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20211022 SEL Brief

Yesterday Google announced a “Word of the Day” feature that will send you the definition of a new word every day. If you sign up, you’ll get a daily notification on your phone to check out a term you may not have heard before and fun facts about the etymology of each.

If this looks familiar, it’s because definition sites like Dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster have been doing this for a while now. When I mentioned this, Barry Schwartz pulled some screenshots from the Search Engine Roundtable archives. 

Barry estimates that Google started showing definitions right in the search results around 2004. In 2010, Google redesigned the in-SERP definition box but linked to the different dictionary sites as sources for the terms’ meanings. But in 2013, they “upgraded” the definitions box in search results to include even more information (including origins, translations, and use over time) and to stop attributing to individual sources.

The word of the day feature seems like another small step at chipping away at these dictionary site’s small sliver of real estate in search results. Sure, no one “owns” the definition of a word and people don’t want to click through to find it, but it makes us wonder how else these sites can innovate to stay ahead of Google’s rising tide.

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