No there are 1000s of smaller search engines, but major ones such as google and altavista ignore meta tags.
Google ranks on content, and where that content is on the page. Then it has a PageRank ranking for what keywords would bring up your site. Then it increases your ranking based on the ranking of sites that link to you.
So if you have a site about dogs, and a high traffic, major site about dogs links to you, your ranking will increase.