To get first place placement for your most important keyword terms, it helps to take advantage of the inconspicuous report card provided by Google which let you know if you've appropriately designed your site's information architecture, internal navigation, and text linking to aid in your SEO success.
Most of us won't get a call from Google tomorrow with an in-depth review of what we're doing right and wrong within the realm of SEO. But you can learn how to comprehend the subtle cues Google feeds your way from time to time.
Analyzing your Sitelinks is a great high-level way to see if you're squared away from the top of your information architecture. Not all sites have Sitelinks, but many do. You can often find this by searching for your brand name or a keyword you have in your domain name -- any term you're sure that you rank first for.
You will either see one of three things under your first place listing.
The first will be three to eight links with link text identical to your main navigation. This is the optimal result as it shows that your text-based main navigation clearly spreads into separate categories on the site.
A third possible Sitelink snapshot you might encounter is no Sitelinks. This happens when a site is so SEO unfriendly that search engines can barely get past the home page.
Additionally, image-based navigation isn't the end of the road. You must ensure that you have keyword-rich, relevant alternative text as we're now seeing this as Sitelink text in SERPs.
Internal Links Listings
Sitelinks have been around for years, about five to be exact. Another important SERP feature that has also been around this long are site's internal links in the SERP listings. The occurrence of this isn't always deemed by branded or domain related searches as well as having a first place listing.
These horizontally placed links located between the SERP listing description and URL are most often a mirrored replication of the anchor text of the text links you possess on your home page. To perform optimally at getting Google to display these, make sure the text links are placed in the first few paragraphs of copy to help increase your internal page CTR.
Also, ensure that the anchor text is identical to the destination pages overall keyword focus. Having placement of internal links in Google SERPs is Google's thumbs up that you have a proper internal linking to keyword strategy.
Hierarchical Category Links
One of the most recent SERP listing features you can use gauge Google's perception of your site are the hierarchical breadcrumb links placed in the URL line of SERP listings. These began to appear half a year ago and, like the internal link placement above, also don't require first place ranking, brand, or domain related searches to appear in SERPs.
Receiving the hierarchical category links are achieved by utilizing a network of breadcrumb navigation across the internal pages of your site. To create an optimal process of breadcrumb linking, make sure you've applied your keyword strategy alongside the information architecture of your site content. Your URL structure should include keyword rich and content relevant category/folder naming conventions and ensure that site content falls into the appropriate categories.
Furthermore, having a breadcrumb navigation in which the category links closely mimic the folder path of the URL helps to indicate to Google how the content of your site flows and that you have taken steps to properly deliver site content to search engines as well as users.
Taking into consideration these Google SERP features will allow you to gain insight as to how Google understands the most important elements of your site from an SEO standpoint.