers and start harvesting the content that you know already does!