33 Books An Internet Marketer Must Read

Ian Lurie

This is my internet marketing reading list: Books I’ve read over the years that really helped me get going. I’ve put them in the order I’d read ’em, if I had it all to do again. They start with broad marketing concepts and then focus in, first on internet-specific and then on discipline-specific stuff. You can, of course, read them in any order you like.

General Marketing Learning

If you don’t know marketing, you can’t succeed in internet marketing. Learn the basics, first, and you’ll go far. Ignore them, and you’ll end up the village idiot.

  1. Ogilvy on Advertising: You can’t beat Ogilvy for great examples of powerful marketing copy and design. Yeah, he could be pompous, but he’s also arguably the greatest marketing copywriter in history, it’s hard to hold it against him.
  2. Tested Advertising Methods, by John Caples: Before Ogilvy was even born, there was John Caples. A sure sign of his brilliance is that his stuff still holds up today. Read this book and you’ll get your first taste of split testing, which will definitely help you later.
  3. All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World: In my opinion, Seth Godin’s best work. All Marketers are Liars explores marketing as a narrative or story-telling discipline.
  4. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference: Not really a marketing book at all, but Tipping Point explores human behavior in a way that leads nicely into the next title.
  5. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion: I always feel a little dirty after reading this book. Parts of it border on mind control methods for carpetbaggers and door-to-door salesmen. But the insights are priceless.
  6. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us: Seth Godin’s book about group behavior, messages and mission is a great renewal of purpose when you feel like all you’re doing is hawking other people’s crap for a living.
  7. Confessions of an Advertising Man rounds out your general marketing learning by giving you a practical look at how Ogilvy advised new recruits when they came on board at his agency. Like all his books, parts of it are a bit dated, but there are timeless bits of wisdom in them thar pages.

Internet Marketing: General Principles

There aren’t many good books out there about internet marketing as a field. These three can get you started, though. I hear the author of the third book is particularly handsome:

  1. Street Smart Internet Marketing – Tips, Tools, Tactics & Techniques to Market Your Product, Service, Business or Ideas Online: A good introduction to it all, plus this book has some good tactical advice for specific marketing techniques.
  2. Web Marketing For Dummies (For Dummies (Computer/Tech)). A solid introduction to internet marketing. However, this book doesn’t get very specific. If you’re already working in internet marketing, and think you have a good grasp of the basics, skip this one.
  3. Conversation Marketing: Internet Marketing Strategies: By Ian Lurie. Cough…
  4. Web ReDesign 2.0: Workflow that Works (2nd Edition) (VOICES): At some point, you have to be able to get people together, get them working, and build a web site. Read this beautifully-designed book to learn how to manage the process.

Design and Usability

Online design is about getting out of the way, as much as anything else. Read up and learn how to create great sites that help, instead of confuse, your visitors:

  1. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition. Sort of the bible of internet usability. I don’t care how great a designer you are – if you don’t read this book, you’re probably making some serious errors, usability-wise, that are hurting your ability to sell.
  2. Defensive Design for the Web: How to improve error messages, help, forms, and other crisis points (VOICES): This book provides everything you need to know about contingency design. Contingency design is a little-respected but critical element in the art of building successful online businesses.
  3. Information Architecture for Designers: Structuring Websites for Business Success: If you want to dig a bit deeper into the art and science of structuring great web sites, this book’s a great introduction to information design. Plus, it provides a lot of advanced advice along the way.
  4. What about web design? I could give you a list of books on web design, but in my opinion it’s not worth the money. Instead, read one of the exceptional blogs on web design, such as Smashing Magazine. Google “golden ratio”, too.


No book can teach you to write good copy. You become a good writer by writing, a lot. But there are tips and tricks to the art of online copywriting. These books will help you find ’em:

  1. Persuasive Online Copywriting: How to Take Your Words to the Bank: Bryan Eisenberg and his team know more about online persuasion than anyone. This book is crammed with ideas, tips and methods for writing copy that sells.
  2. The Ultimate Sales Letter: Attract New Customers. Boost Your Sales: Dan Kennedy’s bluster is maddening but he knows his stuff. Read this book.
  3. Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results: Another book by the Eisenbergs. Yes, they have 2 out of 3 titles in this section. Plus they’re sort of a competitor, so you know I must really like their stuff.

