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19 Best Books on Conversion Rate Optimisation

Are you the kind of person who likes to leave all your cares behind when you go on holiday? Or do you see vacations as the ideal downtime to catch up on professional reading?

After Dan and Johann from AWA wrote their first CRO book, we asked some of our team what non-fiction books they would pack in their suitcase (or load up on their Kindle) to optimise every minute on the sun loungers. Their choices cover a wide range of topics that come under the umbrella of Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) and experimentation, so you’ll return home with not only a topped up tan, but also the tools to top up your sales figures.

Here are their top 19 recommended best books on Conversion Rate Optimisation:

The Power of Experiments: Decision Making in a Data-Driven World by Michael Luca & Max H. Bazerman

The power of experimentsLuca and Bazerman’s ‘The Power of Experiments – Decision-making in a Data-driven World’ is a worthy rival to Thomke’s book (below). What Dan likes about the book is that it features case studies of experiments from the offline world. (Predictably many similar books are packed full of online-only examples). Offline examples include the work of Behavioural Insights Teams working with the British Government to include the response to ‘you owe us back tax’ letters as well experiments to reduce school absenteeism and increase the number of people saving for their retirement. I believe seeing experiments in this wider societal context add richness to the whole area of experimentation.

See book here.

Experimentation Works: The Surprising Power of Business Experiments by Stefan Thomke

You know all those questions you have about experimentation that nobody could ever explain to you in simple non-techie language? This is where you’ll get those answers. A surprisingly easy read considering what’s packed into it. Don’t expect a practitioner’s how-to guide; this is the definitive text on experimentation for managers pushing to reach their business goals using experimentation.

Harvard Business School professor Stefan Thomke is well-placed to write this book. He has thoroughly researched business experimentation and studied the impact on organisations, their culture and performance. He shares practical insights and best practices, gathered over decades of unparalleled access to experiment-driven organisations and leaders.

See book here.

Trustworthy Online Controlled Experiments: A Practical Guide to A/B Testing by Ron Kohavi, Diane Tang and Ya Xu

Ron Kohavi is one of the most experienced leaders in experimentation. Ex-Amazon, ex-Microsoft, now Airbnb – he writes from the trenches. He’s seen it all, and has devoted an entire chapter to common pitfalls and another to statistical issues which get in the way of success. How to define key metrics, especially the OEC (Overall Evaluation Criterion), is also discussed in detail.

It’s not just Kohavi’s industry experience and reputation as an industry leader in controlled experiments that lends this book serious street cred. He has a PhD from Stanford, and both co-authors have impressive CVs rounded off with Ivy league advanced degrees.

See book here.

Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy by Phil Barden

Decoded by phil bardenJonny read this book years ago when it was first published in 2013 and has re-read it many times since. It’s about neuroscience, and placement, proximity and sizing of pricing on a page, proximity to imagery and what that’s going to do to a brain. The book talks about the web, but also about supermarkets. Understanding the scientific fundamentals of why and how consumers make buying decisions is core to the methodology we use at AWA. We’re not moving stuff around the page, we’re optimising sales conversations.

See book here.


Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug

don-t-make-me-think-revisited-Steve-KrugJohn likes this book by Steve Krug, a classic and easy read. He and a few other optimisers highly recommended this book to anyone working on websites.

See book here.


Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It by April Dunford

One of the things we always look at is how to best communicate value: why your ideal customer should choose you over alternatives. By understanding and communicating how you’re different we see big wins in our testing. Brendan has read Ries and Trout’s book on positioning but this is a necessary update. It gives actionable insights and processes into how to evaluate how you are different and compared to your competitors and then how to communicate this.

See book here.


Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense by Rory Sutherland

Rory’s book looks at context, and in particular how ideas can be improved by changing how they are framed rather than the ideas themselves. This is very powerful for brands: Jonny tries to focus where possible on copy / context / perception / framing in testing as much as the typical on-page stuff we might also test.

For example: he talks about London a lot and how the tube map has influenced how the city is used. Areas that look ‘close’ to the city have lifted in price, whereas in reality the map is actually a schematic, and most of it exists in north London. Areas that are not on there, but are closer in travel terms get far less love.

In his day-to-day work, Jonny tries to let this steer testing: people see ‘big’ in terms of complexity, but Jonny sees it more in terms of a shift in frame of reference / context.

See book here.


Persuasive Copywriting: Cut Through the Noise and Communicate With Impact by Andy Maslen

persuasive-copywriting-andy-maslenBoth Johann and Michael recommend Andy Maslen’s ‘Persuasive Copywriting’. It’s about consumer psychology as much as it’s about writing, covering insights into human decision making and consumer engagement. Its practical advice around writing different types of copy designed to convert site visitors is invaluable when running online experiments.

