Even if you assume there is zero Google risk with paid links, in my view they are still a poor option. Once you start paying for links, you can never stop, Most paid link deals are $x per month per link. If you average $10 per link per month (good luck getting good links for that price), and get 10 links. That's $1200 annually, $6000 over 5 years. If instead you spent a $1200 on great link bait content/tools/etc, my bet is you could get more than 10 good links from it and those links last forever (and have zero paid link risk). I don't see how paid links are sustainable long term, your monthly link bill just gets larger and larger. Add to that the fact that you are not getting stronger and smarter about creating link bait, and buying links just seems like a short term short cut solution. Last thought: If you go to sell your site to any sophisticated buyer, you are likely to get a lower valuation if the site comes with a monthly debt of $x thousand dollars for paid links to keep the site going. Personally I would not acquire a site (for any premium) if it meant inheriting a substantial paid link portfolio.