Some possible reasons why it may be harder to get to the top of Google's SERPs page now than ten years ago:
-- There were a lot fewer Wikipedia pages in the rankings then.
-- There weren't any Youtube videos in the rankings then.
__ There wern't any paid ads above the organic results then.
-- Google's algo didn't give as big a boost to "brand names" then.
-- For many terms, there weren't as many competing websites then.
-- SEO techniques weren't as widely used then.