With so much information swirling around on the internet about marketing, it’s sometimes best to get back to basics and go back to the printed word. There are a number of great books that drill down into the nitty gritty minutiae of both traditional and digital marketing. Some of these books touch upon aspects of the human psyche – what makes people make a purchase, what makes people identify with a brand, what makes people share a piece of content with their friends. Other books delve deep into the many facets of making a website profitable – search engine optimization (SEO), paid advertising, affiliate marketing, and conversion-rate optimization (CRO). Armed with this knowledge, you are much better equipped to lay out your business plan to target your prospective buyers.
With the aim of putting together a list of the marketing industry’s best books, I asked professional marketers what their favorite marketing books are. Without further ado, here are the Top 23 Best Marketing Books Recommended by the Pros in 2020 (with real reviews from the experts):
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As someone who runs a marketing consultancy for financial services, I’m always on the lookout for good digital marketing books. The best one I’ve ever read is called Ben Settle’s Big Book of Business by Ben Settle. Ben is an email marketing expert and I’ve been following his work for years. He’s a big advocate of daily email, which I’ve incorporated into my business with stellar results. This book is my favorite because it’s got a LOT of content. It’s over 500 pages long and I use it as a reference when crafting my email and other marketing campaigns. I even have the Kindle version and review my highlights on there every few months as a refresher.
The Advisor Coach Website
One of the best books in digital marketing that I’ve read was actually about PR: Inbound PR by Iliyana Stareva. The book highlights the glue that links marketing and PR together: content. It also gives great advice for agencies in general, about how to position themselves in a saturated industry of other agencies. This part was particularly useful as we, as an agency, are in the process of revamping our website and it was important to be reminded about how we can position ourselves effectively. I would say that the book is aimed mostly at agency professionals and whilst there is an implication that it is useful to everybody, the majority of advice is aimed solely at agencies. It’s a great book for any marketer to read in order to understand the importance of the future world of PR and how it fits with the role of the marketer.
The Growth Marketer’s Playbook by Jim Huffman is a must-read book by all the digital marketers. Although it got published recently, it has easily become my top favorite. This is a practical guide for digital marketers and teaches them different strategies to grow businesses. It gives you detailed information on various aspects of digital marketing such as SEO & Content Strategy, EmailAutomation, Conversion Rate Optimization and even Paid Ads. Jim also points out the mistakes that most of the start-ups and rapidly scaling companies make and ways to avoid them. This book is full of real examples and case studies of businesses that Jim has helped such as TechStars, Sephora, Clorox, OREO, Hot Wheels, FedEx, and more. It is not super-advanced so can be understood by even beginners. This is not one of those hard to understand and highly technical books that can make you feel frustrated. I feel that anyone who reads this book would be able to devise their own growth marketing campaign.
Content Marketing Executive
Relevance Raises Response has something of value for every marketer from beginner to advanced level. Always ahead of the curve, Bob Bentz has decades of experience in marketing, IVR, 800 and 900 numbers, ring tones, and now social and mobile marketing and he covers all areas in depth. He is truly a thought leader in this industry. Unlike other books in this space whose information and statistics can become outdated before the book is ever published, he refers readers to a slideshare account where the information is constantly updated.
If your business is adding mobile marketing to its marketing plan, this book is a MUST read. If your business hasn’t started using mobile marketing yet, this book will tell you how and why you should start right now.
As one of the partners and CMO of My Protein Bites, I am constantly looking for books that can help my business grow. Our marketing team is composed of 5 team members and each month we read a book to further our expertise. Paid Attention by Faros Yakob is a great book to help be the difference in an age where ad blockers in browsers are taking over and ads are over crowded. You need a good strategy. From explaining the traditional model of advertising to learning to create value in exchange for their attention, this is an excellent book on those topics.
My Protein Bites
Overdeliver by Brian Kurtz is a phenomenal read as it sheds insight on how direct marketing was done effectively both before and after the inception of the internet. Few books offer such in-depth information on principles of world-class copywriting, customer service, accountability, and metrics tracking that are applicable to both online and offline marketing. The author is like a human marketing encyclopedia who offers clear and actionable strategies that can be applied today in any marketing strategy.
Digital Marketing Expert
This book is longer than most, but it covers a lot of ground. It offers up knowledge on anything from landing pages to paid display. This book also does a great job of calling people out for their digital mistakes. Pay particularly close attention to Chapter 14 to help avoid any common errors. Overall, it is an excellent book to have around the office so anyone can pick it up and learn something new.
