How to Start a Blog Part 3: Balance the Public and the Private

Starting a blog public

If you’re about to start a mommy blog, I encourage you to give some thought to the following questions:

  • Is your blog going to be publicly available or limited to subscribers you permit access?
  • Are you going to use your own name or a pseudonym?
  • Are you going to use your children’s names or pseudonyms?
  • Do you want to tell the internet where you are or where you’re going to be?
  • What about your life, your spouse’s life, and your children’s lives needs to remain private?
  • Are you going to publish photographs of yourself and your family? Will those photographs include faces?
  • What are the implications of your choices if you’re still blogging 5 or 10 years from now?

I’ll be perfectly honest and confess that I thought about exactly none of these things a decade ago when I went on Blogger and claimed the rodrigueztwins subdomain as my own. I was just picking a spot to park ultrasound and baby photos, so I wasn’t concerned that people would happen across my mommy blog. I referred to my daughters by name, shared photos, talked about potty training drama, and didn’t much worry about it.

When I joined How Do You Do It? as a contributor, I was more experienced and had heard some nightmare stories of crazy people reposting friends’ blog content, including photos, as their own for the attention of a being a twin mom. I decided to keep blogging under my own name, but I would refer to my daughters by their initials. I work for the state, so my employment is a matter of public record. However, I protect my home address, never mention the name of the suburb in which I live in any blog post (Austin has a lot of suburbs), and do not mention by name locations that my daughters and I frequent regularly. While this means that our favourite businesses don’t get the benefit of my social influence, my daughters’ safety and privacy come first.

Allow me to give you some additional context and advice on the questions I posed at the beginning of this post.

Is your blog going to be publicly available or limited to subscribers you permit access?

Privacy has its benefits…

The easiest way to keep creepsters off your site is to keep it locked down by default. Both Blogger and WordPress allow you to set this up easily. If you choose this, Blogger has the benefit of being tied to your friends’ Google accounts, so they don’t have to create a new account as they might need to do for WordPress. You know exactly who can read your posts and see your photos.

How to set up a private blog on WordPress How to set up a private blog on Blogger.

But privacy has its limitations

One of the great strengths of the blogosphere is meeting new people through their blogs and the comments they leave on others’ posts. If your blog is locked down to people you already know, you won’t be able to grow your readership. Furthermore, you won’t be in the running for sponsored posts and other blogging perks.

Unauthorized readers will see a default page like this instead of your brilliant blog posts.

What someone sees if they're not authorized for your blog or not logged in.

Are you going to use your own name or a pseudonym?

There’s a degree of liberty to blogging anonymously. You can share opinions that you might not otherwise feel free to express, for instance your thoughts on your mother-in-law’s cooking. However, if you are somehow “outed” at a later date, this could be excruciatingly embarrassing. You can also use a pseudonym to avoid a simple Google search on your name finding your blog. This can be a benefit if you are a teacher or in some other field where you might not want your day-to-day mommy details to be easy to find.

A nice witty pseudonym can make it easy for you to stand out in the crowd, even if anonymity is no issue. In all honesty, there are a lot of mommy bloggers named Jen, Sarah, Amanda, and Jessica. One very easy way to see whether a name is available to see whether someone has already claimed the associated Twitter account. My name, Sadia, is unusual enough in the English-speaking world that it works for me as my blog handle, although my personal brand has become entwined with the HDYDI brand in the years that I’ve been coordinating things there. My friend Diane blogs as Momo Fali, a misinterpretation arising from her once referring to herself as momofali, or Mom of Ali(son). See, witty works!

Are you going to use your children’s names or pseudonyms?

This is an entirely personal decision, but please remember that information once on the internet, stays on the internet. Think about your children’s privacy not only in the here and now, but 18 years down the road when they’re considering college and farther along into their professional careers.

Do you want to tell the internet where you are or where you’re going to be?

I totally understand that lots of people have no problem using Foursquare or Facebook’s location functionality to share their current location publicly. I personally don’t feel comfortable doing that. I don’t blog about going on vacation until we’re back. I don’t mention restaurants, schools, or other small locations where you might find us regularly on my blogs. I have been recognized, on occasion, from my blog photos and more often, by name when I introduce myself, but I’ve never been actively sought out by a reader in person and I’d like to keep it that way.