Search Engines, SEO and PPC

Search engines drive three quarters of everything that happens online. Ignore ’em if you want. Then I can buy your furniture for cheap when you go out of business. Otherwise, have a look at these books:

  1. Search Engine Visibility (2nd Edition) (Voices That Matter): Shari Thurow’s book focuses on the stuff you can really control in the world of search engine optimization.
  2. Search Engine Marketing, Inc.: Driving Search Traffic to Your Company’s Web Site (2nd Edition): The authors of this book sent me a copy to review. I’m a total skeptic when it comes to any book that claims to teach SEO, but this book provides both the detailed and high-level view, and does a solid job.
  3. AdWords For Dummies (For Dummies (Computer/Tech)). I know, I’m giving the Dummies books a lot of play here, and I’m probably biased. But these are great introductions to the subject. Adwords for Dummies is great if you’ve never used Adwords before.
  4. Marketing Sherpa’s Search Marketing Benchmark Guide 2009: Once you have the background on it all, why not read 400+ pages of SEO and PPC wisdom? Packed with figures and charts, this is a great reference work. Just don’t read it before bed – it’s informative, but not terribly exciting unless you’re a search geek like me.

Web Analytics

All the marketing stuff is great, but you need to be able to measure. That’s where analytics come in. These two books will get you started.

  1. Web Analytics: An Hour a Day: The only hour-a-day book I’ve ever seen that lives up to its promise.
  2. Web Analytics For Dummies (For Dummies (Computers)). I’ve read this one twice, and in spite of my analytics geekery, it still teaches me, or reminds me, of a few things.

E-mail, Landing Pages and Other Moneymakers

There are a herd of different ways to squeeze more money out of your web site. These books hit some of the high points:

  1. Landing Page Optimization: The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversions: A great introduction to how landing pages can work for your business.
  2. E-Mail Marketing For Dummies: I’m working with John on another book right now, and read this as a prep for our project. It’s a great introduction to e-mail marketing, with a few tips I didn’t know myself.
  3. Marketing Sherpa’s Landing Page Handbook: I’ve written about this book before. Save your pennies – it’s expensive. But it’s also well worth the money, and pays for itself in a few hours.
  4. Marketing Sherpa 2009 E-mail Marketing Benchmark Guide: Another massive volume by MarketingSherpa. This one’s stuffed with every kind of research and information you could need to launch, run and improve an e-mail marketing campaign. Again, pricey, but pays for itself in no time.


If you really want to learn blogging, read a lot of blogs. Or read books by successful bloggers. These two books are all you’ll need to get a solid background in the world of blogging:

  1. Clear Blogging: How People Blogging Are Changing the World and How You Can Join Them. Still the best introduction to blogging that you can find, anywhere. This is a must-read for anyone who hasn’t already read it.
  2. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income. You can actually make money on a blog. No one knows more about that than Darren Rowse, of who I am continuously jealous.

HTML and Other Geekery

You can always find other people to handle geeky stuff, like writing standards-compliant code. But it still pays to have a general concept of what they’re doing, so you can keep an eye on things. These books are good introductions:

  1. Designing with Web Standards (2nd Edition): It’s just a cool book, filled with great examples and a plain-language style that anyone can follow. Plus the cover’s funny.
  2. PHP & MySQL For Dummies 3rd edition (For Dummies (Computer/Tech)): Don’t read this to become a PHP developer. Read this so you know what’s possible and what’s not in a database-driven web site.
  3. Flash Web Design: This is an older book about Flash and motion graphics. But like the book above, it’ll give you a very, very good idea of what’s possible and what’s not. Plus, it’ll make you feel like a hair in the nose of the design world when you see the kind of stuff that Hillman Curtis creates.

What about…?

There are other categories I thought about including, such as motion graphics, video and social media. I don’t have much expertise in the first two, and the third is largely a phrase people cooked up to sell more books, so I’m steering clear for now. If you have suggestions, please, post ’em below.

Note that all the books in here are linked via Amazon or other affiliate programs. My guinea pigs eat a lot of hay every week. It’s expensive. However, I didn’t choose these books based on potential earnings. They’re all books I’ve read myself over the years and continue to see as valuable. That said, buy the damned books, will you?