Head of SEO
This one is all about what nobody else talks about. The day to day grind and hustle trying to make something from nothing. Most books are written about the launches or about failures and successes but this one is all about those long days when things don’t work that well and you need to try things out and experiment to make some progress.
How To Make My Blog
This book is basically a masterclass in online marketing. Peep is, in my opinion, the premiere CRO (conversion rate optimization) specialist in the world right now. There are clear examples (with links to check out more information) and actions you can apply today to sell more online.The book provides insight into the overall state of the online business based on actual data, not just the authors opinions. Warning: this is not for those looking for a shallow get-rich-quick approach, the content is very in depth.
Director of Marketing
This one is about starting and running a startup. Everything from the work that’s necessary to get the word about using content marketing and SEO, how to communicate successfully, build a network and so much more, including all the ups and downs. A very realistic look into creating buzz online.
How To Make My Blog
My favorite digital marketing book is Ultimate Guide to Link Building by Eric Ward and Garrett French as it discusses the reality of link building in depth. Although some parts are a bit dense and hard to digest at times, the book is filled with many actionable insights into a relatively cloak and dagger section of SEO. The tips focus on improving outreach attempts, as well as techniques for building backlink expansion across multiple platforms. One of the interesting aspects of the book is the real life case studies that are brought into techniques providing actual evidence of successful application of the techniques.
From a content creation standpoint, the best book on digital marketing I have read is Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing by Roger Dooley. First off, as a data-driven marketer, I found the crossover between neuroscience and marketing fascinating. As a content creator, I found the actionable strategies for positioning products and services in ways to influence human behavior invaluable. I consider the book a must read for anyone involved in sales and marketing. Each chapter is a step into the minds of consumers.
11) Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break Through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less – Joe Pulizzi
Joe Pulizzi is known as the godfather of content marketing. If you want to understand how to actually reach your audience, breaking through the clutter of endless information noise on the web, and actually win more customers, read Epic Content Marketing. Pulizzi explains the six principles on which successful content marketing is founded. It is a great, general resource on content marketing, from finding the right niche to shaping your unique voice, to covering the content promotion techniques. Epic Content Marketing is a must read for any content marketer.
When I first started developing my business idea, I had to do so much on my own. I was personally writing so much content — and without a doubt, I made mistakes such as creating random content or duplicating it by creating kind of similar stuff with not enough distinction. So, when I read the Kristina Halvorson’s and Melissa Rach’s Content Strategy for the Web pitched in with what I certainly wanted to have known back when I was starting out. Content Strategy for the Web is a great, resourceful roadmap to creating a meaningful content strategy for your business.
The Conversion Code is one of those books that you never stop reading. I always find myself grabbing it off my desk for reference. The book is filled with insight into purposeful lead generation and conversion. Author, Chris Smith, does a brilliant job in communicating a very valuable and necessary system in such a simple manner. Unlike many other books on this topic, The Conversion Code is very up to date and provides a ton of relevant information that you will use daily.
Marketing and Operations Director
One of my favorite books on marketing is Purple Cow by Seth Godin. While Seth has plenty of great books on marketing, Purple Cow talks about the concept of being remarkable, which I believe to be crucial in today’s marketing. That’s because many people share their strategies, frameworks, and how-to’s publicly – which is great – but many people use it sort of mindlessly, copy-pasting what has proven to work. In this book, Seth shows how and why you should appeal to very specific groups of innovators and early adopters who will then kickstart the growth of your product. He also explains why being remarkable is what makes or breaks today’s businesses and how you can apply it to your marketing strategy. All in all, it’s quite a short and concise book that brings a lot of value with it. And most importantly, it conveys one, clear idea.
My favorite digital marketing book is Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday. Holiday includes incredible stories of his own experiences with creative viral, organic marketing strategies in the online world and then gives everyone reading a blueprint how they can achieve similar results. It’s a great blend of case studies and real life examples combined with practical how to advice and a must read for any business person or marketer looking to explode their growth online.
Founder, Growth Marketing
Accelerated Growth Marketing
Whereas most of the SEO books out there are by experts for experts, this workbook explains SEO in plain English and does not get lost in the details. It gives you “hands on” worksheets and deliverables to put your new knowledge to practical use and connects to additional resources such as free SEO tools and YouTube videos. SEO changes rapidly but the author makes sure to update the book regularly.
