While free directory listings typically don’t carry much link value, many of them do offer ways for you to optimize your ranking within them. Higher rankings usually means more visitors and less hops from the home page; theoretically equaling more link-juice, 99% of the time.
Unfortunately, most link-building companies still tout quantity of links being more important than quality of link source i.e., linking page. In my opinion, this is because it is a lot easier to convince a client that you have been hard at work building links for them when you can show hundreds of low-quality links attained, rather than just 5 high-quality ones. I mean lets face it, the client usually can’t tell the difference. To them 500 looks better than 5. Link profiles are instantaneous, and provide instant gratification; whereas ranking increases and proof of ROI take time.
Many of the websites I have worked on link-building for have thousands of less links than their competitors, and yet still rank higher.
So when you’re building links be sure to always make the most out of the links you acquire, free or not. Be sure to check for ways to optimize your rankings and increase your position on the website’s categories and lists. When your listing shows up on the first page of category “SEO” on site X for example, the weight of that link pointing back to your website will likely be a lot greater than showing up on page 54 of site X for “SEO”.
Not only for link-building, but improving your listing also helps maintain higher quality web directories.