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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I have read dozens, by now, of books on starting a small business, e-commerce, and search engine optimization, and these 4 stand out as WAY better than books that talk talk talk, but don't tell you much, or that tell you what you need to succeed and then spend the rest of the book shamelessly promoting their service without teaching you anything like the SHAMELESS book "epic content marketing" which reads like a broken record...
"content marketing is important... it helped this company make blah blah blah millions in sales, by the way, we do content marketing... content marketing is important... it helped this company make blah blah blah millions in sales, by the way, we do content marketing... repeat, repeat, repeat"

THESE 4 books deliver the goods!

5/5 Search Engine Optimization for Dummies – Peter Kent
Don’t let the title fool you, this is a serious text full of essential information by a knowledgeable author who gets right to the point without a bunch of useless fluff like so many authors, though he does throw a joke in here and there. Most of the info isn’t too technical and is easy to read. I took pages of notes on what was covered (my definition of what makes ANY business book important) and in the end, felt as though I knew more than even some alleged SEO experts and web designers. Consider it essential reading whether you’re building your site yourself, or telling your programmer what tags and keywords etc. you want on every page.

5/5 Entrepreneur Magazine’s Ultimate guide to Link Building – Eric Ward & Garret French
Is a perfect companion to SEO for Dummies as it covers different territory, but does add a couple SEO tips of its own to the mix. Sometimes it gets a little technical, and tends to be aimed at larger companies, but it’s still a goldmine of crucial info for any e-commerce site owner. UNLIKE crappy books like Guerilla PR Wired, and Epic Content Marketing, this one actually thrown in some inspiration on how to come up with interesting content. The author doesn’t just stick to the subject of link building, but provides tons of great info and ideas.

5/5 e-Commerce: Get It Right! – Ian Daniel
Offers a lot of great info on what it takes to create a successful e-commerce site along with some basic SEO tips. About the only thing I DIDN’T like about the book was the author totally dismissing the idea of owners creating their own websites and insists on hiring expensive programmers. To make up for it though, he makes himself available with a direct e-mail link so that you can ask questions directly. Perhaps this is the FIRST book one should read when thinking about starting a website selling anything.

5/5 Get Rich Click! The Ultimate Guide to Making Money on the Internet - Marc Ofstofsky
It might sound like the title of a book in some sleazy “get rich quick scheme” infomercial, but this book is full of practical tips on how to improve your website along with some nice original SEO tips not covered in other books. It even offers ideas on alternative business models so some readers can make money in affiliate programs, for example, using nothing but the info in this book. On it’s own, it had more useful info than 3-4 other crappy e-Commerce books combined. It’s an excellent supplement to the 3 previous books.

while not DIRECTLY e-commerce related, though some cover the topic, these two books are essential reading for any small business too

5/5 Start Your Business: The Only Start-up Book You’ll Ever Need – Rieva Lesonsky
This book TOTALLY lives up to its title’s claim! It’s encyclopedic (780 pages!) in its coverage of virtually EVERY topic of importance for ANY type of business large or small, local or online. It’s very easy to read and offers TONS of resources throughout its chapters and in the the index at the back of the book. Anyone who reads just this book will be well prepared to know what they need to know to operate any business. It covers topics MOST business books ignore dozens of times over. It’s the absolute best book for any business I’ve ever read.

5/5 The Small Business Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Succeed in Your Small Business – Steven D. Strauss
Is almost as wide ranging at 520 pages as Rieva’s book, the two are friends, but is more conversational and tips oriented. What it might lack in coverage of a few topics, it makes up for with better coverage of e-Commerce and marketing as well as offering more ideas. It’s a great supplement to Rieva’s book, or even an alternative for anyone that’d rather read a conversational book than one full of facts and statistics. I prefer facts that offer a few pages more of notes personally, but this book is no slouch in that department either and is worth more than a dozen common fluff small business books. This guy knows his stuff!

if anyone knows of any other outstanding books on these subjects. please share. a lot of books I've seen get 4-5 star ratings don't deserve them like these 6 do
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
i just know what it's like to read a dozen crappy books and get nothing out of them i haven't learned in CHAPTERS of these books. i try to read everything i can that gets high ranking on amazon, but a lot of the books there are seriously over-rated.

