Beehiiv vs Ghost CMS: Comparing Features, SEO, and Customization
I can imagine you are feeling a mix of excitement and confusion when putting beehiiv vs Ghost as the next tool for your website or newsletter.
You are in the place, as this article will tell you, which is better for your case.
So, let’s see the strengths and weaknesses of the 2 best Substack alternatives.
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Overview: beehiiv vs Ghost
- Content creation: 7.4
- Customization: 6.9
- Growth tools & SEO: 8.4
- Management: 10
- Monetization: 6.9
- Ratigng as a blog: 7.9
- Rating as a newsletter: 9.0
Ghost and beehiiv are 2 great tools for creators. And what I like the most is that both are suited for hobby and professional use.
This shows they are easy to use and complete from a technical point of view.
Ghost is better than beehiiv when it comes to SEO, and website customization, as it offers more freedom when it comes to themes and code injection.
On the other side, beehiiv is better than Ghost regarding visual newsletter customization, monetization with ads, and email automation.
Ghost CMS is my preferred tool for blogging that I’ve been using since 2021, when I stopped using WordPress.
While beehiiv is one of the best tools for newsletters in the market — at the time of writing, beehiiv is tied for 1st place on my leaderboard. Please remember that beehiiv was only created in 2021 but has been releasing new features relentlessly.
Beehiiv is a hybrid platform that combines newsletters with blogging. This means you can use it to publish different content in the same place.
Beehiiv is a hosted no-code solution for creators who want to focus on writing without dealing with technical configuration.
They launched in July 2021 with a team of former Morning Brew employees, and their development has impressed me a lot in their short existence.
Beehiiv's strong points:
- Nothing to install;
- You can do everything without code;
- 0% memberships fees;
- Free plan up to 2,500 subscribers;
- Works as blog + newsletter;
- Lots of email analytics available;
- Amazing newsletter design customization;
- Allows multiple newsletters in the same account;
- Referral program for newsletters;
- Integrations with other tools;
- Offers and trials for membership.
- Limited website customization options;
- Custom domain only on paid plans;
Ghost is a fantastic platform for bloggers and writers and is my favorite Substack alternative.
This platform is focused on monetizing blogs and newsletters with memberships, but display ads are also possible.
Ghost is open-source and doesn't have content guidelines, which works pretty well for independent publishing.
Ghost's strong points:
- 0% fees: Ghost doesn't take a cut from your revenue;
- Good search engine optimization (SEO);
- The websites are fast;
- Lots of integrations (including Zapier) that work like plugins;
- Best writing experience on any platform I know;
- You can use Ghost as a blog, newsletter, or both;
- No coding knowledge is required with managed hosting;
- You can self-host Ghost;
- Ghost sites are safer than WordPress;
- You can create logs in for team members (editors and writers).
- Ghost themes are beautiful.
- Lack of email sequences and welcome emails;
- Self-hosting isn't intuitive (requires command-line knowledge);
- Theme customization requires coding;
- Limited newsletter analytics (no click tracking).
Detailed comparison: beehiiv vs Ghost
Now you will find a detailed comparison of beehiiv and Ghost across 6 categories I consider essential for a creator.
This way, you can make a well-informed decision after knowing their strong and weak spots.
Starting and managing an account
Here I'm looking at how easy it is to start and create posts on each platform.
How easy is it to start using beehiiv?
Beehiiv is super easy to start an account.
It takes 2 minutes.
Enter your publication name, sender name, tags, and desired subdomain URL.
Simple as that.
The dashboard is simple. It's easy to find drafts and published posts or start creating new ones.
Like Ghost CMS, beehiiv has 3 options for publishing: (1) publish on the site, (2) send by email and publish on the site, (3) or just send by email.
This flexibility is good for keeping your newsletter intimate or posting it on the internet to get more attention.
Beehiiv is a hybrid platform (newsletter + blog) for non-technical users. Making everything as easy as possible.
How easy is it to start using Ghost?
