In this review, I’m going to breakdown and compare Ghost.org to WordPress as well as give you an overall honest review on Ghost. Ghost is a free and open source CMS that you can install on self hosted account (which is a bit techy to setup) or you can simply sign-up to Ghost.org which is a managed option where everything is taken care of for you, including hosting and software updates.
For most reading, you’ll want to go with a low cost account on Ghost.org. as it’s the easiest, least technical way to get setup with this excellent blogging platform. Here I will discuss the differences between Ghost.org and WordPress, as well as how they stack up against each other in many different areas of functionality including: security, scalability, cost-effectiveness, simplicity, community involvement and support.
Why should you trust this review?
I’ve been blogging and engaging in content marketing for over 10 years.
- I’ve built blogs that make thousands of dollars a month through affiliate marketing and advertising using WordPress.
- When it comes to Ghost.org, I’ve built blogs with it and understand the strengths and weakness of the platform.
- I understand the needs of content marketers and the importance of design and blogging.
In short, I use and like Ghost.org. It’s an impressive platform and over the years it’s really honed in on it’s target market. That is, bloggers who want to engage in content marketing and email marketing.
I’ll also mention how to get started with Ghost
I want to help you make the right purchase decision. Ghost for a lot of bloggers may in fact be an ideal platform. With so many blogging platforms to choose from, it can be confusing particularly when most of the conversation is always around using WordPress.
While WordPress is the dominant player for a reason, it’s not the only option for professional blogging. So let’s review Ghost and everything it has to offer while also seeing how it stacks up against WordPress.
What is the Ghost.org publishing platform?
After using Ghost for the last 6 months, I would best describe it as a professional blogging platform with a strong focus on content marketing and email marketing. The design of Ghost.org websites are beautiful, modern and minimalistic with email subscriptions built in.
Each theme comes with very readable font choices, a minimal to non-existent sidebar and multiple calls to actions built in to subscribe to your email list. With Ghost, you can blog, have your blog posts sent out to your audience that has subscribe as well as keep content private.
What I love most about Ghost for bloggers
Ghost does a few things really well and in a far superior fashion when compared to WordPress, blogger, Drupal or any other CMS.
You are able hide sections of your blog posts for email subscribers only
As Ghost is very heavy on getting your visitors to subscribe to your email list, one aspect I simply love is their email block. With this block you can have a publicly available blog post that can be indexed and searchable by Google so you can get organic traffic, but at the same time you’re able to reward people for subscribing to your email list.
The way it works is that any content inside the email block can only be views in someone’s email client like Gmail. This in turn gives an incentive to subscribe to your website because it’s a way to get exclusive content.
On a production standpoint, it’s also easier for you as a blogger as you don’t need to write a lengthy blog post and separate lengthy email.
You can hide content behind a paywall
Content can be hidden behind a paywall. Do you want to have a free email list where your subscribers get your latest blog posts and a paid list where people can get a “subscribers only” blog post? With Ghost you can easily do that as that feature is built in.
These two features combined make Ghost.org live up to it’s call to action of “turn your audience into a business.”
Is Ghost better than WordPress?
Ghost is better if you’re wanting a platform where you simply want to blog and have those blog posts sent out to your list. While with WordPress you can do something similar to Ghost using the Jetpack plugin, it simply does not give you the same level of control and customization.
With Jetpack, all blog posts get sent out without exception. With Ghost, you can choose if a blog post you’re writing gets emailed or not. With Ghost you can also content lock sections using the previously mentioned email block and you can setup a subscription revenue stream with your email list.
When to go with WordPress and Convert Kit
So WordPress and Jetpack are good for casual bloggers, Ghost is more aimed at professional writers who want to focus on blogging with subscription revenue. Everyone else like myself who runs a YouTube channel, blog, products and so forth should instead use Convert Kit (or email marketing client of their choice).
The advantage of Convert Kit is that you get access to funnels, list segmentation, automation and the ability to broadcast to your list. This is great if you’re running a promotion on a new course or product you made or simply want to email your list about a helpful new video you created.
With Ghost, you need to publish a blog post every time you want to email your list. So, in short WordPress and Convertkit are simply better for your classic style content marketers. Ghost is better for professional writers wanting subscription revenue.
How does Ghost.org work?
With Ghost, you have two options. You can signup for a hosted account with Ghost.org or install the script on your own host. The advantages of using Ghost.org are that everything is done for you. The installation of Ghost, automatic software updates, Mail Gun for email marketing is configured correctly and one click install of any themes.
The second way is to manually install Ghost on a hosting account. Ghost recommends you use Digital Ocean. It’s a scalable, pay as you use web host account. It’s technical to use for beginners and it’s technical to install Ghost.
