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Friday, Jan. 16, 2009 at 8:15 am

The Portable Conversion Analyst

By Bryan Eisenberg
January 16th, 2009

In my last several columns, I’ve reviewed some basics of conversion optimization. “The Sciences and Disciplines of Web Site Optimization” covered some of the science and professional disciplines needed when doing conversion analysis. That got us talking around the company water cooler, and someone suggested creating a list of the best books and resources that a conversion analyst can not do without.

So we debated, scoured our bookshelves, debated, and finally came up with a list of several team favorites and grouped them into a few categories. The resulting list, below, is in no particular order and is far from comprehensive. It includes books and a few other resources that we know to be unavoidable if you want to talk shop and play like a real conversion analysis.

Usability and Information Architecture

Web Analytics


Direct Marketing Techniques

Psychology, Human Behavior, and Persuasion


There is a lot of science and rigor in the area of testing and statistics. And while marketing is becoming more accountable, we aren’t quite ready for the amount of rigor possible in this critical area. But we will be, and when we are there will be a few more books that make this subject palatable for the average marketer and conversion analyst. Until then these are two solid choices to devour and have more than enough info to get you started testing and testing well:

Marketing, Branding, Selling

No doubt this is the hardest category because there are plenty of fine marketing, traditional advertising, and branding gurus. What we wanted to identify some books that will influence a lot of the great books still to come. Every one of these books is still relevant to marketing and the challenges we face online. You simply can’t go wrong reading anything on this list:

SEO, SEM, Social Media

When it comes to search marketing and other dynamic markets, most of the treasured resources are blogs or sites like this. Search Engine Watch and ClickZ are a must (like Mike Grehan who writes about SEO (define); he’s a friend and a fave). Here are a couple recent books worth mentioning:

Get Reading

As you can see, we likely left a few out. But every resource we listed will move you well on your way to understanding the ins and outs of how to be a great conversion analyst. Many of these books are required reading for our analysts, and they should be for yours.

Did we leave out one of your must-reads? List it in the comments section below.

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Comments (25)

  1. Great list.

    I would also include “Common Sense Direct Marketing” by Drayton Bird. One of my bibles!


  2. This list is great. I would like to see a book or two on this list that address multichannel integration, such as “Multichannel Marketing” by Akin Arikan AND “Multichannel Forensics” by Kevin Hillstrom.

  3. I’d also add “Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy” by Martin Lindstrom to that “Marketing, Branding, Selling” section.

  4. Nice book list. I’ve been looking at web design books for a while, and I read “Don’t make me think”, but I’ve not dived into the usability books other than that.

  5. Just as a note: I am almost finished reading “Call to action” (by the 2 great brothers) and I can WARMLY recommend this book! It is written so both beginner marketers AND hardcore marketers can have benefit from this very well written and easy to understand book! (and no I am not on commission :-)

  6. Great list! Thank you so much. I’ve taken a look at your list of Usability and Information Architecture. I’ve got a lot to read now!

  7. Great list!

    However, how can we have Envisioning Information in the list and not Beautiful Evidence? BE has the 6 principles for analysis that detail how to communicate analysis well. Check it out – it will replace Envisioning Information on your shelf and in the list.

    What about Drucker’s “Flawless consulting”?

    What about Koomey’s “Turning Numbers into Knowledge” – amazing set of essays that get at the heart of analysis.

    What about Dan Roam’s “Back of the Napkin” – I use sketches more than anything to communicate complexity, simply.

    And there should probably be a fiction section in this list – Pattern Recognition, Brother X, Cryptonomicon…and others.

    So many books that should be included, but these seem to be lacking from the list.

  8. May I suggest Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click? by Susan Weinschenk.

  9. These are all great suggestions. Like I said, this list is far from exhaustive. Thanks you for adding to it. Should we create a second list for the more advanced books?

    I just got Neuro Web Design and plan to read it this week.

  10. A second list of more advanced books would be fantastic.

  11. thank you, thank you, thank you, and thank you.

  12. Great list; may I add Letting Go of the Words, by Ginny Redish

  13. [...] Bryan Eisenberg over at The Grok provides an extensive list of books that will help you become a Portable Conversion Analyst. [...]

  14. Great list – of course since I could never spend the time to read even a tenth of it, a reasonable alternative would be to hire a company that already has that wisdom under its collective belt….. hmmmm

  15. thank you, thank you, thank you, and thank you.

  16. [...] are placed, what to include in forms and what to exclude, etc. Subscribe to this blog and read this article to get [...]

  17. I would also include

    A Complete Guide To Search Engine Optimization – Deepak Bansal

  18. This is a great reference list. Something to keep bookmarked for a never-ending todo list of optimization. =)

  19. I would ad to the list “No Lie, Truth Is the Ultimate Sales Tool” by Barry Maher. It will help you overcome perceived negatives.

  20. Thanks very much.

  21. Great list! Thank you so much.

  22. By creating storyboards, scouting locations and figuring out the budget ahead of time,the goal is for your production to be free of unnecessary worry.

  23. Great list! Thank you so much. I’ve taken a look at your list of Usability and Information Architecture. I’ve got a lot to read now!

  24. It was a nice blog. I’ve been looking at web design books for a while, and I read “Don’t make me think”, but I’ve not dived into the usability books other than that.

  25. Nice list of web design books.

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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