What about your life, your spouse’s life, and your children’s lives needs to remain private?

You need to have a conversation with your partner about what you will and won’t blog about, unless you plan to keep your blog life a secret from him or her. Are you going to be public about marital spats? The blogosphere can make for a wonderful place to seek marriage counseling, but there’s the downside that your dirty laundry is all out there.

Protect your children’s online privacy in the same way that you would in real life. Around age 5, your kids may be mature enough to have an opinion and a say in what you post on your blog. My daughters and I have regular conversations on this subject, and as their opinion evolve and mature, so do the boundaries about what I will and will not share.

Someday, your children will learn to read. There’s plenty that I’d like to say about my ex-husband’s life choices, but I’m not going to blog about anything that I wouldn’t say within earshot of my daughters. If there’s something you wouldn’t want your children to read about when they’re 8 or 22, it’s probably best not to blog about it.

Are you going to publish photographs of yourself and your family? Will those photographs include faces?

Be especially careful about the photographs you post. There are some really twisted people out there. One of the Facebook twin parenting support groups I’m part of learned that a member was downloading member belly  photos and sharing then on a pregnancy fetish site. Photos that you or I see as entirely innocent may not stay that way out on the internet. Be careful, but not paranoid.

Personally, I think that it’s perfectly fine to share photos of myself and my children on my blog. If I’m thinking about posting a photo that includes my daughters’ friends, I ask permission. No one has ever said no, but I ask anyway. As I said, I have been recognized in public, twice that I can remember. One of these meetings has turned into a fast friendship. I think it’s fantastic. If another twin mom has read my ramblings and still wants to be friends, and our kids get along, great!

What are the implications of your choices if you’re still blogging 5 or 10 years from now?

This is the part that I think we forget. There are little things, like not including your child’s current age in his or her pseudonym. Calling your little one The Toddler may work for a while, but it gets awkward when you have to write things like, “The Toddler started first grade today” or “The Toddler is heading to college”. Also, it may be wise to move posts with potty training details back to draft status as your child approaches school age. She or he probably won’t want friends to see potty pictures. My daughter J had no problem with it, but M did, so those posts are gone.

I have seen more than a few bloggers choose blog names that reflect the size of their family, only to have to scramble when they have another child or two a few years down the road. Pick a name that will be evergreen.

See also:

How to Start a Blog Part 2: Choose a Platform

The very basics for getting your mommy blog onto to the internet.

Now that you know what you want to blog about, you need to find a place to publish your posts. I have blogged in both Blogger and WordPress, so those are the platforms I’ll compare here. Most of the mommy blogs I’m familiar with use one of the two, although there are many other options out there.

How the Internet Works

Before you can go further, you need to understand some basics about how the internet works. After all, you’re planning to create your very own website, a blog. You’ll need to know how information gets from your computer or phone to your blog and how, after that, people out in the world can see what you’ve published.

Retrieving a Web Page

Have you ever thought about what happens when you click a link or type something starting with “http” into your web browser?

Internet basics

  1. When you type a web address, or URL, into your web browser and hit Enter, your internet service provider (ISP) receives the message.
  2. Your ISP checks the URL (specifically the domain, or the part right before “.com” or “”) against its DNS server, which translates it into an IP address, which is a series of numbers that uniquely identifies the server where the content of the website lives.
  3. The ISP asks the server for the content of the webpage you requested.
  4. The server responds with the information in a form that can be communicated over the internet.
  5. Your ISP sends the response from the server to your browser.
  6. Your browser translates information it receives into the webpage that you see.

Web Sites, Subsites, and Web Pages

A web page is what displays in your web browser tab. When you scroll up and down, you’re generally staying within a single web page. A web site is a collection of web pages, and logical grouping of web pages within a web site might be considered a subsite.

The Parts of a URL

If you look at the address to a web page in your browser, it’s actually quite informative about the structure of the web site it’s part of. Take a look at the URL for this page:

A web address can be very informative. A URL gives you insight into how a website is organized

Just by looking at the URL, you can see that my blog is actually a subsite of, and that its files are sorted by date.

