No degree in marketing can replace actual experience running campaigns. Candidates with fantastic degrees and no experience often get rejected in favor of candidates with a proven track record. This is especially true for digital marketing consultants that have impressive resumes but little experience.
The challenge is - how do you get your first marketing job without having the experience? And the answer is - to learn from the lessons learned by the world’s top brands and marketing gurus. You can find all of that information in digital marketing books.
In this post, we compiled a list of the best digital marketing books that you absolutely must read in 2023. They are good for both novices as well as marketing veterans.
Let’s dive in.
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1. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook – Gary Vaynerchuk
This book describes the principles of inbound marketing really well. It’s a classic from Gary Vaynerchuk, the entrepreneur turned social media guru. The main premise of the book is that you have to give out helpful information to your audience 3 times more often than posting promotional material.
It’s a great manual on how to create high-quality engaging content and adapt it contextually for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and mobile devices.
2. Permission Marketing – Seth Godin
Permission Marketing deals with this idea of disruptive marketing. In a world where so many ads are in our face from TV ads to Facebook videos to Google Ads to those annoying banners that popup when you’re reading a Forbes article.
This book introduces the idea of getting permission from your audience to market to them. This changes the way companies create content, share their story online, and grow their brand.
3. Epic Content Marketing – Joe Pulizzi
This is considered the “bible” of content marketing. Joe is the co-founder of Content Marketing Institute and has extensive experience running content marketing for different companies.
This book is so good it should serve as supplementary reading for MBA-level courses. It encapsulates everything you need to know about creating valuable content for your target audience, positioning your company, and transforming the user experience for your potential customers.
4. Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation & Practice – Dave Chaffey & Fiona Ellis
No list would be complete without a textbook. Sometimes you want to get a really good overview of the theory and high-level strategy for a particular marketing channel before executing it. Well, this book has both.
It has a very practical chapter on how to create a marketing strategy from scratch and then covers some of the best tactical advice on specific digital channels like social media, search engine marketing, and conversion rate optimization.
5. Hacking Growth – Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown
I love this book. Sean Ellis is a famous entrepreneur and angel investor that invented the term “growth hacking”. It was in an era when marketing was super fluffy and a lot of brands were wasting their time on theoretical branding campaigns that didn’t bring any results.
This book presents the idea of cross-functional teams and fast testing and iteration loops that unlock hyper-growth. He also has some really great stories from the greatest brands out there - IBM, Walmart, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Uber. It’s a really easy and super inspirational read.
6. Youtility – Jay Baer
Jay Baer is one of the most well-known marketing influencers of the last decade and in this book he focuses on the idea of being useful, the importance of providing value to your customer, and how that should be part of every company’s DNA.
The idea might seem pretty obvious in 2022 but back then it was quite groundbreaking. So check this out if you want to get some practical examples of how companies create “youtility” and infuse it in every team.
7. The Social Media Bible: Tactics, Tools, & Strategies for Business Success – Lon Safko
I know a lot of people like to learn social media tips from LinkedIn influencers but sometimes you just want to read a good old book on a particular platform. This is a great read for people that are just starting out in marketing or want to get a refresh on social media strategy.
8. Hooked – Nir Eyal
Nir Eyal is a Stanford Business professor with a lot of really groundbreaking research into human psychology. In this book, he introduces the idea of building a product and marketing your brand in a way that helps your customer form a habit. And once they’re “hooked” you can build that customer loyalty and become a truly great brand.
9. The Big Data-Driven Business – Russell Glass & Sean Callahan
Data science is becoming a more popular term than growth hacking nowadays, and for good reason. Large companies and enterprises need big data to make better decisions and automate their marketing campaigns. It’s engaging, easy to read, and really breaks down the whole subject into bite-sized pieces that are easy to digest.
