We have an eCommerce site that has been online since 1996. Our biggest weakness has always been links. Over the last few years our traffic has steadily declined. It has never been a overnight drop off after a Google update. While researching our competitors who get strong traffic, I have found that they all have one thing in common, links in paid directories.
Most of these directories charge 25-300 for a link and they seem to get decent traffic. They have all been around for 7+ plus years.
I guess my question is if sites are paying to get listed in these directories, why are they not penalized? Or are established directories a safe place to pay?
Most of the directories do not use nofollow. The sites are all listed in the proper category for the topic of the site, so if they sell useful widgets they are listed in the useful widget category.