Every year I see the same old “is SEO dead” question posted somewhere. It gets quite predictable what the answer is going to be, but this year, AI tools like ChatGPT have thrown a big monkey wrench into people’s perceptions of SEO.
Is SEO really dead and over with as certain experts would have the public to believe or is it taking on a whole new life of its own? To demonstrate my points best, the lovable Porky Pig is going to be my metaphor to describe what I’m getting at. I’d figured it would be a more fun take on this question than the usual dreary content I see around this topic, with my own insights at the end for good measure.
Porky Pig: Warner Bros’s and Leon Schlesinger’s Biggest Breakout Star in the 1930s
Porky Pig goes way back decades ago when giants like Tex Avery were getting their footing at Leon Schlesinger’s, affectionately named Termite Terrace for the cramped space and less than par conditions. These legendary artists worked their hands to the bone to create some of the most iconic bits of media ever.
Back then, these cartoons were showcased as short subjects at movie theaters. People would watch these cartoons along with newsreels and trailers of upcoming movies and attractions. It was a different time for cinema, especially given how it was in the middle of The Great Depression when people really started to spend more time at the movies to take their minds off of what was going on.
Porky’s Debut Cartoon and What a Hit It Was!
Porky himself made his debut in the short “I Haven’t Got a Hat” in 1935, directed by Isadore “Friz” Freleng, who would become one of the studio’s most prolific directors, also responsible for many classics you might remember, like the series of Speedy Gonzales cartoons or Sylvester and Tweety to name a few, as well as The Pink Panther later on when he formed DePatie Freleng Enterprises with partner David H. DePatie.
In this short, Porky was a large fella with a light green shirt who wouldn’t stop stuttering when he spoke. He was voiced by Joe Dougherty in this first outing and would reprise the role several more times until 1937.
Joe was let go because they were wasting so much audio tape due to Joe’s stuttering. Mel Blanc came into replace him and would voice the character for the rest of his life. He took on a whole new role in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies canon and became a big star, who was largely portrayed as a kid, but sometimes as an adult too.
People ate up Porky and for a while, he was the very first thing you thought of when Warner Bros. came up in discussion. He really helped launch the studio to fame much as Mickey Mouse did for Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks or Popeye the Sailor and Betty Boop for Fleischer Studios. As Leon Schlesinger himself said in the classic “You Ought To Be In Pictures:”
“He will be back!”
How Porky Pig Gave Rise to the Other Looney Tunes Stars
Without Porky, you wouldn’t have had the runway cleared for other big Looney Tunes stars to make their debuts like the ever popular Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn, Miss Prissy, Granny, and countless other great, iconic characters that have shaped much of our pop culture today.
But what you had happen was that Porky was slowly relegated to more of a secondary character rather than the star of his own cartoons, usually partnered up with Daffy in later shorts.
Two of the best ones with this pairing were “Porky Pig’s Feat” directed by Frank Tashlin and then the famous “Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½ Century”, a Chuck Jones classic and one of the all time greats in my opinion. Go check both of them out if you haven’t seen them. They’re just as funny and entertaining as they were over 80 years ago.
But How Does Porky Tie into the Death of SEO You Say?
Much like how Porky seemed to play a smaller role on screen in the later shorts, becoming more of an everyman character, SEO went through its own transformations over the years. In the early days of the internet, everything was still new and search engines were not nearly as complex as they are today.
It was super easy to have your page show up high up on Google, Yahoo, AskJeeves, whatever platform was popular at the time in the 2000s. Keyword stuffing was rampant and common practice. It was like a Wild Wild West for all kinds of things that we would frown upon today in this field. Much like how Porky Pig began so unrecognizably and had a completely different voice and personality, so did SEO at this time.
Thankfully Google started to notice this problem and began cracking down on these methods by the mid-00s. Mobile became a larger priority and slowly over time, you had the beginnings of what search engine optimization is today. A mix of best practices for your website and having mobile responsive design and fast page speed times to boot!
By the 2010s, Google already rolled out many big algorithm updates to make it easier for people to find more helpful content. Some of those updates included PANDA, BERT, and dozens of Core Updates since to keep website owners on their toes. You’ve seen all the articles on places like Search Engine Land every time Google announces some big changes to their search engine.
Because of all this, SEO became more important and encompassing, with a winning combo of content, design, and engagement coming together and tickling Google’s senses.
Then Came AI, and Now SEO is Doomed? Think Again!
Actually this is wrong. Google had already been incorporating AI into their search engine algorithm for years, especially with RankBrain. We’ve already been accustomed to some kind of AI ranking system for years now. It’s just that the tools hadn’t been made available to the public to use for their projects.