Blog Host and Blog Platform


You can create your blog content on your phone or home computer, but it needs to be saved on a web server somewhere for people to be able to get to it on the internet. For your blog to have a server of its own, you’re going to need a host. The web host is the service that makes sure that your blogs web server is doing its job.

A blog platform, since as WordPress or Blogger, is a web tool that allows you to compose your blog posts without having to know the web standard HTML. It also uploads the content your create to your host. You can make your latest content available to the internet just with the click of a “Publish” button.

Hosting Options

There are two primary hosting options at your disposal: self-hosted and hosted. This blog, the Mommy Blogging Guide, is hosted at My main blog, How Do You Do It?, is self-hosted. Both use WordPress as their blog platform.

A hosted blog will have a home page whose URL includes the “” or “” domain. Everything you need to getting blogging is already set up. You just create an account with Blogger or WordPress and follow straightforward instructions to create your blog. Both Blogger and WordPress offer this service free of charge. They take care of all the technical and administrative business. All you need to do is be creative.

A self-hosted blog takes additional setup, but it gives you your own domain and a lot more freedom. It looks a lot more professional to have your own domain, but you will likely have to pay a web hosting service like GoDaddy, BlueHost, or HostGator to run your web server for you. You will then have to additionally arrange for your blogging platform, WordPress, Jekyll, or otherwise, to be installed. Problems that arise with your site fall to you and hosting service to fix, as compared to free hosted blogs, where hundreds of other bloggers share a standard set of resources that are extremely reliable. Think about a self-hosted blog as the house you own, where you’re responsible for all maintenance, and consider a hosted blog to be more like a condo, where the super takes care of everything for you.

There is a third option with Blogger, which allows you to set a custom domain. You can pay to drop the “” from your URL, but you’re still limited to using Blogger standard toolbox and layout for your blog.

My recommendation to the new blogger is to start with a free blog. Once you get your feet wet, it’s quite simple to move your content to a self-hosted site, if that’s the path your choose. I did this with my personal site back in the day. In 2005, I started blogging at Years later, I moved the entirety of the blog to, which I have since made private at the request of my daughter, M. I also transitioned it from Blogger to WordPress. These things aren’t carved in stone.

I have to confess that my preference is for WordPress over Blogger. Blogger has both the benefits and downside of being associated with all your Google services and accounts. In my opinion, Blogger blogs look rather old-fashioned and amateur compared to their WordPress brethren. The composition tools are about equally intuitive. Decide for yourself which looks more appealing.

Blogger blog post creation interface, mid-2015.
Blogger post composition.
WordPress blog post creation interface, mid-2015.
WordPress post composition.

I encourage you to check out other, more balanced comparisons of Blogger and WordPress to help you make your choice.

Setting up a self-hosted blog is a post for another day. However, if you’re ready to create a hosted blog using either WordPress or Blogger, just visit your site of choice, create an account, and follow their instructions. If you find yourself having specific questions, drop me a note, and I’ll respond as soon as possible.

See also:

How to Start a Blog Part 1: Find Your Passion

Find your passion... and it can't just be about getting free stuff.

Sarah, the wife of an old college buddy who has become a friend in her own right, asked me how to get started with blogging. She has two little ones and has a lot of wisdom to share about the magical journey of motherhood. I know that I said that this blog would be a source of technical answers for mommy bloggers, but I think it’s important to set some non-technical groundwork too.

So here, for Sarah and all aspiring mommy bloggers like her, are some thoughts on becoming a mommy blogger from a 10-year veteran.

Don’t Do It for the Swag

Sarah asked me about how to start a blog in response to a photo I posted on Facebook of some phenomenal stuff I received from Round Rock Premium Outlets, a local outdoor mall, just for being a blogger. I know that Sarah is genuinely interested in sharing her mommy wisdom beyond her immediate circle of friends, but I suspect some readers will arrive here with dollar signs in their eyes.

Bloggers can land some nice perks from businesses interested in leveraging their social influence. Still, starting a blog doesn't guarantee free stuff.

Sapphire earrings from Marc Robinson Jewelers! The most comfortable flip flops I have ever worn, from Soft Science! Perfume samples from Perfumania! $100 gift card from Simon Malls!

