The Drum Search Breakfast 2018

What’s the future of search? Where will the opportunity for marketers be? What’s going to fall by the wayside?

These questions were all addressed at The Drum Search Breakfast last week. Four of the best minds in search marketing (including our Head of Search, John Brasington) speculated and predicted where search is heading.

The Drum Search Breakfast key takeaways


All four speakers agreed that the website would become obsolete in the near future, as Google offers more complex SERPs. The advancements of voice search and the rising use of mobile will also work to weaken the website.

Interesting and somewhat scary advancements of how Google is using biometrics to understand us as searchers are also touched upon. This brings up issue of privacy, which the panel all expressed concern about but ultimately saw the loosening of privacy in favour of convenience as an inevitability.

Read on for a full transcription of the panel discussion, complete with more insight and future speculation from our Head of Search, John Brasington.


John Brasington, Head of Search at Pi Datametrics

Jim Brigden, Non-exec Chair, Brainlabs

Paul Norris, Senior Strategist and Head of London Operations, Epiphany

Jenny Kirby, Managing Partner, Digital Services at Group M


Here are some of the highlights:

What’s the future of search marketing?

John Brasington: I don’t think there will be too many new touchpoints for voice and visual search, maybe 50 or 100, and I think they won’t be recognisable as search. Already your phone is surfacing information for you without you asking, so if you search flights, your phone will pull in flight information, updates, etc. that will become so common as it tries to become an assistant. It’ll be a sort of metasearch. I think the website will struggle, because search will just be constant hundreds of searches and that’s very exciting for us because there are more things we can build and try and measure how that works.

Paul Norris: Check out, its a blog that basically just digs into every patent that Google file. If you think Google is creepy now, they can get a lot creepier! One that really caught my eye was biometric gauging and that impacting rankings – when looking at search results Google will gauge your reactions through the self facing camera, looking at how your eyes or mouth might change to get a sense of your reaction to the search results. That’s what they could be doing now if they wanted to. That’s really exciting, all that data, they’re really trying to figure you out and be as useful as possible (obviously with an agenda for their own gain).

Jenny Kirby: I think what we will see with search is voice becoming more a factor in the consumer journey than the actual purchase at the end. The way in which people will engage with digital content through all of the touch points for search will become more and more significantly understood by planners and strategists as part of the consumer strategy.

Secondly, and looking further ahead, I think the website is going to die. In the future we just won’t need websites. Your website will effectively become your database of answers to fuel Google’s interaction with your brand or company. Considering how rich the SERPs are right now, why do you need to go to a website? You just don’t. With voice, you’re not going to need to go to a website.

Jim Brigden: I’ve not got a huge amount to add to those answers – for me I’m always coming back to where’s the consumer? What’s happening for the publishers? What’s working for the advertisers? Trying to find ways that the ecosystem is working for those 3 parts. If you go back 10 years, nobody was predicting the iPhone was coming out, so it’s really difficult to be future focused.

I think the point about the website dying is absolutely true. Just think about how your consumer is interfacing with you via mobile, because that’s the growing pattern.

Have a question? Drop us a line

Get in touch

Will home assistants become obsolete if some form of authentication will be needed for ecommerce?

John Brasington: Despite working in this industry, I don’t use a lot of the software for privacy reasons. The history of tech is people giving up their privacy for convenience. As soon as it’s a little bit better we forget about all the issues with it. It will happen again because the software is getting better.

Paul Norris: Currently, to actually put an order through Alexa you have to give a four digit pin code at the end and that’s the confirmation. I think that will be fit for purpose, they’ll solve it with that.

Jenny Kirby: Privacy and voice is really significant. How do you make sure that the right person has access to all this incredible and revealing data about you? I just don’t know. Maybe some kind of chip in your body that links to your device! But it is a challenge and will continue to be a challenge for voice search in the future.

Jim Brigden: It’s about trust, if the consumer doesn’t trust you or your product they won’t use it.

What do you think the future is for Apps, and do you believe we’re over the bell curve?

Jenny Kirby: I think the App will live actually. The App is analogous with the Alexa skill, I think we’ll see tiny experiences embedded in our platforms, whether mobile or voice. I think they retain utility, it’s the website I see dying. The App is more useful, it pulls in the things that you actually want. If we’re talking about the desktop dying off, then you’ve got a smaller screen to do things, I think the App is where we’ll see digital life continue.

As Google adds more and more features that take up more of the 1st page space, do you think that organic results are eventually going to disappear or move onto the second page?

John Brasington: No, I don’t think so. Google, unfortunately, is driven by us rather than by their algorithms, which are a bit better than us at serving us good results and they do in the end need to service their customer. Which is the searcher not us, though it sometimes feels like it is us.

Jim Brigden: When I did some searches this week in anticipation for this I did it all on my mobile phone and found hardly any editorial results or SEO natural results in the whole process. It made me wonder what the impact will be for the consumer if they are not going to see editorial results. I’ve always believed that consumers won’t care if they’re natural or paid results as long as they’re relevant, and if they’re not people will stop responding.


If you want to hear more from our Head of Search, John Brasington, come and pick his brains at our official Pi Datametrics event, Elevate Brighton, on the eve of BrightonSEO! Sign up here.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get our best insights, event talks and research reports delivered straight to your inbox