We’ve seen an explosion in lower quality AI generated content, but by unqualified people who don’t understand how to even use the tools correctly, so you get crappy results. Again I’ll keep saying this but AI is only as good as the marketer who uses it. Use it incorrectly and you get mediocre results. But at least there’s loads of opportunities for people to come in and fix the mess, so I predict more of those kinds of jobs are coming soon.
Bad Content and Lazy Shortcuts Have Always Been an Issue with SEO!
That’s always been an issue in the SEO community. Questionable shortcuts and lack of quality control were a big issue when I started in this field in 2016-2017 too. Horrendous keyword stuffed to the brim articles everywhere at the time too and I’m pretty sure content spinners were commonplace as well.
That’s why you had the rise of much better, informative content pop up during those years. People got sick and tired of reading generic nonsense every time they went to your website. They just wanted to get a better understanding of your product and services and then make an informed decision on their buyers journey!
It was a long time coming, and anyone who saw these changes years ago was already prepared for what the future was bringing. Even then, we had voice search and many other things that are still quite relevant now.
What I’m saying is much like Porky Pig, SEO went through its own evolution and became something entirely different than how it started out. Could you really say that the SEO of the 2000s is even remotely the same as it was in the 2010s or even in the 2020s. Of course not! Each decade brought unique changes to the way SEO was done, but the foundation always remained largely the same.
SEO Became Something Else More Encompassing
SEO never truly died. It still plays a big part on structuring your website properly, making sure that you’re following best practices when it comes to site speed, UX/UI considerations, and is the stepping stone to being able to launch innovative, robust content marketing strategies, where the big bucks are in this industry if you get really good at both writing content and doing keyword research.
The thing with SEO however is that it’s been treated like an afterthought much of the time. It’s not really the loudest in the room or trying to draw attention to itself like with other kinds of digital marketing such as PPC/SEM or social media marketing, but its presence is always there in the back of your mind.
Whether you wrote for sites like Textbroker or had your own blog, it was and is still one of the easiest ways to get into digital marketing with little to no prior experience if you’re willing to work hard and understand the fundamentals. It’s like that old friend that’s always waiting for you no matter how busy you are working on other channels like email and social. It’s not the main star of the show, but still plays a key part in making sure the other aspects of digital marketing make sense!
You can’t have a really successful PPC campaign without understanding good SEO keyword research and website structure. If your site loads too slow, people are going to leave and you’re going to get worse engagement. All this stuff will continue to be important moving forward.
Maybe It’s Time for a Paradigm Shift in How We Think of SEO
And here’s one other thing I propose. Maybe SEO shouldn’t really be called SEO anymore. Maybe it’s really just the pepper you add to an already solid content marketing strategy. I really think that all these closely related fields should just be called something like web marketing instead. Yeah, we need to call ourselves web marketers. You read it here first on the blog!
Not internet marketers because of the affiliation with scams and low quality content, but web marketers. Web Marketer has a nicer ring to it in my book and is a much better description of what people like us actually do now, or maybe even something short and snappy and hip like eMarketer or eMarketing Strategist, like with eBooks. We’re in the website, diagnosing issues with page speed, brainstorming ideas for new content, dabbling in a bit of web design, and so many other things to keep the website in compliance with Google’s guidelines, best practices, and documentation but from the perspective of boosting brand awareness for the company.
More Crazy Job Titles to Describe What SEOs Currently Do!
Speaking of that, Brand Awareness Specialist might also work too. You can get even crazier with that title and say Google Awareness Specialist or Bing Awareness Specialist, you get the idea. How about Google Visibility Specialist and Bing Visibility Specialist too. Google Inspector or Bing Inspector are some other names I had in the back of my mind too. Why is it that marketers are so afraid to embrace their inner creativity? I will never know or understand this myself. “Optimization” was such a dry, boring word to type anyway to me so I wouldn’t miss it, would you?
I think it makes sense to redefine the way that we’ve thought of SEO, since it’s no longer just this one note thing where all we do is stuff content with keywords, much like Porky Pig evolved over time to be more than how he started out, but then becoming a supporting star in the Looney Tunes canon.
And now with AI tools being adopted quicker than ever, the SEOs who have kept up with the times have adapted with these changes and are still dominating the scene right now, stumbling upon better techniques to keep websites ranking high in Google and whatever else is to come.
There’s also the possibility of Bing becoming a bigger player in this space too. I actually like this because SEO had become very by the book at this point and I welcome some unpredictability to shake things up. In a few years, this will be the new normal and this age old question about SEO dying will be a thing of the past. These are my thoughts, and I invite yours!