Used to be that SEO was all about quantity. The quantity of preferred keywords sprinkled throughout your website. The quantity of blog posts providing continual bursts of updates to sate Google’s appetite for fresh information. The quantity of in-bound links to a website, irrespective of whether the links came via recommendation from another blogger, or were purchased for a fee.

But as we move into 2011 and beyond, quality rather than quantity will determine search engine rankings, according to trend predictions by Elance and Search Engine Watch. As these sources explain, last May, Google modified its search engine algorithm to increase the quality of results generated in response to searches.

So, how does an algorithm determine site quality? Through the nature of the content, for one. That’s precisely why Elance is predicting that “businesses wont’ be hiring content creators for quantity anymore – it’s all about quality in 2011.” A second determinant of quality is the level of social media buzz – the number of times that a website or blog post is mentioned on sites like Facebook or Twitter. That’s why, irrespective of the fact that just 8 percent of Americans use Twitter, lawyers should not discount Twitter in their marketing portfolio because tweets and re-tweets of website or blog content can improve SEO.

The move towards SEO based on quality content is a positive trend for several reasons. First, lawyers intimidated by blogging because of the time commitment involved in producing several posts a week (the amount once viewed as optimal for traction) can now focus their efforts on writing higher quality posts, but less frequently. Second, focusing on the quality of site content ensures that once prospective clients find your site, they’ll spend time reviewing your materials which in turn increases the chances that they’ll hire you.

So how do you write quality content? Select topics that are important to prospective clients – such as, simply answering the types of questions that folks ask about when they call your firm. Don’t be afraid to tackle controversial subjects as well. For example, let’s say that you routinely advise clients to adopt a certain type of corporate structure, even though your competitors recommend another. By explaining your position head on, and critiquing (in a respectful manner, of course) your competitors’ practices. you’ll generate plenty of discussion and links back to your post.

By contrast, don’t just throw up a link to an article with a lame “see this” or “me too” tossed in. Don’t post about recent accidents and put the victims’ names in the blog post heading without any further content. And don’t simply copy a newspaper article into your post – that’s a copyright violation, plus, Google isn’t crazy about duplicate content.

Posting quality content is just one piece of SEO; you’ve also got to make sure that it’s disseminated. Taking the time to send other bloggers links to a post that might interest them is a nice touch because it helps other bloggers in search of content – but it’s also a time intensive endeavor. If you don’t have time to routinely alert bloggers to your new posts, make it easy for readers to share them by installing one of these sharing widgets on your site.