Part of the KevinMD toolkit series.
A lot of people ask me, “What tools do you use for blogging, speaking, when you’re on the road, seeing patients etc. …” So I decided to start a series that describe what tools I use, and why.
The first explored my speaking toolkit. This one details the technical tools I use to run KevinMD.com. I’ll discuss what I use to create content in a separate article.
I’ve blogging since 2004, and have seen and tried out many tools since then. What I use below are tried and true, and vital to what makes KevinMD.com run.
WordPress. KevinMD.com started on Google’s Blogger, but after a few years, I needed a more flexible content management system to provide the look and functionality I wanted. There’s nothing more powerful than self-hosted WordPress, and it is the choice of many other mainstream media sites, including Reuters, TIME.com, CNN, and the tech blogs TechCrunch, Mashable and Engadget, among others. The downside is that WordPress is hardly set it and forget it. The price of customization is ongoing maintenance, upgrades, and constant security threats from hackers.
Thesis. There are thousands of themes you can use for WordPress. Currently in vogue are so-called frameworks, where you have core theme that can be skinned to the way you like. Thesis is one. Genesis is another. Both promote top notch search engine optimization, speed, and security. I’ve been with Thesis since its inception, so I stuck with that, but you can’t go wrong with Genesis either.
Synthesis. Just as important as the content management platform you choose, is where you host it. As KevinMD.com grew, so did my server needs. I moved from a shared server to a dedicated server, and now to Synthesis, which is a managed WordPress host. I see patients, write, and edit dozens of posts everyday. Managing a server is not high on my list of things to do. But having your server crash or your site hacked while in the midst of seeing patients is, to put it mildly, stressful. .
A managed WordPress server allows me to focus on creating and curating content, and leave backups, server optimization and security to the experts. If someone hacks your site, Synthesis fixes it. If your data gets erased, backups are provided. If you’re on vacation and there’s a hardware failure, Synthesis is on the case. Peace of mind is worth the added cost, especially for mission critical websites.
The folks behind Synthesis live WordPress and are patient and responsive. I’ve heard good things about WP Engine as well, so you may want to check them out too. But for me, the choice is Synthesis.
Amazon S3. Speaking of backups, you can never be too careful. I have almost 10 years of data: 20,000 posts and 100,000 comments that I don’t want to lose. It’s too big for Dropbox, but not for Amazon’s cloud storage solution, where backups are made daily.
Out:think. Out:think designed my template and manages the backend of my site. They also manage the web presence of authors like Daniel Pink, Charles Duhigg and Dan Ariely. Having been through several technical consultants in the past, I know that finding good support can be difficult. The group at Out:think has been professional from day 1, and the look, feel, and uptime of KevinMD.com is a testiment to their work.
MaxCDN. A content delivery network (CDN) distributes your content through various servers located around the world. So a reader in, say, Europe, will receive the content from a regional server, rather than one in the United States. The goal is to increase site speed, which in turn, keeps readers on your site. MaxCDN integrates well with WordPress and has relatively low bandwidth costs.
Disqus. The comments represent the soul of a blog, and in some cases are more interesting than the posts themselves. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from reading the back and forth that ensues after many articles. Disqus facilitates those discussions, allowing an easy way from readers to follow and contribute to the conversation. From the administrator side, it provides good filtering tools for spam or offensive comments.
Scribe. What good is writing if no one is reading your work? Content optimized for search engines is a powerful way to draw readers. Scribe analyzes posts and provides actionable tips on how best to title it, and tweak it so it appears high on a search results page.
Google Analytics. The gold standard when it comes to free, easy to use analytics. With the addition of real-time tools, you can see which posts are resonating with your readers seconds after they’re published. I also use Quantcast as well, since it provides demographic information, and can confirm the Google Analytics numbers.
Google Webmasters. It’s always advisable to stay in Google’s good graces. Google Webmasters will let you know that your posts are being appropriately indexed, who’s linking to them, and whether your site is compliant with Google’s terms and services.
Google Alerts. Want to know who’s linking to your blog, or mentioning your name online? Google Alerts is what I use, sent to me in an RSS feed. You can also have mentions emailed to you.
Pingdom. The goal is to have your site up 100% of the time. But unforeseen things happen, and you want to know the instant they do. This service will notify you via text message or email as soon as your site goes down. I also like Pingdom Tools, which provides a snapshot of your site’s speed, as well as the load times of a page’s components.
WordPress for iPad. If you’re on the road, breaking out the laptop to make a few cosmetic changes to a blog post isn’t the most convenient thing to do. WordPress has a nice app for the iPad where you can make a quick corrections for typos or formatting errors while on the go.
Kevin Pho is co-author of Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Physicians and Medical Practices. He is founder and editor of KevinMD.com, also on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.