When you see photos like this from bloggers like me, it seems like a no-brainer. “Look,” you might be thinking, “Sadia drops some company names on her blog and she gets all this free stuff. I want that.”

As with everything in life, it’s more complicated than that. Companies are interested in investments that pay. They’re going to give the free stuff not to the brand new blogger but to one who has a decent amount of influence. Bloggers with social influence are going to the ones whose readers trust them, because they have demonstrated honesty, relevance, and insight over time.

Let’s be honest. We’re not all Ree DrummondJenny Lawson, or Angie Dudley. Most of us will never get book deals or make a living off our blogs. I’m okay with that, and I need you, New Blogger, to be okay with that too.

I have been to blogger events that I haven’t ended up blogging about, either because they don’t fit with the focus of the blogs to which I contribute or because I wasn’t wowed by the product. Any time a brand contacts me asking for a post in direct exchange for a product, I immediately say no. My opinions aren’t for sale. It wouldn’t feel right posting a negative review after someone gave me free stuff, but I’m not about to start lying either. I’ve even had to send a very difficult email to a proud mother who wants to see her young sons’ book published telling her that my kids didn’t think that the story was coherent.

In my opinion (a completely un-reimbursed opinion, of course), if you start a blog for free stuff, it’s going to feel like a chore and your readers will know it. We moms have refined BS detectors. Think about the blogs you like to read. Do you trust the opinion of the blogger who tells you that three different sunscreen brands are her very favourite over the course of one week? Or do you trust the blogger who talks about how she had a really rough daycare drop-off on Monday, what she’s planning for dinner on Thursday, and heads to the pool on Saturday and mentions that she’s trying out some new sunscreen and things went a little more smoothly than usual with her wiggly ones?

My personal experience was that I was 7 years into this blogging thing before companies started getting in touch. I only recently added advertisements to How Do You Do It?, and that’s only because I may not be able to afford to continue to run the site without them. Adsense requires a minimum balance of $100 before it pays out, so I actually have yet to see a penny from those ads.

Here’s a concrete example. HDYDI contributor Jen Wood found some Crayola supplies at her local Target that were packaged perfectly for her boys. She bought them and took them home, and then blogged about them. Crayola came across her post and sent her boys some really great stuff. It was a thank you for being a genuine fan of their products. The post and fandom came first, the stuff later.

Do It for Your Passion

What do you really care about? What are you the go-to person for among your friends? Maybe you want to have a place for your loved ones to keep up with your kids’ leaps and bounds. Maybe you can stretch a dollar like nobody’s business because you understand sales, coupons, and bulk purchase. Perhaps you can pull together a taste bud ballet from anyone’s pantry and fridge. Maybe you’re a great volleyball coach who inspires children and changes lives through athletics. Perhaps you’re struggling with new motherhood and want to document what has and hasn’t worked in your journey from head-over-heel newlyweds to exhausted parents.

I happen to be really, really good at this mommy thing. I have a talent for generalizing my observations from my life with my daughters to practical advice and helpful insights that other parents can use in their day-to-day lives. I’m good at explaining complex scientific concepts to a lay audience and I’m obsessed with the experience of being or raising twins. I love coding, especially building pretty websites with a purpose. That’s what I blog about. I also love software quality assurance, but I get to do that at my day job and don’t need the blogging outlet.

I started my first blog to keep my ultrasound and baby pictures from crashing my mother-in-law’s work email server. I never imagined that I would someday call myself a blogger, hand out business cards, and give advice to people starting out in the blog journey. I started with my passion, those two little circles on an ultrasound who turned into the most inspiring people I’ve ever known, and followed where the words led. I found like-minded parents in the blogosphere, and eventually took HDYDI over from Goddess in Progress and Jenna. I’ve stayed in that gig because I really like spreadsheets and schedules and inspiring parents to speak their minds.

It’s okay to have just a germ of an idea. As you blog, your passions will bubble to the surface. As you write, or vlog, or publish photos or drawings, your voice will develop.

Now go and find that idea.

See also:

How to Add “Anchor” Links to Provide Shortcuts Within Your Blog Post

Learn how to add links to your blog post that point to different sections of your post. This is especially handy for blog series where your regular readers want to skip over content that is repeated from post to post.

