All off-site SEO basically comes down to is creating backlinks.
Directory listings, local citations, they’re all much the same when it comes to it.
Backlinks help if they’re legitimate – which means someone likes your site and has a proper reason to link to it. Any attempt to manipulate your own link profile goes against Google’s guidelines – and they’re adept at catching people and penalising them for it.
I’ve blogged about this a number of times – you can read some of those if you’d like more information.
My approach to SEO is entirely Google friendly; I very much believe the best approach is to match the search engines’ approach and fulfill their guidelines and recommendations.
This is sort of a catch-22, because while you shouldn’t fake links you do want them. My usual advice is to make use of your real life contacts to get some – ask suppliers or related sites to link to you, that sort of thing.
I should add too when people DO get links without properly asking people they really know for them – they tend to get extremely low quality ones. Too many low quality links hurts rather than helps. For example, every single person I’ve ever seen selling a BBC, Apple or Huffington Post link are actually just creating user profiles on those systems and sticking URLs in the bio section of those profiles.
That’s not really a proper link on the BBC! People think they’re going to get something in a news article, but more often than not they’re on pages Google doesn’t even index. The effect is people buy a back link on a ‘high quality domain’ but don’t get any SEO authority for it at all.
The people selling these links aren’t even doing it manually. There are automated tools they use to create hundreds of links in a few minutes. Google is smarter than this.
Because Google says explicitly that trying to manipulate your own link profile is against their terms there is no such thing as paying for Google safe links. It’s an oxymoron.