With recent Google algorithm updates, it is not that easy to get great rankings. But, fortunately it is possible to get good rankings if you preform right things and it depends on your targeting keywords. To rank high, you need to do various things.
1. On-page optimization has a big impact with long keywords
The degree of on-page optimization will be high, if you are able to target long keywords and with little external competition.
If you want to be listed for the search term “the nashville etymologists club t-shirts” then, it is sufficient to optimize only the web page that is having the search term because there is not much competition for that key phrase.
If you target more of competitive keywords, you should have more backlinks that are of good quality or non-spammy in order to rank high in the search results of Google.
2. On-page optimization is important even for more competitive keywords
To rank high in the Google and other search engines on-page optimization is the main factor, it is the foundation.