The author is one of the best in the industry. We know – we’ve worked with him on projects in our agency.

See book here.


Delivering Profitable Value: A Revolutionary Framework to Accelerate Growth, Generate Wealth, and Rediscover the Heart of Business by Michael Lanning

Delivering-profitable-value-michael-lanningJohann likes this seminal book on value proposition theory written by the guy who coined the term.

‘Value proposition’ is one of the most misunderstood, bastardised terms in marketing. It’s also one of the most powerful levers in eCommerce conversion optimisation. Ignore the fluff on the internet, this book is the real thing.

See book here.


Selling to Win by Richard Denny

Selling to win richard dennyPhil recommends ‘Selling to Win’, and says that although it is meant for field sales people, you can apply a lot of it to online selling. 

At AWA we view an ecommerce site or app as the equivalent of a salesperson conducting a sales conversation with visitors. It’s all about sales!

See book here.


Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear

Atomic Habits James ClearBrendan recommends the best-selling ‘Atomic Habits’ because it not only talks about how people create habits, but also how to change behaviours or perceptions – a lot of which can be applied online.

See book here.



The Great Sales Book by Jack Collis

great sales book jack collisThis is ‘probably the best sales book’ Johann has read. He likes it as it’s old-school and was published in the 80’s, but has some very relevant chapters.

See book here.



Sales Therapy: Effective Selling for the Small Business Owner by Grant Leboff

Sales therapy by Grant LeboffPhil recommends ‘Sales Therapy’ as it discusses how you can build meaningful relationships but in a digital world. It tells you how to include personalised sales in to your landing page and web page and how you can apply those critical closing techniques. It tells you how to incorporate personalised sales messages into your web design, from your landing page optimisation and to product pages, as well as how you can apply those critical closing techniques.

See book here.


The Adweek Copywriting Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Powerful Advertising and Marketing Copy from One of America’s Top Copywriters – Joseph Sugarman

Adweek copywriting handbook joseph sugarmanA few team members have read this classic. Brendan found it very interesting as it gave him a few copywriting ideas to use online.

 The copywriting profession is all about creating great content, as the name implies. Copy is the soul and heart of every digital marketing campaign, whether it’s for print, television, radio, or any other medium. In The Adweek Copywriting Handbook, legendary copywriter and ad man Joseph Sugarman offers tried-and-tested guidelines and expert advice on how to write great copy designed to enhance conversion rates.

Sugarman guides readers through the complete copywriting process, from beginning to end—from getting organized to researching goods and markets to putting ideas on paper and polishing them to a high shine, whether that’s short form copy for a CTA or longform copy for a blog post. He goes through the most important parts of great copy and examines the emotional triggers that persuade customers to buy, giving readers all of the tools and methods they’ll need to write compelling, persuasive ads.

See book here.


Conversion Optimization: The Art and Science of Converting Prospects to Customers by Khalid Saleh

conversion optimization book by Khalid SalehOne of the first CRO books to be published, it’s basic but a great resource for someone who is new to CRO.

‘Conversion Optimization’ presents useful ideas for encouraging website visitors to make a buying choice — without repelling them with data overload or tedious navigation. 

Readers discover how to apply marketing concepts, design, usability, and appropriate analytics tools to their site in order to boost their buyer-to-visitor ratio, which helps with generating quality testing ideas whether readers are small online business owners or executives of a large eCommerce platform. For that reason, we rate it highly in our recommended conversion rate optimisation books.

See book here.


Webs of Influence: The Psychology of Online Persuasion by Nathalie Nahai

webs of influence nathalie nahaiJonny read the first edition of this book when it first came out years ago, and found it extremely insightful and practical.

You’ll find it on the shelves of several other team members. This is unsurprising given the importance of online consumer psychology in our methodology at AWA. 

See book here.


The Choice Factory by Richard Shotton

the choice factory richard shottonThis was a popular one amongst many of our optimisers, but The Choice Factory is one of Phil’s favourites as it goes a lot in to lizard brain and subconscious thinking – a very interesting read!

See book here.




Successful Analytics: Gain Business Insights by Managing Google Analytics by Brian Clifton

successful analytics brian cliftonThis book might not have been published recently but John, who lives in analytics, regularly goes back to it. Although a lot has changed in the world of Analytics since it’s been published, John says this book is still relevant because it talks about how you should run an analytics project rather than the actual features of GA and similar software.

See book here.



Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill

why we buy paco underhillYou’ve probably spotted a theme around consumer psychology and understanding what happens in the brain when people buy. Johann added this one to the list, an international bestseller for good reason.

We see this every day: big wins come from understanding how someone decides whether to buy a product or not, and then whether to buy it from you or a competitor. This is core to our eCommerce optimisation methodology.


See book here.

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