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Some books on digital
marketing that are worth a look

These are some of the books I have found useful in my research into digital marketing. As I put the list together I realised that most were published in the early years of the century. I think this is because by then the web was old enough for the best in the business to have perfected their art - at that time - and be able to tell others about it. And since then no one has really come up with anything better - though this is mainly because the basics are covered in the books that were published in or around the early 2000s. The exception to this rule is, of course, where technology or the environment has moved on - the use of social media as a platform for marketing, for example.

You'll note there are no 'academic' texts. This is because I find that books that are written for use as learning aids have to, by necessity, cover the same key aspects of the subject. The content of such books only really varies depending on the opinion or viewpoint of the authors. However, neither are there any books with titles like; 20 Ways to Master Digital Marketing or Become a Digital Marketing Millionaire in only 2 Hours a Week. What I have listed are books from authors who offer reflections on digital marketing that goes beyond that of the ordinary practitioner or who have offered insights into the role 'digital' has, is and will play in not only marketing, but business in general.

No matter how good a digital marketer you are now [or think you are], if you at least 'scan' these books, you will become a better digital marketer.

Anderson, C. (2006) The Long Tail. For Internet marketing students it is a 'must read' - see my review.

Battelle, J. (2005) The Search. How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture. See my review.

Bly, R.W. (2002) The Online Copywriter's Handbook. The author has moved on to be a recognised expert in this subject area.

Brown, D. and Fiorella, S. (2013) Influence Marketing. The subtitle to this book is 'How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing', which gives the suggestion that the book is a how to ... business practice book. However, despite its title and despite the authors being practitioners and not academics, the research and use of concepts in the book make it much more than just a how to ... book and closer to an academic text.

Cialdini, R. B. (1984-2007) Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Although this is not a 'digital' book per se, much of it has relevance to the digital marketer - particularly with regard to website and social media content. Cialdini suggested that influence is based on six principles: authority [the person is a credible expert], likeability [they are a trusted friend], reciprocity [we owe them for the advice they give], consistency [they are in sync with our beliefs], consensus [choices made based on the advice are popular] and scarcity [the advice gives us an advantage over others]. The caveat is, of course, that the best conmen and women all know this theory better than the majority of marketers.

Caples, J. (1997) Tested Advertising Methods. A new edition of an old [really old] book. Don't let that put you off, however, the majority of the content is pertinent to online marketing. For example, it covers such things as 'selling copy' versus 'style copy' [on page 139] - which in the book refers to writing adverts. I would suggest that anyone writing content for any online presence should know the difference between selling and style - and if they don't then the content is unlikely to be fully meeting the objectives of that web presence.

Eisenberg, B. & Novo, J. (2002) The Marketer's Common Sense Guide to E-Metrics. An excellent guide that includes a 'Conversion Rate Marketing Calculator' workbook.

Eisenberg, B., Eisenberg, J. & Garcia, A. (2014) Buyer Legends: The Executive Storyteller's Guide. The concept of 'Buyer Legends' is the use of narratives and storytelling in marketing ... something that is ideally suited to 'online'. [note that the last time I looked this was available for free on Kindle]

Godin, S. (2001) Unleashing the Ideavirus. This book takes the concept of viral marketing several stages further - seeking to maximize the spread of information from customer to customer [rather than the old-fashioned marketing practice of interrupting the potential customer with a marketing message they do no wish to receive]. Although some of the ideas presented are a little 'off the wall', the content encourages you to think about marketing: what it is and what it is trying to achieve. A very good read for both budding entrepreneurs and viral marketers.

Godin, S. (2007) Meatball Sundae. Another thought-provoking book from Seth Godin. Although this text does border on the 'how to ...' style of presentation, and the author does seem to say some things just to incite a response, it does promote further thought in how contemporary marketers should practice their art [or is that science?].

Goldman, A. (2010) Everything I know about marketing I learned from Google. An essential read for any contemporary marketer. See my review.

Hoffman, B. (2017) BadMen: How Advertising Went From A Minor Annoyance To A Major Menace. The author is out-spoken against many aspects of advertising - this book concentrates on digital advertising.

