In my experience there are three main factors to beconsidered:
1. Keyword competition. The lower the competition, the easier you get #1.
2. Site structure. I've build a mini site with just contains 5 pages (actually just 3 of them have content, since the other two is juts contact page and sitemap), and just by submitting about 5-6 link to social bookmarking and 1 hubs, I can get the First Page, outrank the other bigger site, But nit yet in #1.
3. Backlink. Quality backlink, this is what you need to push it to #1.
If you want my advice, go get the lower competition, and you'll see result soon. There's no use to go after the large competition where the all supersite with lots of staff sitting in first page of google.