Content marketing describes how creators and small business owners build relationships with their audience and customers through writing, podcasting, video and other content creation activities.
I also like the Content Marketing Institute. It defines it as
"A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action."
It's also a great way for creatives to make money too. Lots of business books have been written in the last decade explaining how to understand, build, and use marketing content. We've compiled the best ones here for you.
1. Epic Content Marketing
The full title of this book by Joe Pulizzi is Epic Content Marketing: How To Tell A Different Story, Break Through The Clutter, And Win More Customers By Marketing Less.
It's about more than just writing content; it goes into the marketing part of content marketing, explaining how to use content to position your business as an authority in its niche, how to measure the success of your content, and how to curate your content to get the best results.
"Content marketing is owning media as opposed to renting it. It's a marketing process to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating content in order to change or enhance a consumer behavior."
2. Everybody Writes
Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide To Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley focuses specifically on how to craft quality content. It's a must-read for anyone who wants to get paid to be a content creator.
Using journalism best practices along with the specific guidelines that have been developed over the last two decades for internet content, this book gets into the nuts and bolts of how to craft a great piece of marketing content.
There are chapters on writing for social media, making infographics, researching and citing sources, fact-checking, and using web slang. It's set up like a reference book, and I keep it at my elbow while writing any kind of content.
“The truth is this: writing well is part habit, part knowledge of some fundamental rules, and part giving a damn.”
3. Content Machine
Content Machine: Use Content Marketing To Build a 7-figure Business With Zero Advertising by serial entrepreneur Dan Norris is specially written for business owners who want to use marketing content to build an online business.
He explains how to use content marketing in place of traditional advertising, and how to utilze marketing content to scale an online business up to 7 figures. He goes over common mistakes people make when trying to create stand-out content, and he offers downloads and frameworks for every stage of content creation.
“There is no point at all in generating mediocre content. Don’t just write about your business or your product. Your content has to be educational and solve problems.”
4. Content That Converts
Content That Converts: How To Build A Profitable And Predictable B2B Content Marketing Strategy by Laura Hanly focuses on how to develop content strategies that consistently bring in qualified leads and sales.
You'll learn how to create long-form content pieces that you can use to establish yourself as a leader in your industry, how to take advantage of SEO in your content, and how to distribute your content effectively using email marketing.
The book is written especially for B2B startup owners who want a step-by-step process to follow.
"Think of a complete content marketing strategy as an ecosystem: Content is a dynamic medium, and there are living creatures —your customers—involved in it at every stage, just like a physical ecosystem. Your content strategy will grow and evolve over time, and there have to be a number of elements present for the strategy to be healthy and effective."
5. The Content Code
The Content Code: Six Essential Strategies To Ignite Your Content, Your Marketing, And Your Business by Mark W. Schaefer is perfect for those who want to understand how marketing content intersects with social media and branding.
Schaefer lists 6 ways of using content wisely in digital marketing and outlines both strategy and tactics for implementing them. He also explains the basics of search engine optimization in content, using content to brand a business, and how to make content shareable.
"Creating great content is not the finish line. It’s the starting line.”
6. Conversation Marketing
Conversation Marketing: How To Be Relevant And Engage Your Customer By Speaking Human by Kevin Lund posits that what customers really want out of marketing messages is connection. Great content that encourages conversation with customers tends to be quite effective at achieving that goal.
Lund says that what consumers want is a connection to a brand before they take action, like spending their hard-earned money. He shows readers how to infuse value into their content, how to hear what customers are telling you with their behavior, how to give them agency in their relationship with you, and how to tell them a meaningful story.
"Social media etiquette insists we do not sell ourselves, but rather share ourselves."
7. All Marketers Are Liars
All Marketers Are Liars: The Power Of Telling Authentic Stories In A Low Trust World by Seth Godin isn't specifically about creating marketing content, but it focuses so heavily on telling compelling stories in your marketing that it's got some definite value to content marketers.
Godin asserts that all marketers are storytellers at heart because humans respond so positively to them. Successful marketing campaigns don't focus on things like features or benefits, they tell an authentic story instead.
“We drink the can, not the beverage.”
8. Content—The Atomic Particle Of Marketing
Content—The Atomic Particle Of Marketing: The Definitive Guide To Content Marketing Strategy by Rebecca Lieb claims that content is the single most critical element of modern marketing plans.
This book is dense but full of valuable information including hours of interviews with senior marketers at some of the world's leading brands. If you need a step-by-step guide on how to create highly effective content, this book will show you how.
"Content is the atomic particle of all digital marketing. Everything. There’s no owned media without content. There’s no social media without content. And there’s no paid media without content."
9. Content Strategy For The Web
Content Strategy For The Web was written by Kristina Halvorson, the CEO of Brain Traffic. It's considered the go-to book for marketing experts and writers who want to realize the value of content and plan for long-term marketing success using a content strategy.
It's full of case studies as well as sections on how to audit a website's content, how to analyze the data that your content produces, and how to optimize content to bring in subscribers and get results.
“Quality, relevant content can't be spotted by an algorithm. You can't subscribe to it. You need people - actual human beings - to create or curate it.”
10. The Content Marketing Handbook
The Content Marketing Handbook: How To Double The Results Of Your Marketing Campaigns by Robert W. Bly stands out because it was written by a legendary copywriter, author of the bestseller The Copywriter's Handbook, considered by many copywriters to be the best copywriting book available today.
In this book he focuses on how to create high-quality content, how to structure content that brings in leads from a target audience (such as lead magnets), how to create landing pages that strategically give away content for a specific purpose, how to create content that can be used in multiple marketing channels, and how to know when to stop giving away content and start asking for sales.
His foray into content marketing has been written for writers, marketers, and small business owners—anyone in the marketing world—to help them create content that builds trust, stimulates interest, and ultimately sells more.
“It’s not enough to write so that you can be understood. You must write so that you cannot be misunderstood.”
The Final Word On The Best Content Marketing Books
Whether you want to learn how to write marketing content, analyze it, strategize with it, or use it in marketing campaigns to great effect, reading any of these books should get you started.
Great, shareable content is a must for a successful business today, whether you're a freelance blogger, a content strategist, a social media influencer, or a digital marketer. You should read at least a couple of these books if you want to build great content and use it to your advantage.
Want more? Check out my guide to the best content marketing tools.
What are the best marketing books for creating a successful content marketing strategy?
The best books for plotting a content strategy would be Content Strategy For The Web, which can help you with the overall planning, and Content That Converts, which will help you develop tactics for implementing your content strategy.
Who are the authors of the best content marketing books?
The best content marketing books are written by people with lots of online marketing experience. So for instance, internet entrepreneur Seth Godin, Brain Traffic CEO Kristina Halvorson, and T3 Custom CEO Kevin Lund are all on this list.
What is the difference between content marketing and social media marketing?
Content marketing focuses on content creation and creative ideas across many channels including blogging, podcasting and YouTube. Social media marketing focuses on creating content and building relationships with people directly on and for social media.