SEO Copywriting eBook
Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. Your blog is without a doubt one of the most informative and helpful blogs out there. I truly appreciate your content. I am always trying to look to improve my knowledge and strategy to make my own business stronger. I am never disappointed when I come here. Thank You and Keep up the good work

  2. I was interested by your list as I had not heard of a lot of them and they weren’t the usual list you see. I clicked on the seo visibility one though and the reviewers all claimed that this was a beginners book, do you think I can still learn from it if I already know a few of the basics?

  3. Great post Ian!
    I absolutely love your list of books. I have read many of them. However, I will certainly add the others to my “to-read” list.
    I always like to see what others are reading in our industry.

  4. Great list Ian, thanks for filtering 🙂
    I’d add The Search by Battelle as a
    first required reading for everybody new to the search marketing and web design, it’d help a lot when it comes to quality of some blogs and ‘industry’ comments

  5. Killer list. I have read several of these and really appreciate the “what’s next for me” information. I am glad to see another person that sees the great value of Cialdini’s work for marketing. The one gap I have is Marketing Sherpa – I’m working on getting approval for buying one of these monsters.
    Thanks for the detailed evaluations. I have added a few to my Amazon wishlist for the next time my reading dwindles.

  6. @KateC I think so, yes. It’s amazing how a ‘beginners’ book can often remind me of all the simple stuff I otherwise forget.

  7. Hi,
    Great list you have there, although I would suggest also including a separate section on “social media” since it is a very very large portion of Internet Marketing and i would include books like;
    Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
    The New Influencers: A Marketer’s Guide to the New Social Media by Paul Gillin
    Secrets of Social Media Marketing by Paul Gillin
    Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day by Dave Evans and Susan Bratton
    just to name a few.

  8. Another great post, Ian. Under copywriting I would also recommend “How To Write A Good Advertisement” by Victor O. Schwab (an oldie but a goodie) and “The AdWeek Copywriting Handbook” by Joe Sugarman. I still reference those all the time, and they’re a constant source of inspiration.

  9. Waaah! I almost bought Persuasive Online Copywriting but opted instead for Web Copy That Sells — biiiiig mistake.
    Does the Eisenbergs’ book cover e-commerce? I get so tired of reading tips for writing those multi-page online sales pitches for a single high-ticket product or service. That’s fine for people who do that kind of thing, but that’s not what we e-commerce writers do. We write hundreds of pages about hundreds of products — one page per product. Is there a resource out there for us? “How to Write 20 web pages peddling one overpriced seminar” doesn’t cut it. So, if the Eisenbergs have some tips for us e-commerce plebes, then I am definitely interested.
    By the way. Ian – love this blog. I love the humor. I have a hard time taking life completely seriously, and I appreciate a blog that tickles my funny bone a bit while it gives me valuable advice.

  10. Woah, I’m bookmarking for sure this page…I’ve already read many of the book mentioned, but there are also some that I didn’t know and look really interesting.
    Thanx for the share 🙂

  11. Ian,
    Great list – I am a big fan of business books – for both entertainment and knowledge.
    I know it’s the title de jour right now, but I was very impressed by Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational. It’s a marketing book disguised as a economics title and I would add it to my general marketing list in a heartbeat.

  12. @ Ian – Thanks for the compliment, we appreciate it. We follow your blog too 😉
    @ Diane – After your rant I’m sure you will like our book. If you contact me through our website I’ll send them to you.

  13. I’ve read tons of books on copywriting… all your choices were good, but so far, I’ve found Joseph Sugarman’s Adweek Copywriting Handbook the best.

  14. Nice list (and one I will keep) but I can’t believe the glaring omission of Dave Chaffey’s books on emarketing! They teach them now on Digital Marketing courses at a Master’s level. V readable for the layman too.

  15. Ian,
    Thank you so much for the awesome information you offer on your blog. I am forever grateful to all the time and effort you have put into your posts.
    I will be checking back often.

  16. Thanks for sharing your list. And for the record, I have no problem with your “For Dummies” bias. I too have found them to be more useful than I care to admit.

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