back to "guerilla PR wired", it was written by an old school (as in 1950s!) marketing specialist trying to update a previously successful book to the internet age, only he uses terrible analogies like constantly talking about the "mr mcgoo effect" that don't do much to educate the reader. his WORST piece of advice? he explicitly tells readers to NEVER use testimonials in their marketing, then what does he do? in practically the very next chapter, he starts providing testimonials as to why you should listen to him! like i said, the books listed above do e-com marketing better in CHAPTERS than that entire book i think i quit reading after about 40 mind numbing pages of learning absolutely NOTHING.

another really bad book is "the right brained business plan". at first i was laughing my butt off at the author's suggestions of using glitter on business plans, or turning them into mobiles and all sorts of other craft project ideas, all the while ignoring just about EVERY detail in a standard business report, especially them pesky numbers, but, again, around the 40 page mark, i stopped laughing when i realized she was serious. needless to say, i didn't gain the insight on pro-formas i was looking for. i was not only offended as a future entrepreneur who's read a dozen authors' similar takes on business plans, but as a college trained graphic artist too! seriously, reading the book was like watching some lady on PBS gluing sequins on seashells

finally, one book for graphic artists flat out PLAGERIZED another book on small business virtually word for word in a couple instances. in the first one, about lawsuits, i KNEW i heard another author using these VERY esoteric references. (paraphrased) "when looking for a lawyer, you're not looking for a BARRISTER who thinks he's PERRY MASON" (seriously... when was the last time you heard anyone usue EITHER of those 2 references, much less in the same sentence?)

at first i dismissed it as a coincidence, but then when he lifted MOST of the "top 50 reasons artists (small businesses) fail" exchanging a couple for graphics related issues, i knew the author was a total hack.

good business books are hard to come by, and ratings don't always indicate quality. take "it's your biz". it's rated a 3 or maybe even less on amazon. it's not the greatest book and is only a little bit more informative than the average book, but it does offer a few really good and unique tips other books ignore. as far as i'm concerned, the author knocked one out of the park when he suggested using MBA students to do your market research for you as a "real world" class project! if you've tried to do teeshirt market research online, you KNOW how hard it is to dig up numbers or get members here to share theirs own sales numbers. that one HOT tip, i think only rieva suggests too, is such a rare nugget of pure gold that i rate that book a solid 4.

a lot of business books just regurgitate common knowledge that you've read a dozen times in other books and pad it out with pointless fluff and the WORST ones don't even do that and just shamelessly promote their own services that their books are supposedly there to educate you on, like that dreadful "epic content (ignored)".

right now i'm reading a mediocre + book on marketing called "traction". a lot of what the author is covering has been done before, but he has his own take on the subject of channels (eg. facebook & SEO) and provides some unique insights here and there. i'd like to give the book a 3.5 and will have to choose between 3 & 4 when i'm done. i already have 1 page worth of notes, so i'm learning something from that book. i'm leaning towards giving it a 3 though just because i'm so sick of the author using the word traction.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
4.5/ 5 Traction: A startup Guide to Getting Customers - Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares
the book started out a little bit gimmicky and fluffy in its first few chapters, but once it got to the meat of its content, marketing channels, it starts delivering the goods and is a very good book on the subject of marketing. it's also a very easy read.

its chapter on SEO is kind of skimpy and more of a philosophy of SEO than a how to guide, but it's other chapters on marketing channels covers material that's done in other books, but with many new and noteworthy insights from the various experts in each field.

take social media for example, virtually EVERY book claims you absolutely need to use facebook, twitter, linkedin and sometimes pinterest and generally leaves it at that. this book suggests that those markets, as far as advertising goes in particular, are too crowded and expensive to "gain traction in" and the REAL opportunities are in newer platforms that the competition hasn't embraced yet. that seems to make sense. facebook in particular keeps users from getting inbound links with it's no-follow policy designed to keep it's cash cows locked down.