Adventures of a Novice Mom asked, “How did you create the ‘skip to’ links?’ in one the Twinkly Tuesday linky posts I hosted over at How Do You Do It?

Question from Adventures of a Novice Mum: How do you create

Oops. This just goes to show that even those of us who are totally comfortable speaking HTML and CSS and work in Software Quality Assurance make mistakes and can use some QA feedback on occasion. Thanks for pointing out the error so I could fix it!

Anchor tags allow for page-internal linking.

These “skip to” links are links like you would see anywhere on the internet, except that they point to a place internal to the blog post instead of taking the reader to another page or site. You can also use them to allow others to link within a post instead of defaulting to the top of a page. This sort of internal navigation is especially handy when you’ve got a blog post divided into logical parts that people might want to move around between or, as in the case of my linky post, you have repeated content that regular readers don’t want to wade through.

The official term for internal shortcut targets like these is “anchor”. They are a location to which you can anchor your link. To be perfectly clear, there are two different things to implement to make an internal shortcut link work:

  • The anchor that your shortcut leads to.
  • The link to click to reach the anchor.

I’ll show you how to do this in WordPress, but if you have trouble translating these instructions to Blogger, please let me know in the comments and I’ll write a second Blogger tutorial.

Create the Anchor

All it takes to create an anchor tag is to add an <a> tag with a value for its “id”. (Yep, the “a” in all those link tags you’ve been creating since you started blogging stands for “anchor”. Now you know.)

In the Text tab of WordPress (the HTML editor), find the place you want to link to. Now now insert something like what’s below, replacing what_to_call_the_anchor with some descriptive text with no spaces.

<a id="what_to_call_the_anchor"></a>

An anchor tag for internal page navigation.

When you switch to the Visual editor, it gets replaced with a cute little image of an anchor.

How the WordPress Visual editor displays anchor tags.

If you happen to want to link to a spot that already has a link, you can just add the id=”what_to_call_the_anchor” bit inside that link. If what I just said confused you, feel free to forget that I ever said it.

Create a Link

Now that you have your anchor in place, you’ll want to link to it. This part, you actually know how to do already. Do whatever you’d usually do add a link, but instead of using a big long URL, just use the id of the anchor tag you created with a hash (or pound, or number or whatever you call “#”) sign in front of it.

In my example, my anchor tag had an id of links, so in the URL spot, I put #links.

How to link to an internal anchor in WordPress.

When you publish your post, it’ll work. Click on that link and give yourself a pat on the back. Or glass of Shiraz. Whatever floats your boat.

One Caveat

Anchor ids need to be unique. If you have the same id showing up in the web browser all at once, even if they’re in different posts, the browser will have to make a decision about which one to take your readers to if they click on a link. The browser may not pick the one that you wanted. For the sake of simplicity, give each anchor tag on your blog something different, even if it means including some reference to the blog post or date.

So, think you might try this? Leave me a link to a post to which you’ve added anchor tags.

Never hesitate to leave a comment if anything is unclear or if you’d like me to show you how to do something else with your blog!

Why Start the Mommy Blogging Guide? Instructions for Adding a Badge to Your Post

Learn how to insert a badge in your WordPress blog post.

Hello new reader! I’m Sadia, a mommy blogger who writes about parenting twins at the blog How Do You Do It?

The other day, another twin mommy blogger friend, Michelle, contacted me on Facebook. She asked for my help in adding a blog party badge to one of her blog posts.

I gave her the following basic instructions for WordPress.

  1. Copy the badge code from the blog party page.
  2. Click on Text in the top right of the composition area.
  3. Paste the code at the very bottom of the text.
  4. Click on Visual to get back to the “normal” view, if you want to.
  5. Publish/Update when ready.

She was still stuck. She couldn’t find the Text tab. The simplest solution was for me to share my screen with her, showing her exactly where I was clicking.

All that was left was to publish the post!

“Maybe you could put a class together for the blogging multiples mom,” she wrote to me. It’s a good fit. I work as an IT professional, have experience with website design and development, love to teach, and am myself a mommy blogger.

So here it is. The Mommy Blogging Guide. Your questions, answered your way, from one busy overextended mommy to another.