Hopefully you can use this to your advantage. Majestic SEO came out with a new metric to help site owners diagnose their sites. Obviously you can look at your own metric and see how you measure up but more importantly, you can use this metric to compare your competitors and so far, it seems pretty beneficial. Now that Penguin/Panda has the BH world up in arms to find the next solution, consider the Majestic SEO metrics in helping you move forward. Choose the URL you want to check at MajesticSEO and read the Citation/Trust metric. You may see something like Citation: 35 and Trust: 15. Now compare the top positions in Google's SERP for the keyword you are trying to rank the aforementioned URL. Take a look at their Citation vs. Trust metric. It's probably a closer gap than your site. In your niche the top spots may have a higher number in their Trust metric than they do in their Citation metric. Now take a look at their top back links. Their top back links are probably similar, evenly matched citations/trusts or possibly the trust figures are higher. If you prefer black hat over white hat, you're probably not going to write an email to that particular back link and try to earn a spot on their site. Maybe it's not possible. However, you should be targeting sites similar to the back link in your competitors portfolio for your link building whether you're black hat or white hat. I know a lot of you run private networks or other back linking services. You should probably compare the metrics for those back links before you send them to your site. I don't know the magic formula but some of you experts can probably use this information to advertise your services or develop the key to Penguin so the rest of us can jump aboard.