SERPWizz Interviews - Joe Williams

Joe Williams

Tribe SEO

Joe Williams is a teacher of search engine optimization over at Tribe SEO. He’s on a mission to make SEO easier, fun and profitable for small businesses.

Check out Joe’s: Website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter

What are some of the biggest challenges/obstacles you faced when starting out with SEO, and why?

It was probably around feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start. That was 15+ years ago, but as an SEO teacher, many of my students feel the same. If you think about it, it’s common to feel this way when learning anything. And as Mark Twain famously said, “the secret of getting ahead is getting started”. When you get
started, you move forward and build confidence. Forget about doing everything perfectly right.

How do you choose who to reach out to/partner with? Where do you find them, and what approach do you take when reaching out?

Old school in-person events and conferences are good when there’s not a global pandemic. While you don’t have to do things this way, nothing beats building relationships face-to-face.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?

I try to get three 90 minutes sessions of “deep work” per day. So, I turn off notifications from my phone and computer and commit to what’s important. This is inspired by the book Deep Work.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?​

That Google doesn’t use user signals in its algorithm. So, things like dwell time, clickthrough rate or click-back rate. And to back that up, non-believers will point out that Google engineers have said they don’t use bounce rate in its algorithms. While bounce rate could be considered a user signal, it’s different to the three I mentioned. It would be unethical for Google to say it uses bounce rate for privacy reasons because it’s part of Google Analytics data.
For years, Google over-relied on backlinks as a means of social proof. Now, Google can also use user signals as a form of social proof.

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

Scheduling three distraction-free 90 minutes sessions of “deep work” every day.

What do you think about link swaps?

Officially, that’s black hat SEO, but like anything, when done with relevance and meaningfulness in mind, it can be beneficial to both parties. But, if you focus on link swaps as a strategy, you’ll likely pick up a bad backlink footstep and run the risk of a penalty.

What is a 'hack' you have for success that most people don't know about?

Staying on track with my vision.

What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?

A baby sleeping coach! Up until six months ago, our 22-month old daughter was up every couple of hours at night. The whole family was exhausted but we managed to fix it pretty quickly with some a baby sleep coach. Everyone benefits from better quality sleep.

Describe your most effective SEO campaign ever. What made it so successful, and why?

I tend not to think of SEO as campaigns. It’s more a marathon than a sprint.

Tell us one thing about SEO that most people don't know?

The trust of your website is everything. This will sound cliche, but trust takes years to build and can be gone in an instant. If you spend much of 2021 optimizing a website that has a dodgy SEO past, you’re really fighting an uphill battle.

What is a 'SEO trick' one could execute in <5 minutes?

Check if your website has any broken backlinks.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why?

Focus on the user and all else will follow… Haha, that’s already been done!

When did you first become a rebel?

After uni, I quit a safe job to become an entrepreneur.

How do you personalize your link building outreach campaigns? What are some tips for getting more responses? Do you have a follow-up process?

To get more responses, you need to be as relevant as possible. So, rather than reply on outreach software, I try to build up relationships that can take weeks, months and sometimes years.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favourite failure” of yours?

When you try to do something, you either win and get the outcome you wanted. Or you can learn from it, so you have a better chance when you try it again or something  similar later.

Are your campaigns automated? If so, what tools do you use and why?

For outreach, I sometimes use Pitchbox.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out on their SEO service provider journey? What advice should they ignore?

Clients will judge you equally on the results you deliver and how much you care about them. Don’t neglect either.

Describe your link-building team. How many members are there? How do you measure and track progress?

It’s just me on the link building team although I have a range of content writer freelancers.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

Be curious and say yes to as many opportunities are you can. As you get older, stay curious but say no to most new opportunities, so you can focus on what’s most important.

What careers advice would you give to your 21-year old self?

If you want to be world-class at something, it has to be something you enjoy.

What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

Deep Work, Storybrand and Don’t Make Me Think.

What is the most significant thing that someone much younger than yourself has taught you?


What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?

This is a bit of a niche answer that’s only really relevant to people who film themselves talking to a camera/webcam./zoom.
Luna Display helps turn your iPad into a second display form my Mac. While Apple’s sidecar can do the same, Luna also helps mirror the screen so that it works with a teleprompter. That way I can film a webinar or Zoom call while looking at the camera the whole time.

Tell us about your business. What does it do and what value do you add?

Tribe SEO is an online SEO training company that helps small business get more search engine traffic and customers.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Motion Design. I’m currently learning Adobe After Effects.

Where do you see the SEO/link building industry in the next 5 years?

Semantic search and AI will close the gap in working out when the user intent of a keyword is satisfied. So, a solid content strategy will be more important than ever.

Tell us about someone you admire and why you admire them?

In the SEO world, Kevin Gibbons. He’s created a great boutique London SEO agency and is an all-round nice guy.

What is a useful skill someone could learn in one minute?

There are always more solutions to anyone one problem.

What one song can you listen to every day non-stop?

At the moment, the “Ballard of Paul and Sheil” by Mason Jennings.

What is the most surprising thing you've seen in your industry?

“Not provided” in Google Analytics for SEO but not PPC. Come on, Google?

How has Covid-19 changed your industry?

Digital has grown, so companies offering good SEO has grown.

How has Covid-19 changed your company?

We’ll be pivoting slightly in making our SEO courses more community-based in the future.

What's your favourite colour?


What's your favourite holiday destination?

For relaxation, Puglia.

What popular celebrity do you admire the most and why?

Alun Wyn Jones (Wales rugby captain). Modest but an inspiring leader.

What one thing in life do you consider to be overrated?


What's something exciting you're currently working on/learning that only a few people know about?

I’m learning After Effects to help grow Tribe SEO’s new YouTube channel.

What are you NOT Very Good at?


What's your star sign?



Heather Wilkinson


Heather Wilkinson is a globe-trotting content creator and PR enthusiast who’s finally put down roots in her native UK. When she isn’t working, you’ll find her pretending to care about Minecraft for her son’s sake, while secretly reading the latest Ace Atkins novel (or sleeping – her second favourite past-time).