Hopkins, C. (1923) Scientific Advertising. Although this book is getting on for being a hundred years old, don't let that put you off. Similarly, get past the language used at that time [it could be used as a example of the sexism of that age] and read the marketing content. Times move on but sound ideas are still sound. Much of the book refers to direct or catalogue marketing - effectively exactly what Internet marketing is today. Many young whippersnappers who think they invented it all in the dot com boom should be forced to digest this book [in both senses of the term]. The book is out of copyright and so available to download free from a number of websites - including this one.

Keen, A. (2008) The Cult of the Amateur . An enjoyable and interesting read, this book is a useful text for budding Internet marketers - see my review.

Keen, A (2015) The Internet Is Not the Answer. If not a follow-up to The Cult of the Amateur , this is certainly a continuation of Keen's examination of how the Internet has changed things - for both good and bad. Another book you should read if you want to do business in the digital age.

Krug, S. (2000) Don't make me think - a common sense approach to web usability. The title of this book says it all for this practical text.

Levine, R., Locke, C., Searls, D., & Weinberger, D. (2000) The Cluetrain Manifesto. This was a significant, and somewhat controversial, book when it came out. Although you can still buy copies on Amazon, the whole thing is available to download free from the book's website. The 95 theses [#1 is 'markets are conversations'] set the tone for the book, which is as much about business and marketing in general as it is about e-marketing - there is even a potted history of the development of marketing. However, much of the content sets the ground for [amongst other things] the 'social marketing' concept that is so popular today - and so makes it an essential read for e-marketing students and practitioners.

McAlpine, R. (2001) Web Word Wizard. The sub title is 'a guide to writing for the web' ... and it is.

McGovern, G. (2010) The Stranger's Long Neck. A must-read for effective website development, see my review.

McGovern, G. (2016) Transform: A rebel's guide for digital transformation. The sales blurb for this book includes:
'Being customer-centric is the new motto. It's where every organization knows it must get to. But those who champion the customer are often seen as troublemakers. Why? Because if you're customer centric ... you're making it harder for your management and your colleagues. It's more work, more effort.'
That sets the tone for the rest of the content.

McGovern, G. and Norton, R. (2002) Content Critical. The sub-title to this text is: 'Gaining competitive advantage through high-quality web content', my advice would be to prefix this with 'if you are serious about ...' and add '... read this book' at the end.

McGovern, G., Norton, R. and O'Dowd, C. (2002) The Web Content Style Guide, The text's sub-title says it all: 'An essential reference for online writers, editors and manager'.

McConnell, B. & Huba, J. (2007) Citizen Marketers. Another book that was ahead of its time [neither Facebook or Twitter appear in the index], but reading it now gives us an excellent perspective of how social media developed before it was the 'flavour of the month'. Although it is well researched, I was left with the impression that most of the content comes from the experience of the authors rather than from pure research.

Mintz, A.P. (2002) Web of Deception. For those of you who think this subject is new ... it isn't. This book will give readers a good background on privacy, scams and what we now know as 'fake news'.

Neilsen, J. (2000) Designing Web Usability. Considered overly simplistic by those designers who tend to design for themselves (and not their clients, or more importantly, the website users), this book should be compulsory reading on all web design courses. Many - including me - would consider the author to be the Godfather of online usability. His opinions are a text-book example of how research and practice are combined in mastering a subject.
UPDATE November 2018: For reasons I won't go into, I had cause to scan through this book today. There was a certain amount of nostalgia in seeing many of the websites used as examples - but what is striking is that the message on the importance of usability is perhaps more important now than it was back in 2000. It shoud still be a compulsory text on all web design courses ... sadly, it isn't.

Packard, V. (1957) The Hidden Pursuaders. A seminal work on advertising - much of which is relevant to digital marketing.

Schmidt, E. and Cohen, J. (2013) The New Digital Age. Written by two of the key players at Google, this book could not have been better marketed ... or is that hyped? The book is not about digital marketing, it is about how 'digital' [whatever that is] has, is and will impact on the world. I found it to be pretty heavy going, with some of the subjects passing over my head. But if you are going to work in the digital world - as well as live in it - you should make the effort to give it a read.

