Best Digital Marketing Books
September 1, 2021
Though digital marketing is relatively new as a profession, basic marketing tactics have been around for decades. Applying it to the digital age is what makes a book stand the test of time.
These days, just about every major figure in digital marketing has a book of some kind. But the best ones don’t just rely on that “star power” to create sales; instead, they challenge the reader to think about marketing holistically, teaching new methods along with the old.
The best digital marketing books aren’t broad treatises on every subject under the sun, but laser-targeted on a specific subject and deliver digestible chunks that you can easily commit to memory. On every page, you should find a masterclass, not just someone’s “personal experience” as a digital marketer.
Since reading a book is a time commitment, we siphoned through some of the best regarded books to find the true “creme de la creme.” We checked reader reviews, read blurbs, and asked leading experts which books they would gift to create a list that is tailored just for you.
How Do I Know Which Marketing Book is Worth My Time?
Since marketing books are written by marketers, it stands to reason that a good bit of them find their way onto the top of sale’s rankings simply because the person behind them is good at their job. For that reason, it's important to understand what makes a digital marketing book good, versus one that simply sells well.
- It's Timeless. Digital marketing may be changing, but that doesn't mean the principles are constantly shifting. The best ones will be just as relevant in 20 years as they are today.
- It's Actionable. Few things are more frustrating than reading more about the person behind the book, instead of tips that you can apply in everyday life. From the very first page, the author should tell you exactly what you're going to learn and communicate it in a way that you can put it into practice.
- It Gets Results. What good are digital marketing ideas if they don't produce a solid ROI? Do a quick scan of the table of contents to see if you think the book will actually help you, or if it's just a rehash of old and outdated material designed to move copies.
12 of the Best Books on Digital Marketing
"Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook" - Gary Vaynerchuk
You may not agree with him on everything, but there's no denying that Gary Vaynerchuk has an opinion. One of his stronger opinions in the world of digital marketing is that every approach that a brand has with their customer should be service-oriented first. Help the customer, give them something, and then ask for a sale.
This may sound common sense today, but Gary's book revolutionized the approach that many marketers took for granted. Instead of creating content that just fills a gap, "Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook" demands that the marketer understand the platform and the community before trying to engage with its members.
"Contagious: Why Things Catch On" - Jonah Berger
The quest to understand why things go "viral" is one that will almost never be solved, but that doesn't mean people are trying. The question that Berger seeks to answer in this book is why certain things are shared like wildfire, while others — arguably more important and better produced content – falls by the wayside.
Instead of simply relying on theories and questions, Berger goes in depth into the science behind word-of-mouth advertising, giving you hardened facts that you can use to help make your content go crazy online.
"Epic Content Marketing" - Joe Pulizzi
Often called the "Godfather of Content Marketing," Joe Pulizzi is a wizard, whose years of experience has taught him how to use various tools and techniques to craft material that focuses around the brand, instead of the people behind it.
Though not "short" by anyone's standards — since the book comes in at over 350 pages — "Epic Content Marketing" can be called concise, since it cuts through all the noise and creates a strong case for a less cluttered approach to content. He also highlights the importance of setting targets for your business, rather than just hoping to improve every day.
If you're a blogger or a freelance writer, "Epic Content Marketing" is one to pick up.
"Marketing Made Simple" - Donald Miller
A former Christian writer, Donald Miller has reinvented himself to be a business advisor and leadership coach. His book, "Marketing Made Simple," is a dialed-in formula that focuses on one thing: sales.
Most marketers will talk about developing a funnel for their business, but few have the actionable know-how to create a blueprint to get it done. Miller doesn't fall into that category. Instead, he shows even non-marketers how to create a winning strategy at minimal cost, and one that will turn your customers into raving fans.
"The Ultimate Sales Machine" - Chet Holmes
This is one of the books on this list that breaks the promise made earlier — that a good digital marketing book should only be about one topic instead of all of them at once. But "The Ultimate Sales Machine" is just too good, and too timeless, to pass up. It's almost required reading for every new marketer, but especially those who are moving to a director or CEO position.
Chet Holmes's book is all about developing a process – a process for time management, teambuilding, marketing operations, sales funnels, and everything else you can think of. It reads more like a treatise on the state of marketing itself, rather than a simple how-to manual, but no matter who you are, you're guaranteed to find some value inside of its pages.
"The Big Data-Driven Business" - Russell Glass & Sean Callahan
Marketing has always been about data collection and comprehension, but never in the history of mankind has so much data been available to so many people. The amount of information that marketers are required to engage with on a daily basis dwarfs what the average marketing specialist was doing 50 years ago. There are numbers for everything: traffic, conversion rate, click through, and hundreds of other metrics. How do you begin to understand it?