It’s not like WordPress with where all webhosts come with a one-click install. Instead you’ll need to configure your Digital Ocean account, manually install Ghost, manually update Ghost and configure Mail Gun on your own. The benefit however is that it’s cheaper than a Ghost.org account. The downside is you need to manage updates and installations.
Ghost plans are based on the amount of email subscribers you have. If you want to keep costs low, you can. Simply don’t allow for people to subscribe to your blog and you can stay on the starter plan.
However, the point of Ghost is to turn your website and blog into a subscription revenue stream so as your audience and revenue grows, your pricing plan will increase respectively. Please note that Ghost does not take any percentage of your revenue.
Like WordPress, Ghost comes with a wide variety of themes. From free themes to paid themes to 3rd party themes. The paid themes for Ghost are quite expensive, ranging anywhere from $39.99 to over $140 USD. However, if you’re looking for a specialty purpose theme you can find it.
In general though, the majority of free themes available are more than sufficient for most professional bloggers. With optimized designs for mobile, beautiful minimalistic designs, clear call to actions, integrated subscribe buttons, an enjoyable block editor, pro bloggers will be very impressed with Ghost.
Custom domain names with Ghost
It’s very easy to set a custom domain name for your Ghost.org website. Simply register your domain name at Namecheap and then in the advanced DNS setting add a CNAME record and an A Record which is found here.
It takes about 30 minutes for everything to propagate, but once setup your Ghost powered website with a custom domain will be ready to go.
Similar to plugins, Ghost as an open source platform also comes with a variety of integrations. While not as convenient as WordPress plugins, you can add additional features to your website. Want to sell a digital or physical product? No problem, you can integrate a wide variety of shopping carts to your Ghost.org website.
The only issue with integrations is that they are more walk-through guides on how to install and add a 3rd party service which may be difficult for inexperienced bloggers. If you’re used to WordPress and the plugin system you’ll be disappointed with Ghost.
The integrations sections is thorough and detailed, but you’ll need to do the manual installation of a 3rd party service yourself.
What is the Ghost subscription feature like?
Ghost uses a serviced called Mail Gun to manage your email marketing when you have a Ghost.org account. Your subscribers on the backend are called “members” and are segmented into either free or paying members.
When you publish a blog post you can select if you want your post to go to only paying members or everyone on your list. As I mentioned earlier you can also leverage the email block to add exclusive content to all your blog posts as well that is only accessible in an email client.
Email newsletter design
Another helpful aspect of Ghost is that you do have control over the design and UX of your emails. This is great because with a service like Jetpack or Substack you’re stuck with their built in design.
With Ghost you can brand your emails as your own with a custom @ your domain name. You can also change the font, colors and layout of the actual emails. One thing to note with email marketing is that simple works best.
Enabling paid memberships
In addition to email marketing, you can also offer a paid subscription for your content. The paid subscription service works the same as email your email marketing in that you’ll now have a membership list to send your blog posts to which you can content lock for paid subscribers only if you like.
To get started You’ll need a PayPal account and a Stripe account in order to accept credit card or debit card payments. The process for connecting your Stripe account to your Ghost.org membership section is easy as it has a built in, on screen tutorial. Affiliate marketing and Ghost.org
Summary – Ghost vs WordPress
Both Ghost and WordPress are open source content management systems. Ghost is far superior if you’re looking for effective, beautifully designed blogs with a strong focus on blogging, and subscription revenue via email marketing.
WordPress is better for what I would describe as a full stack marketer. That is you want to build a blog, YouTube channel, setup advanced funnels to promote products you create or products as an affiliate and would perhaps like to run paid advertising to your email list at some point.
Both platforms are excellent, it’s just that Ghost is more focused on blogging, content locking your blog posts and putting them behind a paywall. WordPress is also focused on blogging, but has more flexibility for email marketing, ecommerce and affiliate marketing.
Ghost.org is not that good for affiliate marketing
One last thing I want to mention is the lack of redirection support with Ghost. With WordPress you can setup a plugin called “Pretty Links” for affiliate marketing. This is important because this plugin allows you to track clicks on your affiliate links but also enables you to take a long, ugly affiliate URL and make it pretty.
Instead of having to use some weird looking link like mysb.com/aff/track-345, you can instead turn that into something more trustworthy like example.com/Udemy. This will help increase your clickthrough rate (as users will know where they will end up when clicking) and make your more money with affiliate marketing.
With Ghost, you have no option to cloak affiliate links. You’ll have to use a service like Bit.ly to have custom links. A deal breaker if affiliate marketing is something you’re interested in.
Ghost.org – Professional Blogging
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