10. Hug Your Haters – Jay Baer
Here’s another great read from Jay Baer that deals with a critically important subject - customer service. Everything is visible on social media and a few customer complaints could literally destroy a company’s reputation overnight. In this book, Jay breaks down why customers complain, what response they expect, and how to properly engage to preserve your good standing online.
11. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert Cialdini
A super important read on how to make write and market to your audience in a persuasive manner. Robert Cialdini has done over 35 years of scientific research on the subject and really teaches you how to apply the principles of reciprocation, commitment, consistency, authority, and social proof to create engaging marketing campaigns.
12. Art of SEO (3rd edition) – Eric Enge
This is the classic guide on all things related to search engine optimization. It covers everything you need about on-page optimization, link building, search analytics, and building the right SEO team.
The first time I saw this book was when I got my first marketing job, and I thought ‘woah this would make a really great door stop’ 😅. It’s a massive volume but it’s well worth it if you want to master SEO.
13. The New Rules of Marketing and PR – David Meerman Scott
This is a really nice read about digital marketing and PR. It was written in 2007 but a lot of the ideas are still relevant today. There are some great real-world examples and case studies in there as well. It covers a variety of marketing channels like podcasting, blog writing, direct marketing, and much more.
14. Digital Marketing for Dummies – Ryan Deiss and Russ Henneberry
I love the dummies books. They get the top experts from each field to write down the most important information in the simplest way. Digital marketing for dummies provides a great overview of marketing fundamentals, strategies, tactics, and tools that every digital marketer needs to know. It’s a super practical guide and really fun to read.
15. Building a Story Brand – Donald Miller
A super important skill for marketers is the skill of storytelling. The ability to share your brand story in a compelling way on your site and social media platforms can make or break the success of your product. This book breaks down seven universal story points that all people respond to and helps marketers create effective messaging throughout the customer journey.
16. You’re My Favorite Client – Mike Monteiro
Mike Monteiro is a co-founder and design director of an interactive design studio and he has authored several books for graphic designers. This one deals with the hiring process of graphic designers and can help any marketer hire better candidates for their marketing team.
17. Lean Analytics – Benjamin Yoskovitz and Alistair Croll
Analytics is a tough subject for marketers to learn. It’s like math in middle school, remember those kids that were afraid of it? Well, don’t be that kid. This book can help you analyze your data, pick the right metrics to focus on, and use your data to grow your business. One cool thing about it is that it introduces the LEAN methodology to the whole subject and breaks it down for each type of business - SaaS, eCommerce, media sites, and mobile app businesses.
18. Ogilvy on Advertising – David Ogilvy
David Ogilvy is known to have founded one of the most well-known advertising agencies in the world. In this book, he shares some of the most timeless advice about advertising. So if you are starting out in the field or need to get a fresh perspective on the campaigns you’re running, then this is the book to buy.
19. Scientific Advertising - Claude Hopkins
Speaking of advertising, here’s another timeless classic on the subject. This book is actually recommended by David Ogilvy and has become the most well-known text in performance marketing.
It helps explain lots of the foundational ideas in the field such as how to measure your ad effectiveness and how to use psychology in your ads. Even though it was written in the 1920’s it remains surprisingly relevant to today’s advertisers.
20. Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got – Jay Abrahams
Jay Abraham is one of the most well-known marketing consultants and coaches. And in this book, he distills all of his principles and proven strategies. It’s actually a very practical volume, with no fluff, no theories, and tons of value-packed suggestions that you can implement right now to grow your business.
21. Content Machine – Dan Norris
Here’s a really amazing story of an agency owner that grew his business from $0 to $600k in 2 years with no online advertising. He did it with content and in this book he shares the exact framework he used for his content marketing efforts. It’s a little more basic than the other content-related books on our list but it’s still a really great read.
22. Expert Secrets by Russell Brunson
Russell Brunson is the co-founder of Click Funnels, a popular digital marketing tool. For some people, Russell comes out as too aggressive in his sales tactics, but he truly has an amazing story (grew Click Funnels to a 7-figure business) and a knack for creating marketing funnels.
