10 Books Every Link Builder Should Read… That Aren’t About Link Building

Following our last post on professional development for link builders, today I wanted to look at great books.  These aren’t about link building – I know of very few books that are – but are rather about psychology, marketing, writing, and getting things done on the internet.

1. Ogilvy on Advertising

by David Ogilvy
David Ogilvy, despite having a resume that would certainly bar him from any agency work today, was one of the greatest advertising minds to ever put pen to paper. With famous campaigns like Schweppes, Rolls-Royce, and Puerto Rico, his wisdom is worth learning from. (Sure, we can get sites to rank #1 for insurance queries. But he popularized a whole country.)

While this book is predominantly about print advertising, its principles apply to everything online. For example, want a blog post to do well on StumbleUpon? Use an opening image with story appeal. 

2. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

by Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin arrived in Philadelphia at 17 years old with only three loaves of bread to his name. At the end of his life, he was one of the richest men in the colonies, and a famous inventor, scientist, statesman, and writer.

While it seems like there’s nothing applicable to link building in the story of a man in the 1700s, Benjamin Franklin became prominent through writing, publishing, and building relationships. You can bet if he were alive today, SEO and inbound marketing would be part of his strategy.

There’s lots to learn in this book about relationship building, effective writing, publishing, and sheer hustle.

3. Scientific Advertising & My Life in Advertising

 By Claude Hopkins

 While link building changes every day, the art of persuasion has not changed too much over the years.  If you can take advantage of all of the modern changes while using established copywriting principles (also known as spittin’ it old school), you can do some great work.

These two books are advertising classics.  My Life in Advertising chronicles Hopkins’ rise through the world of advertising – from writing about brooms to becoming one of the highest paid copywriters int he country, while Scientific Advertising is more of a treatise on successful direct response writing.  

Scientific Advertising is available for free online.

4. Influence: Science and Practice

 By Robert Cialdini

Ultimately your goal as a link builder is to persuade a particular prospect to take action.  This goal has been studied for years – by marketers, by salesmen, by leaders, and perhaps most interestingly, by scholars of psychology.  

Cialdini explores the principles of influence – carefully describing not only the principle (in this case, liking, reciprocity, authority, social proof, commitment, scarcity) but experiments and historical uses of the levers of influence.  (We’ve written about Cialdini and link building before.)

5. The Goal

By Eliyahu Goldratt

What can a novel about process management at a struggling factory teach link development professionals?  A lot, actually.

 The Goal is a book about about manufacturing, written as a novel.  The protagonist confronts a struggling plant, in danger of shutdown, because of its inefficient processes and poor teamwork.  Working with his mentor, Alex Rogo implements lean manufacturing processes, saving his plant and growing his company.

This is a great book to learn about processes and the lean methodology, popularized by the Toyota Production system. And you might find that the same methodology applies to automobile plants that applies to link building teams.

6. The Lean Startup

by Eric Ries

Eric Ries takes issue with startups who spend years building a product, and then find no one wants it.  Like the opposite of the field of dreams, they built it and no one came.  The Lean Startup is a business philosophy intended to fix this problem, fusing product development with market intelligence and frequent testing.

In content marketing and link building, we see the same problem: We spend tons of time on a piece of content or campaign, and then launch it, only to find no one links it and we get a half-hearted response.  

As content marketers and link builders, we can’t afford to have big failures from lack of customer intelligence.  And we can use ideas like continuous deployment, A/B testing, and rapid prototyping to increase content marketing success rates.

7. Propaganda

by Edward Bernays

Edward Bernays invented modern public relations and pioneered many of its techniques. This book is one of the original manuals on public relations and creating ideas that propagate (the original meaning of the word ‘propaganda’).

He introduces the idea of ‘influencing the influencers’, which is near and dear to every link builder and inbound marketers heart.

It is available for free online.

8. Web Analytics 2.0

 By Avinash Kaushik

As the old management consultant aphorism goes, ‘What Gets Measured Gets Managed.’  And if you say, drive traffic to web pages through various means for a living (as link builders and SEOs do), being able to measure the behavior of that traffic is very important.  

This book gives a breezy tour through web analysis – from the basics down to much more advanced topics.  More importantly, Avinash focuses on the 20% of analysis that gets you 80% of the results, without getting bogged down into the details of different web analytics platform’s operation.  

9. The Medici Effect

In addition to being well versed in analytics, link builders and marketers must be phenomenally creative to succeed today. In this quest for ever better ideas that will stand out and drive visibility and success, it’s worth analyzing where creativity comes from, and understanding how to be more creative. The Medici Effect looks into the origins of creativity and innovation, and suggests that stepping into the intersection between disciplines is the path to new creative ideas. For example, when Expedia faced multi-touch attribution challenges, they looked to epidemiology for helpful models. And OKCupid became incredibly successful in the face of much larger brands with much larger SEO budgets by exploring the intersection of data and dating.

10. Measure What Matters

 By Katie D Paine

Increasingly public relations is becoming intermingled with SEO and link development. And increasingly the internet is becoming intermingled with public relations.

This book discusses PR metrics – how to tell how people at large feel about you, identify and analyze influencers in your market, and measure the effect of campaigns. And this book comes at all of these problems from a completely different angle than the SEO and link building approaches you might be familiar with.

Bonus: 11. The Art of SEO

By Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Rand Fishkin, and Jessie Stricchiola

This book has a link building section, so that’s why it’s number 11. None the less, this is the best introduction to advanced SEO – it moves beyond traffic to discuss the full impact of SEO, including SEO for political campaigns, branding, and reputation management. It also discusses executing SEO campaigns, building an SEO organization, and gives great, detailed explanations on technical SEO.

What are your favorite books that help link builders?

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