If you want to run a successful and profitable web business – whether you’re a real estate professional, a consultant, a lender, or a small business owner … you need a strategy to attract, engage, and convert visitors into customers on the web.
Nothing happens without a website and an effective content strategy. No traffic, no sales, no revenue … nothing.
Over the last 7 years I’ve created content to attract, engage, and convert customers in a number of different ways …
At Diverse Solutions I wrote dozens of blog posts on how to effectively use IDX to effortlessly generate more real estate leads. I also wrote all of their Help Desk tutorials. This helped build our brand and greatly improved our customer retention rate.
I helped launch the free AgentPress library with Copyblogger when they released their new Hyperlocal websites for the real estate industry. We generated 3,000+ subscribers in just a couple of months.
I’ve trained hundreds of real estate agents on the principles of building effective, content-rich, lead generating websites. We launched YourBerkeley.com in May 2014 and today it generates thousands of site visitors per month and has resulted in at least 2 listings and multiple buyer leads.
Bottom line: this stuff works!
If I were teaching a course on content marketing here are the 10 MUST-READ books that I’d include in my curriculum …
#1. Inbound Marketing: Attract, Engage, and Delight Customers Online
by Brian Halligan (@bhalligan) & Dharmesh Shah (@dharmesh)
I read the first edition of this book when it came out in 2009. If you want to build a solid inbound marketing strategy, this book will show you what you need to do.
Inbound marketing is all about creating high quality content that attracts, engages, and converts. This book covers everything from:
- Building a website as the hub of your marketing strategy,
- Important metrics you should be tracking to monitor your progress,
- How to create content that speaks to your target audience,
- The basics of SEO – they cover the basics of good on-page and off-page SEO,
- And how to use social media to share your message and engage with your customers,
If you want some actionable advice on how to build an effective inbound marketing strategy that will help you convert visitors and prospects into customers, this book will help you do just that.
#2. Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing
Creating a winning content strategy isn’t just about writing good content. You need an effective search and social strategy as well.
In this book you will learn:
- How to perform a technical SEO audit of your website,
- How to work SEO into your content strategy,
- What and why customer personas are important,
- How to use customer personas to guide your content creation process,
- How to properly perform keyword research so that you can optimize your content,
Then, how to tie all of this in to a proper social content promotion process.
This book is a blueprint for creating an integrated search, social media, and content marketing strategy!
#3. Content Strategy for the Web, 2nd Edition
by Kristina Halvorson (@halvorson)
I like Kristina Halvorson. She’s not only a smart content strategist, she’s witty.
Content Strategy for the Web is a must-read for anyone who is managing and marketing a website.
Kristina Halvorson does a great job of explaining what content strategy is, why having the proper strategy is critical to success, and she shows you how to execute a proper content strategy, step by step.
This isn’t just a book on theory or ideology … Kristina Halvorson does a fine job of showing you how to put these ideas into practice.
#4.Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business
by C.C. Chapman (@cc_chapman) and Ann Handley (@marketingprofs)
Running a successful content strategy isn’t just about writing blog posts. You can create remarkable content that attracts, engages, and converts readers in a variety of different ways …
In this content marketing classic, authors Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman show you how to create remarkable content that readers will love and that will build your business.
- The rules of creating great content,
- How to create different types of content that will attract and engage prospective customers,
… and it’s riddled with case studies of companies who are executing these strategies well.
#5. Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less
by Joe Pulizzi (@joepulizzi)
Joe Pulizzi is one of the leaders in the content marketing world. He’s the founder of the Content Marketing Institute who produces Content Marketing World, the largest content marketing conference in the world.
I consider this book an essential blueprint for creating and managing an effective content strategy for your business.
- How to identify and define your content niche,
- How to create an editorial calendar and manage the content creation process,
- How to create different types of content and manage your content assets,
- How to effectively brainstorm content ideas with your team,
- How to leverage social media to effectively promote your content,
- And how to measure the impact of your content marketing efforts,
Whether you’re a solo entrepreneur or managing a team, this is a must-read for everyone!
#6. Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype
Winning your prospects and customers attention online isn’t about creating more and more messages. You don’t just write another blog post, write another press release, and run a Facebook ad.
Instead, you need to rethink how you approach your whole strategy.
Youtility is a book about focusing on the customer. It’s about creating value by being helpful.