this is the first book i've read that mentions reddit, and THAT particular platform sounds interesting to me as it's about link sharing (good for SEO) AND it's vote based platform favors controversey and humor which is EXACTLY what i planned to use in my branding making it a much better fit than the old guard social media sites i've never been interested in really anyways, especially twitter. "i'm in the bathroom now" *tweet tweet tweet*

another example of a REALLY juicy piece of info involves magazine ads. one of the better books i read, small biz bible i think, mentioned that it's possible to get deals on unused remnant ad space. until now, wherever i read it was the only place that mentioned this nice tip, but i got nowhere with it when talking to the magazine i was planning to target my first ad in. traction, however, passes this info along too with another juicy nugget that there are ad agencies out there that specialize in finding remnant space! that info would make it MUCH easier to find deals of up to 90% off than getting brushed off as a potential advertiser.

so far, it's the best book on marketing i've read and it totally destroys epic content marketing & guerilla PR wired for useful info. it could be a little better eg. it neglects to mention the importance of opt in and easy opt out for mailing lists that encourage better engagement, but it totally makes up for it with plenty of unique content worthy of 4 pages of notes AFTER reading about the same topics half a dozen times in other books.

traction is either and excellent primer on marketing, or a first rate supplement to the other books i've suggested.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
just stopping by to add 3 more reviews of great e-commerce books i've read recently

5/5 Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers – Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares the books starts off really slow in the first few chapters & covers commonly discussed marketing channels, but really takes off when it starts comparing them. For example, it does an excellent job of comparing various social media banner ads and goes beyond the standard FaceBook/Twitter/LinkedIn discussion every other book covers and talks about the value of emerging channels. It’s a great shopper’s guide for what marketing options are available with tons of great UNIQUE suggestions and even offers inspiration. It TOTALLY destroys Epic Content Marketing and Guerilla PR Wired and a few other books combined.

5/5 Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Website – Jon Rognerud covers much of the same territory as other e-commerce books (eg. SEO, keywords, link building and social media), but does so with a very unique perspective adding TONS of new and up to date tips and tricks others miss. It’s loaded with great resources too, and like E-commerce: Get It Right!, the author provides personal contact info and openly encourages readers to contact him many times on virtually every topic throughout the book! Sometimes it gets a little technical or scatters bits of related info between chapters eg. 3 different lists of directories to submit your website to, but overall, it’s an amazing resource as either a really deep primer on building a successful site, or as a supplement to a stack of the best books on e-commerce and SEO. It is simply a GOLD MINE of info… even too much to remember or even take notes on eg. What to look for in a webhost.

4/5 Inbound Marketing and SEO: Insight from the MOZ Blog - Rand Fishkin & Thomas Hogerhaven sometimes gets technical and sometimes doesn’t explain content adequately, eg. Using schema.org “markup vocabulary” to enhance your SEO, though it’s the ONLY book I’ve read that ever even mentions this new innovation. It also very often lists links to outside sources for more info making it less useful without net access, but it covers a lot of original content not in other books provided by dozens of experts at MOZ Blog. It’s an excellent supplement to the other books listed.
 

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Just writing to say thanks cogtees, this has been an amazing list. I found most of these books at my local library and they've really jump-started my thinking and I'm getting a decent plan into place after my previous social media SNAFUs. Your traction book wasn't available so I'm waiting on my library to purchase the Traction: how any startup can achieve rapid customer growth also by Weinburg which I think was published in October.

Also, right now on Coursera, Northwestern is offering a social media marketing course and the course The Importance of Listening comes with analytical tools that for the optional $70 course fee you get for free. I'm really looking forward to picking the brain of the prof and the guest lecturers.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
glad to help.

your reply was 5 years ago, so it's too late to mention it now, but whenever your local library doesn't have a book, like MOST of the ones i've mentioned not being in my local system, you can request an interlibrary loan where your local branch will look for items at all participating libraries.

sadly... a lot of libraries won't do interlibrary loans for media (CDs & DVDs), but you should be able to find everything i listed. i got ALL of those books from my library
 
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