School of elements
All of your totems belong to a specific school of elements. In total there are four elements: Earth, Water, Air and Fire.
When you place your totems, depending on what school they belong to, they will always land in a specific place relative to your characters position. For example, if you drop an Air totem, it will always be dropped to your characters left back.
This is extremely relevant for totems like Spirit Link Totem, where proper positioning makes a big difference in effectiveness and survivability.
It is important to know to what school your totems belong. Because if you place two of the same school at the same time, one will cancel out the other. For example, if you drop Healing Tide Totem and subsequently Healing Stream Totem, the second will cancel the first (Totemic Persistence is a talent that deals with this).
Overview of all the basic totems
All totems and their possible modifications
And last but not least.. there are a few ways your can modify your generic totem handling.