Scott, M.D. (2007) The New Rules of Marketing and PR. The sub-title for this book is : How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly, which pretty much sums up the content. I think this book offers a great deal to the would-be social media marketer, and could be the future of marketing for some - but by no means all - organizations.

Seda, C. (2004) Search Engine Advertising. The development of technology, the rise of Google and the acceptance of 'online' as an effective medium for advertising since it was published means that some of the content of this book is now out-dated. However, it does include all of the basics that any digital advertiser must know if they are to use all of the newer technology or platforms.

Seybold, P. (1998) An excellent text on how e-technology can be used to meet customer needs. The section on how American Airlines adopted the web is a case study of how it should be done. Remember - this book was written when few people in the USA knew what the Internet was and most people in Europe had never even heard of it. Less than 20 years later the web is ubiquitous and many folk could not imagine living their lives without it.

Shotton, R. (2018) The Choice Factory: How 25 behavioural biases influence the products we decide to buy. Another book that is not a 'digital' book per se, but has relevance to the digital marketer. Many of the examples used are of online advertising.

Standage, T. (2013) Writing on the Wall : Social Media the First 2,000 Years. This is not a book on marketing, it is a book on social media. However, if you want to be effective at marketing on social media you need to understand social media. This book will help you do that by looking at the history of social media from the Romans to the Arab Spring via seventeenth century coffeehouses.

Sterne, J. (2001) World Wide Web Marketing. Readers should take particular note of anything Jim Sterne says; he walks the walk as well as talking the talk.

Sterne, J. (2002) Web Metrics - proven methods for measuring website success. See above.

Sterne, J. (2017) Artificial Intelligence for Marketing: Practical Applications. Digital marketers need to know at least a bit about AI - and this is the book to read to find out about it.

Tapscott, D. (1994 - 2014) The Digital Economy. I seem to recall that back in 1996 this was the first book I bought on the virtually unknown Amazon [whatever happened to it?]. A best selling book over the last 20 years or so, you should try to get hold of an early edition. Read it and you will be amazed at Tapscott's insights into the future. Later editions, however, include examples of how the Digital Economy has impacted on business and businesses. Another book that is a must-read for any business student or practitioner who wants to be effective in that practice.

Tapscott, D., Ticoll, D., & Lowy, A. (2000) Digital Capital: Harnessing the Power of Business Webs. This book concentrates more on 'corporate' issues, but is no less relevant for that. Anyone new to anything related to [what is now called] the digital transformation should read this to see how the business world was adjusting to 'digital' back when they were still at school.

Tapscott, D. & Williams, A. D. (2006) Wikinomics. I think this book was overhyped at its launch [or just well marketed?]. It is OK and a worthwhile read, I just disagree with its core concept of mass collaboration for everything. For more, see my review.

Tillinghast, T. (2001) Tactical Guide to Online Marketing. Although the title suggests that the book addresses all aspects of online marketing, it actually concentrates on online advertising. It does provide, however, a very 'hands-on' account of using the world wide web as a medium for advertising.

Tobin, J. (2013) Earn it - Don't Buy It. A critical examination of the role of social media in marketing.

Usborne, N. (2002) Net Words - creating high-impact online copy. If there is a web writer's writer - Nick Usborne is it.

Weber, L. (2007) Marketing to the Social Web. Excellent book that I would recommend as a 'how to' in this aspect of online marketing. My only complaint is one on which I make comment elsewhere [not least in my own book on the subject, An Introduction to Social Media Marketing]. And that is that although Weber purports that social marketing is feasible for all organizations / brands, he gives few examples - the majority of case studies being global brand names. Whilst there are some exceptional cases of how the 'small guy' has been successful in social media marketing, there are millions of 'small guys' - and I still question the validity of social marketing for the majority of them.

And finally ...

Whether you are a marketer, or just a digital marketer, you should take the time to read:
Blythe, J. (2006). A very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book about studying marketing. The best book on marketing that I have ever read. Its title tells you the tone of the content's presentation.

How to cite this article:
Charlesworth, A. (2007). Some books on digital marketing that are worth a look. Retrieved [insert date] from

This page was first published on this domain in March 2018 ... but it was on for some years before that.

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