In other words, seek to be helpful, first. Selling comes after. That’s a damn fine way to build a business.
#7. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition
by Robert B. Cialdini, PH.D.
If you want to create a lead generating website then you need to master the art of writing great copy. You need to learn how to persuade people … to influence people through your writing.
In this book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini shows you how to do just that.
Robert Cialdini explores how things like consistency, social proof, reciprocity and other psychological influences induce people to buy.
#8. The Fortune Cookie Principle: The 20 keys to a great brand story and why your business needs one
by Bernadette Jiwa (@bernadettejiwa)
Bernadette Jiwa has become one of my favorite writers over the years. Her posts are often short but they pack a punch and they really make you think about the business you are trying to create for yourself.
This book isn’t a book about marketing tactics. It’s a book about finding the meaning behind your business.
In this book, Bernadette forces you to think about …
- What your brand story is and why you need a story to tell,
- What type of business are you in?
- What are your values?
- Who is your ideal customer?
- What type of experience will you create for your customer,
… and so much more!
Each chapter is riddled with stories of business that are building their brands and connecting with their customers in an extraordinary way.
While it’s not a book about copywriting techniques, or content strategy and tactics, Bernadette asks some poignant questions that are essential for creating your message and communicating to your right audience.
Buy it. Grab a pen and paper. Read it. And answer the questions at the end of each chapter.
Once you’re done reading this book you’ll feel like you just attended the best business and brand building workshop ever!
#9. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition
by Steve Krug (@skrug)
Your search engine rankings are going to be affected by your website’s usability, the user experience you deliver to your site visitors, and the content you create.
Generally, sites that rise to the top of search engine rankings have the following traits in common:
- They are easy to use, navigate, and read,
- They provide clear, actionable information that’s directly related to the visitor’s search query,
- They are professionally designed and accessible (read: mobile-responsive),
- They deliver high quality content,
When we’re designing a website for our business it’s easy to want to add features, load a page with tons of content, and design a bunch of calls to action everywhere.
What’s great about Don’t Make Me Think is that is works as a sort of checklist for the principles you need to get right when designing a site. You’ll learn how visitors use and read a website and will have an actionable plan for improving your own website that delivers a better user experience and rises to the top of search results.
#10. Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content
by Ann Handley (@marketingprofs)
This book just launched on September 15th (2014) so I haven’t finished reading it. But Ann Handley is smart and delivers actionable advise in a fun reading way so I’m really looking forward to reading through this one.
Here are a few quotes from the opening pages that I’ve enjoyed so far …
If you have a website, you are a publisher. If you are on social media, you are in marketing. And that means we are all writers.
Writing matters more now, not less. In an online world, our online words are our emissaries; they tell the world who we are, as user experience expert Beth Dunn puts it.
Our writing can make us look smart or it can make us look stupid. It can make us seem fun, or warm, or competent, or trustworthy. But it can also make us seem humdrum or discombobulated or flat-out boring.
Think about that for a moment.
Now go take a look at the last several blog posts you published. Take a look at your company’s “About” page, your services page …
How do you think your content measures up? How does it make you feel and how do you think your customers and prospective customers feel?
Do you sound trustworthy? Are you writing helpful content, or is it all sales fluff?
Ann’s right. We’re all writers. We’re all publishers. And we need to put some serious thought into the user experience we’re creating for our customers when we put our words out onto the web.
What books do you recommend?
Have you read any of the books on this list? Which one’s your favorite?
What other books would you recommend?
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Josh Haney says
Pulizzi’s book is a classic. Another fave is Online Content Marketing In 30 Minutes. Some good B2b and B2C scenarios, and an excellent chapter about recycling old content.
Ricardo Bueno says
Totally agree, Pulizzi’s book is a good one! Had not heard of Online Content Marketing in 30 Minutes, will check it out. Just read through the table of contents, looks pretty good, thanks for the recommendation!
Joe Pulizzi says
Thanks so much Josh…and thanks Ricardo for the inclusion. Great list.
Valdosta used car dealerships says
Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the
pictures on this blog loading? I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
Umar Khan says
Neat list. Thanks. Have a couple of these on my shelf and the rest are on my Amazon wishlist… good to know my future reading is set 🙂 Eager for Ann Hadley’s “Everybody Writes” to be released in the UK. Still a few weeks.