Director of Marketing
Confession: Ryan is my favorite author. This is actually Ryan’s smallest book, at less than 150 pages and one that took me just under an hour to finish; I could and would not put it down!
For less than $10, it’s worth picking up if you work in or are interested in any form of on-line or digital marketing. He showcases real case studies of a lot of the marketing strategies he used at American Apparel to help grow their revenue. So adaptable these strategies can translate to all levels of business. I’ve implemented many of the tactics on my websites – for social and brand marketing and it has been successful, each and every time.
Teaching how the modern day marketer must adapt, and how traditional marketing is slowly being fazed out of big and small business. Showing how prior marketing strategies, brands and marketers themselves have fizzled out, as new, more powerful marketing has taken place. Due to traditional marketing not, or refusing to change with the times.
Ryan is one of the modern day marketers that is truly explaining, and to an extent this book aids in shaping the modern marketing world. If you don’t at the bare minimum scan over his work, techniques and strategies, you’ll likely be left in the dark, along with everyone else.
The only drawback I could say about this book, is that it is focused on B2C marketing, there is little mention of B2B, and I would have liked to have seen who these strategies worked on that business model.
Not many have the resume experience that equips them to talk about content marketing quite like Ryan Holiday. While the tactics and strategies outlined in Growth Hacker Marketing aren’t really anything you can implement from your laptop while working from home, Holiday does offer a paradigm shift towards the bigger and the bolder that almost every digital marketer needs.
Despite Holiday’s pretty fairly apparent narcissism, he does, rather effectively, shift his reader’s visions from orthodox and conservative to far outside the box and experimental.
While the book does have the tendency to go off the rails and offer somewhat impractical advice, the book achieves its goal. After a read, it’s a bit difficult to think about your work from a 9 to 5 perspective. If the book is good at anything, it’s that it gets you excited about being a marketer. All of the sudden playing ping pong during lunch isn’t what’s exciting about working at a digital marketing company.
Junior Partner & SEO Consultant
I’m someone that wants to be dangerous in all main categories of running a business, so I have only read one book on digital marketing, but Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook was such an in depth look at story-telling through social media, that I felt like it was THE text book for it. Full explanations of how to use each platform, and then good and bad examples of other companies using the platforms with Gary explaining the why behind the reason he included it in the book. Incredibly helpful and specific. I have loaned it out to two other entrepreneur friends of mine now!
Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think is my favorite digital marketing book. It’s all about UX design and making life easy for your users, and it’s been written by the same principles, so it’s a really easy, enjoyable read with a lot of examples and illustrations that make even complex concepts easy to understand. The companion book Rocket Surgery Made Easy is also a great read, and goes more into detail about usability testing and how to keep your site, app or product bug free and fab to use.
Edge of the Web
This is an excellent book for anyone creating or maintaining a website for a small business or organization. It covers web usability, fundamentals of good design and usability testing. The book makes the topic of web usability genuinely entertaining and it is quick, thorough and to the point! Gives clear direction and guidance for how to improve your site by focusing, foremost, on the user’s experience and the user’s goals. Presents a practical framework for running usability sessions (even with small projects and budgets), that eliminates excuses for not implementing user testing as part of every website project. Love the concrete examples of both good and bad sites. The bad: not much scientific or hard evidence presented to support the writers claims, if you are already very familiar with the subject then the information will not seem groundbreaking.
Director of Marketing Campaign
This book really puts you in the correct mindset necessary to create a great startup and do some great work in online communications and digital marketing. In many ways, it really goes against most of the general, generic advice you see and hear other places. If you want to look at the digital marketing world with fresh eyes, this is the book to check out.
How To Make My Blog
The 1-Page Marketing Plan is a favorite for me because the lessons in this book extend further than what you would learn in a marketing course or many other books on the market. Allan Dib skillfully demonstrates how to devise a marketing plan from start to finish and provides you with every relevant piece of information for doing so. I highly encourage readers to complete the exercises he includes in the book, because they reinforce the knowledge he is passing on in a way that makes it stick. I will remember the lessons from 1-Page Marketing Plan throughout my career as it has helped me so much already.
Director of Marketing and Operations
Marketing is a mercurial animal and it’s difficult to adapt to the constant state of change. By picking up a few of the books in this list, you will be much better positioned to stay ahead of the curve and have a successful outcome for whatever kind of service or product you are marketing. I hope you enjoyed this list of the best marketing books recommended by the experts.