Glass and Callahan help with that discussion by talking about the state of data in today's workforce. They even incorporate case studies to show the step-by-step process of decoding and utilizing data to make smart marketing decisions. Best of all, this approach can work for any medium, whether you're talking about social media or your own website.
"Digital Marketing for Dummies" - Ryan Deiss and Ryan Henneberry
"For Dummies" books have been around for years, and have covered just about every topic you can think of, from astronomy to motorcycle maintenance. The best parts about these books is not only that they’re created by a legitimate expert in the field, but also are formatted in such a way that makes it more of a reference guide than a book you would read cover to cover.
Two figures that have been around the world of digital marketing for ages, Ryan Deiss and Ryan Henneberry, have put together a gem of a book that talks about digital marketing from its inception to its modern day, along with all the tactics and techniques that you need to know to get started in the field.
They aren't just digital markers by trade, either; Deiss and Henneberry run Digitalmarketer.com, one of the foremost educational portals for digital marketers. Not only do they know what they're talking about, but they also have a fantastic way of delivering information. If you are new to the discipline, or just want a good reference guide to keep on hand, this is one to grab for your shelf.
"Permission Marketing" - Seth Godin
Another big name in the field of digital marketing is Seth Godin. Almost universally respected by digital markers everywhere for his thoughtful approach to the subject, he also is the founder of two successful companies, and author of 18 marketing books. As if that wasn't enough, he's also one of most in-demand speakers at marketing conferences worldwide.
"Permission Marketing" is one of his most important books to come out recently. Inside, he lays out the case for why marketing should not be interruption based, forcing your opinions on your customers as if you are some kind of noisy salesman, but one where you ask for permission first, then introduce the potential client to your product or service. Once you have the consent that you're after, then comes the process of delivering on your promises.
All of Godin's books are worth considering, but if you're looking for one to start with, check out "Permission Marketing" first.
"Hello, My Name is Awesome" - Alexandra Watkins
Brand names are everything. Not everyone will be fortunate enough to have a brand that is recognizable, such as Amazon or Google, but by creating a name that resonates with your audience and is memorable, will create a lasting impression on people who will eventually need your services or goods.
This is Alexander Watkins’ specialty. Now in its second edition, Watkins offers tons of tools and techniques to brainstorm your next company's name, and even offers suggestions on how to obtain the right domain with it. With this platform in place, you'll be able to leapfrog the competition right out of the gate.
"The Art of SEO" - Eric Enge
Savvy digital marketers know that SEO is more of an art than it is a science. Although there are key principles that need to be taken into consideration, knowing how all the different algorithmic components work together is what really makes all the difference in your digital marketing campaigns.
Bear in mind though, this book is not for the faint of heart. Depending on which version you read, this book clocks in at nearly a thousand pages, but those who take the plunge are richly rewarded with a history of algorithmic updates, tools for tracking important metrics, as well as the history and all the developments in mobile and local SEO.
This book truly has it all. Like the "For Dummies" book mentioned earlier, this is not one that you will probably read cover to cover, but will operate as a reference guide for you to get an overall history of what works and what doesn't in the world of SEO.
"Hug Your Haters" - Jay Baer
Not every customer will love you; in fact, some see the mark of a true successful business as having its fair share of detractors. Rather than run from them, or simply try to placate them with goodies and freebies, Baer provides a nice framework for how to respond to both public and private issues from your customers.
When handled correctly, digital marketers can turn even their most violent opponents into raving fans. That's not to say that will always happen, but even a measure of compassion and understanding shown to angry clients may help you engage other apathetic clients that are sitting on the fence, wondering whether or not it's worth it to do business with your company.
Baer relies on real-world case studies to drive her point home, which means you’ll have a long list of solutions that you can draw from as you seek to improve your company's social position.
"Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today's Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves" - Adam L. Penenberg
If you're planning on developing a product for the digital age, you better be prepared for it to be an overnight sensation. More than once, a company has been left on their back foot because a marketing campaign that they hoped would be a mild success, actually skyrocketed, causing logistics, supply, and customer support issues along the way.
"Viral Loop" doesn't actually go into the nitty-gritty of constraint issues, but it does give you an idea on how certain products were engineered to be viral from the beginning. While there is always an element of chance to making anything achieve wildfire-like success, "Viral Loop" teaches you how to set yourself up for that success before you start, and includes case studies on companies like Facebook, Twitter, and eBay to make its point.
About THE AUTHOR
After working for multiple digital advertising agencies and managing hundreds of client accounts, spending millions of dollars via Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Native Ads and Direct Media Buying, I took things out on my own and started SparrowBoost. Now, my tight-knit team and I continue to get smarter and more efficient at running our own campaigns and we share our knowledge with you.Learn more about SparrowBoost