I have a question about writing samples. I used to write a blog for a travel website. They ran out of funding and it’s now defunct. My blog posts are still up and my blog is getting a ton of spam. My question is: since I have the right to reuse my stories, I am thinking of populating my personal travel blog with updated versions of the articles. I'm wondering if this is wise--if Google will somehow penalize me for re-using my own articles. I'd also like to be able to use these articles to show to travel publicists as writing samples, but I don't think it's a great idea to use a website that is no longer active. What do you think?
Good call on your part. Every writer needs writing samples to show to new clients! It’s our bread and butter. Even though you probably now own the copyright to those posts (depending on the deal that you and the owner worked out), there is still that other issue of what Google would do if you re-posted those travel blogs on another site. Here is the word on what’s called “duplicate content” right out of Google’s mouth.
For other reader/writers, this is a great thing for us to learn and keep in mind. Sometimes Google will penalize websites for having duplicate content. If you’d like to see if your content has ever been plagiarized somewhere, look up and use a service called Copyscape. I love it! I've used Copyscape for both my writing, and as a way to check up on my writing students when I was a TA teaching freshman composition.
G-, your next issue here is the question of how to best use your writing samples. You are right that it may not look "great" to potential editors in the current state. Many defunct blogs litter the web, and yours is attracting spam. So, in order to share it as a writing sample with writing prospects and potential clients, you could pursue several options here.
Save Your Writing Samples by Saving the Website
Many sites that are defunct are never used again. Perhaps the site will allow you take it over. I know this seems like an odd suggestion, but consider this. You want to be a travel writer and this site is (or was once) an established travel blog. Interesting.
It is a big commitment to run a site, I know that. And it may be a big cost. But just by virtue of the site occupying its URL for a while it’s already at least “known” to Google and travelers. Not only that, but owning the site gives you the opportunity to take it in all kinds of directions. You are in control here. Think about the possibilities.
Ask For Your Writing Samples Back
The option to simply ask for your posts to be taken down is also a possibility. Be honest with your old client. Tell them that you need those writing samples for the future. At the very least, perhaps they could allow you the login info to clean up the spam. Then, you can grab them and PDF them with some gorgeous graphics, or put them on your own site- whatever you wish, as they are not finally "yours."
Make Them into New Writing Samples
In fact, the above is an option that lends you some flair. Pulling the text and the best comments from the blog, and formatting it into a PDF is an east way to manage your text. And, adding some beautiful travel photos and perhaps (with permission) the logo from the old blog gives that graphic look that shows prospective clients what the final products look like when YOU have a hand in things! These PDFs can then be sent via email to future prospects. They can also (with permission) be posted as a PDF to your website or portfolio, as Google won’t read them as duplicate content when they are in that format. (Side note, I've recently seen some writers talking indicating that they don't like to use PDFs on their site, as people generally choose not to click on those. They recommend using Google Doc Embedder, instead, which is a WordPress ap. I'm not sure how Google treats the text in this case, though.
Continue to Use Your Writing Samples As Is
You could always take the easy route, and supply prospective clients with the URL of the defunct blog and a nice explanation about the state of things. It’s certainly not your fault that a past client tanked! It would be advisable, though, to also show them more polished examples and samples at the same time.
Hopefully this helps the original writer and the rest of my readers to keep track of and use those clips! Clips are a valuable commodity- so take care of them! Best of luck, and thanks for the question! Got a similar question? Send it to email@example.com