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Test Your Search Engine IQ

By Dan Thies
Posted Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The year 2001 saw dramatic changes in the search engine world. Major players have either folded or stopped crawling the web, pay-per-click services like Goto/Overture have become much more prominent, and "theme-based indexing" has firmly taken root.

Website owners who don't understand what these changes mean for them are missing out on tremendous opportunities to boost their site's search engine traffic.

This little "Search Engine IQ Test" will help you find out how much of what you know about search engines is still true today.

1. Which search engine provides "web page" results for Yahoo?
A - Altavista
B - Excite
C - Google
D - FAST/AllTheWeb
E - Inktomi

2. Which of these search engines uses "theme-based indexing?"
A - Altavista
B - Hotbot
C - Google
D - FAST/AllTheWeb
E - All of the above

3. Which search engines use META tags in ranking sites? A - Hotbot
C - Google
D - FAST/AllTheWeb
E - Altavista

4. Which of the following search engines uses its own database of web sites to provide its primary results? A - MSN
B - Hotbot
C - Lycos
D - Excite
E - None of the above

5. In order to achieve top search engine rankings, you must submit your site to the major search engines: A - Once
B - Every Day
C - Every Week
D - Every Month
E - Every Year

6. True or False: Ranking in the top ten for your favorite search phrase means you'll get lots of traffic.
A - True
B - False

1. C
Google now provides "web page" matches for Yahoo!, which accounts for a good percentage of the website referrals that come from Yahoo! These used to be provided by Inktomi.

2. E
All of these major search engines now uses "themes" to rank and categorize websites. Failing to understand how themes affect ranking is one of the biggest reasons websites rank poorly, or fail to get any search engine traffic at all.

3. A
While you should be aware that most search engines could care less what your META tags say, the Inktomi database that feeds Hotbot, MSN, and other search engines does consider them. This means you can't ignore them, even though META tags have become less and less important every year.

4. E
None of these search engines uses its own database of websites: MSN & Hotbot use Inktomi, Lycos gets its results from FAST, and Excite was recently sold Infospace, the owner of Dogpile. Among the so-called major search engines, only Altavista, FAST, Google, Inktomi and Northern Light still crawl the web.

5. A
But this is a trick question. Most websites get found and added to the major search engine indexes within 2-6 weeks even if they are never submitted. The only proven way to get in faster is "paid inclusion," which is available at Altavista and Inktomi.

6. B
My 'Website Promotion Central' site has had top ten rankings for "website promotion" for over a year, but most of my referrals don't come from that single phrase. Because of "themes," I see hundreds of 3, 4 and 5 word search phrases in my logs - these are much more important than my primary keyword phrase.

How did you do? If you got less than half of these answers, you probably need a refresher course in search engines. Don't feel badly, though. Thanks to "themes," search engine optimization has gotten easier for the do-it-yourself webmaster, not harder.

I wish you success...

About the Author
Dan Thies has been helping his clients (and friends) promote their websites since 1996, and has become a respected authority on search engine positioning. His latest book, "Search Engine Fast Start," is available at ( To subscribe to his free weekly search engine optimization newsletter, send a blank email to


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