“Who are these bloggers? They’re not trained editors at Vogue magazine. There are bloggers writing recipes that aren’t tested that aren’t necessarily very good, or are copies of what really good editors have created and done. Bloggers create a kind of a popularity but they are not the experts. We have to understand that.” ~ Martha Stewart

The above quote by Martha Stewart stirred up a lot of comment from bloggers this past week. Unsurprisingly, she deeply offended a lot of wonderful bloggers. While I have to admit that not all bloggers are all that professional, others do fantastic jobs, and specialized education or training aren’t necessary for all blogs. There are, however, some things you can do to be more professional as a blogger.

Now, I know not all blogging is about being a professional. It’s about sharing what you love, especially if you blog in the lifestyle categories. Still, there are some things you should consider, even if your blog is a labor of love.

Disclosure

Appropriate disclosure is an important part of blogging these days, to keep in line with FTC rules. It doesn’t have to be fancy; just a clear notation when you’ve been compensated for a post, given an item for review, get paid affiliate commissions, and so forth. Top of the post is better than bottom, but inside the post works as well. I have a basic statement on all pages, and get into more detail on certain posts.

An Appropriate Persona

You can absolutely be yourself online when you blog – for many blogs that’s one of their greatest strengths. I don’t tend to get very personal myself – I’m a private person in real life for the most part, so chattering online about myself or my family doesn’t often come naturally. It does for others, and they make it work.

Still, as you blog your readers will come to expect certain things from you, and won’t be happy if you change things up too suddenly. Occasional surprises can be a good thing, but a complete change of style can chase away readers. Including an excessive number of sponsored posts or product reviews can be a problem, especially if they’re done with little regard for what your readers expect on your site.

You don’t have to be what many people would consider to be professional in other fields, if that’s not the persona you want to show. Some bloggers do quite well with behavior that others would consider outrageous. Let your personality show and have fun with your blogging.

Knowledge About Your Subject

Having a lot of knowledge about what you’re blogging about is a huge help in looking professional. This doesn’t have to include professional training, no matter how some people want it to. For most personal blogs, personal experience is plenty.

Sharing recipes, for example, is best done if you’ve actually made and eaten the recipe. Similarly, experience in any subject you’re blogging about is better than posting your best guess, even if you’ve read up on the subject.

Appropriate Visual Components

Many blogs are much improved with pictures. They should be related to the post and attractive. You don’t need to hire a professional photographer for most things, although there are times when that may be appropriate. You will want to pay attention to lighting and how the picture looks overall when you use photos in your posts.

Photos aren’t the only way to make your blog posts visually appealing, however. You can create images on your computer, make charts or graphs when appropriate, use pull quotes in larger text to reemphasize appropriate parts of your posts and so forth.

Perhaps the most important visual component is to simply pay attention to readability. You don’t want to present readers with a huge wall of text. Break it up into appropriate paragraphs, bullet points and with visual aids.

Respect For Copyright

Even professional publications get this one wrong sometimes, but it’s a major problem with anyone who doesn’t understand that things published on the internet are not necessarily free for anyone’s use. If you don’t know if something is copyrighted, assume it is, and don’t use it without written permission. You’ll be better off.

Link To Relevant Resources

When you refer to things others have said, link to it in your post. When there’s a resource that gives more information to interested readers, link to it. Not only are you giving your readers access to more information on the subject, you look better for it and it may help you build a relationship with those resources. So long as you provide good resources, it’s good for your reputation to link out.

This is a big part of why paid links are discouraged. Too often they’re irrelevant and low quality. If you’re careful about how you link out, they’ll be good for your site.

Don’t worry if you aren’t sure that you’re good enough to be a professional blogger. Give yourself time. Keep working at it, keep trying to do better, and believe that you can be a professional. Not every blogger is going to make a fantastic living off their blog, or even an adequate one, but if you give up too easily, you’ll never know what’s possible for you. Learning what works for you and gaining popularity take time.