Google has definitely made it much harder to rank naturally via SEO. Not only their algorithms have become much better at detecting unnatural links and SEO tactics, but also the layout of their search results have changed so that there are more components resulting in natural results to go lower. For example, if you type general business category and a city name, you would most likely see a mix of 7 results from Google Local. You may also see other components such as shopping feeds and news that further push down the natural results.
The success for an SEO campaign should not be measured by having #1’s but should be measured on overall visibility and traffic to the website. SEO should be done not only for the website, but also for your social media sites and youtube videos. The more content you can get in the search engines the better your results will be. Sometimes youtube videos or social media content may rank highly for your keywords, which may result in traffic to your site.
If you are a local business, you have to also optimize your Google Local profile and get as many reviews as possible. Local SEO has its own techniques, so make sure to higher someone that knows how to do this or do further research if you are going to do it yourself.