I read dozens of business and marketing books every year, and am always on the look out for the next exceptional publication to inspire me and help in my work. Amongst all these I definitely find my favourites.
In this context, I thought it would be fascinating to find out what books have most inspired some of the world's most prominent SEO professionals and content marketing experts. So hundreds of emails later I'm very grateful to the industry insiders who took part and answered this simple question:
“What content marketing book have you learned the most from? e.g. ‘Content Critical‘ by Gerry McGovern and Rob Norton.”
After three weeks of putting this all together, I've now produced a ‘creme de la creme' reading list of some of the best content marketing books (and a few blogs) currently available – which should keep you stocked up on reading material for the next few months 🙂
You can read all the expert answers below – but first let's get to the recommended books…
The Ultimate Content Marketing Reading List
The following reading list is compiled of all the expert recommendations I received, in the order I received them. I'm providing a list in this format as counting votes on every book would seem like I'm judging each author's work – which as a writer myself is something I don't want to do.
I greatly respect all the authors mentioned here, and each of their books has huge merit no matter how many people have chosen them, so I'll let you decide which ones you'd like to see on your bookshelf.
Content Marketing & Marketing Books
Blogs & Online Resources
The following are the blogs, online resources and books not on Amazon mentioned by the experts:
Here are the answers I received from some of the world's most respected marketers and content marketing experts. I've put their replies in the order they responded. Thank you very much if you took part 🙂
It's not a content marketing book per se, but Flip the Funnel by Joseph Jaffe had a strong impact on my thinking about content and its relationship to customers.
I learned the most from writing Optimize.
None to be honest. I've learned more from other marketers by reading their blogs. Sites like Copyblogger, Moz, Search Engine Land, and ProBlogger have taught me what I know about content marketing over the years.
I don't think I've read a dedicated content marketing book. The only one that comes close is Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk, though it wasn't really specific to content marketing. But I sure have learned a lot by watching him in action 🙂
I don't know about favorite but I think as a general marketing/entrepreneurship book, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is the most important one, i.e. if you're going to read just one book, it should be this one.
The way businesses are built has been slowly but steadily changing since the rise of the Internet. The Lean Startup is the best book about how the new way is different from the old way. Unless you understand the concepts it describes, a lot of books about business (based on the old model) can actually be misleading and harmful.
John Lee Dumas
John Lee says:
Heyo! My answer is Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi! Stay inspired!
I would say Robert Cialdini's Influence. It's primarily about marketing rather than content but the 6 principles in it can be embedded in the content as well for great effect.
The best content marketing book I've read is CA$HVERTISING by Drew Eric Whitman. It's a copywriting book that spoon feeds incredibly simple-yet-powerful copywriting tips into your mouth.
The advice from that book has made my content 10x as powerful and therefore more likely to be shared and linked to.
I'd like to recommend Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C Chapman – which is an extensive guide.
What I especially like about the book is it goes beyond “text” content and teaches you to create and market podcasts, videos, ebooks, webinars, conferences and much more. I have also written an ebook guide to guest blogging which you'll find on my site above.
The book I've learned from the most is not specifically about content marketing, but the psychology of persuasion. It's called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini.
Here's a powerful quote from the book that, in a nutshell, reveals exactly how you should approach content marketing:
“One of the most potent of the weapons of influence around us is the rule for reciprocation. The rule says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us. If a woman does us a favour, we should do her one in return…by virtue of the reciprocity rule, then, we are obliged to the future repayment of favours, gifts, invitations, and the like.”
In the digital marketing world, if you want to get eyeballs to your content, you must first give eyeballs to other peoples' content. If you link to peoples' resources, tweet their posts out to your followers, like them on Facebook, etc, you will invoke the rule of reciprocation.
So next time you have an important article you want to get out to the world, when you reach out to those people you did a favour for, they will be more than happy to do one in return – market the hell out of your content!
This is probably a different response, but my choice is The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch.
Because when you ruthlessly apply the 80/20 rule, you get perspective on your content marketing efforts. If you see one or two strategies working the best, then it's better to double down on them, instead of worrying about trying to be everything to everybody. Honestly, this book has save me hundreds of hours of wasted time and money.
Well…so many (including my own :-)).
Here's a new one – Minecraft by Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsso.
What's most interesting about the success of the building game Minecraft is how they work to educate their customers (gamers) on how to spread the message of Minecraft.
At their annual convention, they teach attendees how to become mini-media empires through YouTube, podcasting, building a community, and more. Minecraft, perhaps the most successful game launch in history, has never spent a dime on advertising.
The most important book I've learned from on marketing is Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg.
My favorite marketing book is All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin. Not exactly content marketing, but a classic.
In all honesty, I haven't read a single content marketing book. I read quite a bit via blogs (though little directly about content marketing), and still fall back on Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think and Barry Schwartz's The Paradox of Choice – or reference Kevin Kelly's 1000 True Fans.