He has a really unique perspective on consumer psychology and helps business owners tell their stories and increase their sales. It’s a must-read for any marketer.
23. Don’t Make Me Think - Steve Krug
This is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s a hilarious read with lots of great humor and a ton of valuable insights into web usability. Steve was a super successful business consultant that helped companies increase their conversion rates during the dot com boom.
He lived through a lot of the successes and failures of that time so he’s uniquely positioned to shed light on the things that worked. And since then, his actionable insights have become like the core concepts of web usability. It’s the perfect book to read for anyone that’s doing conversion rate optimization, mobile marketing, or web design.
24. Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Digital Distraction
Here’s a great read on what makes content go viral. It has a bunch of really cool stories about the rise of pop music, why certain movies are popular, and what led to the success of internet giants like Facebook and Etsy. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in influencer marketing, storytelling, or social media management.
25. Social Media Marketing – All In One for Dummies
Speaking of social media here’s a great book to read if you’re looking to know the latest changes happening in all the various social media platforms that you’re using. The book includes the latest changes to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, and Youtube, explains how to combine social media with your other efforts and how to grow your online community.
26. Digital Marketing Strategy - Simon Kingsnorth
We covered this book in our list of the top marketing strategy books but it deserves an honorable mention here as well. This book is like a textbook. It takes a broad approach and goes through a lot of different marketing channels such as affiliate marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, and marketing automation, and introduces some of the most well-known techniques for each channel.
27. The Digital Marketing Handbook - Simon Kingsnorth
And here’s the sequel to Simon’s first book. This one is much more practical (something that was lacking in the first one according to a lot of the readers) and is designed to give specific tactical information for business and digital marketing agency owners.
28. Digital Marketing - Annmarie Hanlon
Here’s another really great textbook. This one teaches how to create a marketing plan step by step, how to set up a digital marketing campaign, and how to analyze the results with tools like Google Analytics. Think of it as a very long step-by-step guide on marketing your online business. It’s great for both novices and digital marketing professionals.
29. The Art of Digital Marketing - Ian Dodson
This book is written by the co-founder of the Digital Marketing Institute (DMI), one of the most well-known sites for marketing courses. It introduces the DMI framework which is a helpful tool to go about creating and testing any kind of campaign. It’s much more practical than a textbook but no less comprehensive.
30. Digital Marketing that Actually Works - Krista Neher
Here’s a great book for beginners. Use it like a blueprint when you’re setting up your campaigns and it will help you get clarity on every step of the process. It has a chapter on every discipline in marketing you’d need to learn -> SEO, email marketing, conversational marketing, analytics, social media marketing and advertising.
31. The Digital Pivot: Secrets of Online Marketing - Eric Schwartzman
Eric is one of the foremost marketing consultants in the world. He’s worked for brands like Cirque de Soleil, Johnson & Johnson, and the Environmental Defense Fund. And unlike those timeless best sellers we’ve covered, this one is actually a very recent one. Written in 2021, it stays really current and is perfect for the entrepreneur or marketer that wants to succeed in a post-covid 19 world.
32. Understanding Digital Marketing - Damian Ryan
A Complete Guide to Engaging Customers and Implementing Successful Digital Campaigns
Last but not least, here’s a book in its 5th edition that’s been made the required reading at over 100 universities. It’s comprehensive, and thorough and has been endorsed by places like Harvard University and the Hult Business School. It’s excellent reading for anyone starting out in the field of marketing.
How to pick the best marketing book to read
You should look at the most pressing business challenge you're trying to solve. Here are some good questions to ask yourself:
- Are you just about to launch your business?
- Are there specific channels in the digital marketing landscape that you are having trouble with?
- Do you need to work on retention and turning your customer base into loyal customers?
- Or are you focused on a specific channel like your blog and want to get some good ideas for content marketing strategies to use?
- Are you focused on a specific business metric like customer satisfaction or churn rate?