In the end, I learn the most by relying on my marketing background and from experiential learning.
The book that influenced my thinking the most is The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott.
That's the book that changed the way I think about marketing — shifting my mindset from outbound to inbound, with a key emphasis on content. This is the book that inspired my book, Content Rules (available on my site above). We couldn't have written Content Rules without New Rules, in other words.
No question, my choice is Different by Youngme Moon. It's the best business book I've read in 5 years – and it's the book I wish I could write.
Well, I've learnt the most by writing Valuable Content Marketing with my partner Sonja Jefferson.
We interviewed businesses making content marketing work both here and in the US and learnt loads about how to make this stuff really work. Writing a book teaches you so much!
Other people's books that I rate – Content Rules by Ann Handley and CC Chapman is a classic so I'd include that in the round up.
I'm a bit biased, given I wrote Content Marketing, but thanks for asking!
I'm going to go outside the box and recommend books that can teach marketers how to write content that tells stories, since brand storytelling is a critical part of effective content marketing.
I'd recommend that anyone who is creating content reads these three books and starts thinking about content through a different frame of reference to craft better, more engaging, and more meaningful stories that consumers can relate to and will want to talk about and share:
I have a new favorite book on content marketing – Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi. It’s absolutely the best resource I’ve seen about why, how and when to deliver the best (hence, epic…) content every time.
My other two favorite books aren’t about content marketing per se, but I thoroughly believe that they are books that EVERY content marketer should read.
First is Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why? – it should serve as the foundation for figuring out your brand story.
Second is It's Not What You Sell, It's What You Stand For by Roy Spence. This book goes down the same road about the need to uncover and articulate your company’s “why,” but puts it in a different perspective in coming from the point of “purpose.” He also shares incredible statistics and examples of the impact this has on engagement and revenues for companies when done right.
As for content marketing books, I’m a big fan of Managing Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose (I’d be surprised if I was the only person to mention this one).
There are a lot of books out there touting the value of content marketing as a concept (“It’s great! You should do it!”), but fewer that provide real practical advice for implementing those strategies.
This one works almost like a little user’s manual for getting started with content marketing and putting yourself on a successful path. Plus – at only 180 pages it’s super short!
Probably Letting Go of the Words by Ginny Redish.
I also have a book coming out: The Digital Crown.
My book is, Valuable Content Marketing by Sonja Jefferson & Sharon Tanton.
The key lesson any reader will take from this book is that the content you produce should be genuinely valuable to your readers. It really helps you to see content from their perspective so that what you produce works for them, and therefore for your business in the long term.
I have read many books on marketing over the years, and in fact, I recently co-authored a content marketing book with my business partner Dechay Watts and Said Baaghil called Brands in Glass Houses. It's about how being authentic and transparent, the foundation of content marketing, is the only way to do business today.
But a book that really stood out to me in the past year is Andrew Davis' Brandscaping. In it, Andrew inspires businesses of every type and size to really think differently about marketing through strategic, and often the least obvious, partnerships. Brandscaping passionately challenges you to think about the question: “Who has your next customer as their current customer?”
The book offers dozens of interesting and brilliant examples that will spark your creativity and transform the way you currently think about marketing.
I’ve learned a lot about content marketing from Joe Pulizzi’s books. However, I assume that many of your other contributors will mention these, so I’d like to offer another suggestion: The Art of Explanation by Lee LeFever.
This book is a must-read for anyone who sells complex products or services. If your audience thinks that your company is boring and isn’t responding to your content, it probably has something to do with how you are crafting your explanations. The book covers everything from why your content is failing to how to use stories to engage your audience.
My favorite book is Brandscaping by Andrew Davis because it demonstrates how seemingly unlikely pairings can offer dramatic results. It reminds you to rethink your audience assumptions and be willing to experiment.
I have just two content marketing books on my desk. It all changes so fast, I find it difficult to keep up in hard copy:
Content Rules by Ann Handley and CC Chapman
Get Content Get Customers by Joe Pulizzi and Newt Barrett.
Mary Ellen Slayter
Mary Ellen says:
I've learned the most from Content Rules by Ann Handley and CC Chapman.
The book I have valued the most is Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki, because it focuses on the importance of being genuine, not just churning out content. Hope that helps!
Well I don’t know how I could recommend any other book than Accelerate! 🙂
One of my favorites is also Jay Baer’s Youtility book.
But when consistency and clarity matter, one tome gets all my attention: The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th edition, is filled with more margin memos and sticky notes than any other resource I own.
I'm a brand and content strategist, and have also written my own book, Content Strategy at Work.
My choice is Epic Content Marketing: How to tell a different story, break through the clutter, and win more customers by marketing less – by Joe Pulizzi.
Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi (practical) and Optimize by Lee Odden (insightful).
The content marketing books I've learned the most from are Brandscaping by Andrew Davis and Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi.
My favorite is Managing Content Marketing from Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi.
I'm a Joe Pulizzi junkie – as can be expected of most content marketers. But my real love is Seth Godin, and I particularly loved his book, Tribes, which ignited me.
I struggle with the idea of “marketing,” and this book helped me get beyond that, and recognize the value in what I believe (that honest, authentic messaging is worthy of doing and doing well) and how I do it.
Godin packs a punch, and I highly recommend this one to anyone struggling with philosophical angst around meaning and change.
It's not specifically about content marketing, but my choice is Lateral Thinking by Edward De Bono – the pioneer of the term ‘lateral thinking'. Fantastic for idea generation…
To be honest, I've never read a book on content marketing.
Things move pretty quickly in digital marketing, so I'm more likely to find what I'm looking for in reports, white papers and blog articles, though the main thing is that, with the blog, we are content marketers for Econsultancy – so much of what we've learned comes from experimentation and experience.
And then there's this from our blog.
I would suggest Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout.
For me, learning how to produce content is not the issue for business owners getting started in content marketing.
It's having clarity of their message and position in their own mind before they get started.
Hope that helps!
I'd pick New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott – it laid the groundwork for what we now call content marketing.
Here's my list:
On Writing Well by William Zinsser – Why? Because I would be too embarrassed to even mention “The Elements Of Style” here, it's a given. And, this one is the second title on every writer's must read list 🙂
Launch by Michael Stelzner – That's the first title that came to me when I read your question, so I guess there must be something to it. Perhaps because it’s the first book I read specifically on the topic? Anyway, it's a great introduction to the concept of content marketing.
I choose Content Rules by Ann Handley and CC Chapman and Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi.
My choice is New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott.
I'd probably step slightly outside of “content marketing” and choose Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson as the book I've learned the most from.
I'd definitely go with the Hubspot Academy for beginner/semi intermediate knowledge. They're working on a new intermediate course at the time of writing.
Also, check out Master Inbound (I'm involved in this project) – it's got over 130 lessons on inbound marketing.
I’d choose Effective Product Marketing by Pragmatic Marketing. Product marketers are well versed in their own product and even more in tune with their consumers of their products. If any product is worth what they're selling, they understand the importance of helping their audience through great content marketing.
Without content marketing and good product marketers, there wouldn't be a way to open up a conversation with the people a business cares about most.
In short, product marketers know how to use content marketing to connect the benefits of their product to help the consumer solve their issues. This is why I chose Pragmatic Marketing as my favorite content marketing book.
My choice is Newsjacking by David Meerman Scott. We put it into practice and saw results!
There are two sources that have inspired me regarding content marketing. One is a book and the other is a blog.
The book is by David Meerman Scott, The New Rules of Marketing and PR. The blog is at Hubspot. They may not be the latest but both alerted and inspired me to the power of online content to grow a brand when content marketing was a twinkle in someone's eye.
David Meerman Scott
My favorite book would be Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, (disclosure – I wrote the forward).
Of the content marketing books I have written myself (5 so far), I’d have to say my favorite is Newsjacking.
It’s a difficult one, but it would probably be Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman.
Although, that being said I do find that we can sometimes learn a lot about content marketing from books that aren’t directly about content.
I think Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman is a classic in this space 🙂
Content Rules by CC Chapman and Ann Handley is my favorite.
I’m going to go a little old school and go with Naked Conversations, the 2006 book on business blogging by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel.
It was the first social media marketing book I read and to this day, it still influences my thinking. Back then, content was all about organic and adding value. We’ve gotten away from that a bit. We’d be better off getting back to it.
At the time of writing I've also launched my latest book too: Earn It, Don't Buy It.
Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod.
The book gives tons of great business and entrepreneurial advice, but it also shows how when you focus on your niche, and relentlessly develop your own style, an audience will follow.
Here are my top content marketing book recommendations:
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout – It's an oldie but goodie.
Made To Stick by Chip & Dan Heath – It's a great book for how to present ideas.
Contagious by Jonah Berger – It shows how ideas catch on based on research by a Wharton professor.
Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi – It's an action plan for content creators.
Content Rules by Ann Handley and CC Chapman – It's a must have book on content marketing.
So there we have it folks, one of the most comprehensive lists of its kind I've seen anywhere online. Click here if you want to go back to the reading list.
What's been great about putting this together is that although there are clearly some very popular books out there – many of which I've already read or heard of – there's also a whole load of books, online resources and blogs offering massive value on content marketing that I didn't have a clue about. I'm really happy to have found all these, it's like opening a toy box and I'll definitely be stocking up for Christmas 🙂
As content marketing grows as an industry (especially in the UK), so does the number of high quality publications in the space – which you would obviously hope to see happening. However, this proliferation does also show that content marketing is becoming more accepted by mainstream business owners, marketers and online entrepreneurs – who now more than ever can see its true value.
Again, thanks to everyone for taking part, I appreciate your time. If I've missed out your own personal favourite, let me know in the comments below…