In Ghost's case, things vary between the self-hosted and a managed hosting version.
If you pick Ghost with managed hosting, especially Ghost (Pro), everything is taken care of. You are ready to start writing.
You can even use their default subdomain or set up a custom domain, which I highly recommend.
For self-hosting and other managed hosting companies, you need to create a Mailgun account and connect it to Ghost before you start sending newsletters. If this is your first time using Mailgun, it could take some tries. For example, it took me about 30 minutes to figure out how to make it work the first time.
That's why I recommend Ghost (Pro). They make it easy! And when you need help, they're there for you.
You can easily import members and posts (articles) from your previous platform to Ghost with some clicks.
The Ghost dashboard is simple and easy to manage content.
Winner for category starting and managing an account
Beehiiv is the winner of the category. It requires minimal effort to set up an account, as it only takes 2 minutes, making it perfect for non-technical users.
On the other side, Ghost (Pro) makes it super easy to start a Ghost website without needing any technical knowledge. This means Ghost is still suited for non-tech users, so here you can see some difficulties with Ghost CMS as optional (i.e., you only face them if you prefer to self-host).
That’s why I say beehiiv is still easier because they don’t let you pick the hard way to do things.
Creating and writing
Now, I'll explore the process of creating content with each tool.
Editor features and writing experience on beehiiv
Beehiiv's editor layout is modern and works well.
The editor is clean, and you can focus on writing without problems.
Clicking on the plus icon from within the editor gives you access to things like:
- Text formatting;
- Recommend other newsletters;
- Put a paywall in the post;
- Embed images;
- Create a button.
On the right sidebar, you can find all the other customization options for the post, including SEO settings, post-delivery type, and preview.
However, I have some criticism about the editor.
My biggest complaint comes from the half-backed "HTML snippet" on the editor.
Embedding code opens the door to several options, but on beehiiv, you can't embed scripts or CSS, only HTML.
Editor features and writing experience on Ghost
Ghost is simple to use and focuses on writing.
The text editor on Ghost is the best I've tried so far. The feature list is enormous, as seen in the Ghost CMS review.
But in summary, Ghost editor has everything one needs to write. In addition, the layout is clean and gives you some flexibility.
The only things missing in the editor I can think of are version history and a card for email capture. But you still can use custom HTML to create email captures without much trouble.
You can make tables and product review cards on Ghost with descriptions and star ratings.
You also have different styles for callouts and quotes.
With Ghost, you can also create multiple newsletters within the same site.
This is particularly helpful if you write about topics that vary widely and could potentially interest different audiences.
For example, a news website could break down its posts into the following newsletters:
- Breaking News;
As you can see, this gives many possibilities to connect with an audience.
Winner for category creating and writing
Ghost is the winner of this category because it is designed to be simple and focused on writing. In addition, it has a clean layout and a wide range of features.
The Ghost editor is one if not the best available. It's super simple and complete. They have the essential capabilities but also give you the freedom to add HTML code to create any structure you want (although you don't need to use code if you don't want to).
I know embedding code into a post is not something most users care about, but it is hard to ignore this limitation after using Ghost's editor, which allows me to do almost everything I want.
Next comes customization and design.
Customization on beehiiv
Beehiiv is polarizing when it comes to customization.
On the newsletter side, they have more customization options than top-notch email service providers.
Beehiiv is one most customizable platform for newsletters I know without writing code.
You can customize everything about the aspect of your newsletter in minutes. That's fascinating!
The problems happen when we talk about customizing the website aspect.
You can only pick from their default layouts. This means you can't buy themes or build one from scratch.
At this point, there are only 2 options, and I don't like how they look.
You can change the fonts, select colors for the buttons, and decide between light or dark modes. And that's it.
Your site will look like a cookie-cutter template similar to Substack.
Customization on Ghost
Ghost has many themes available to pick from, and the number keeps growing. Some premium themes will even make your site look like Medium or Substack.
If you want a custom theme, you can code it yourself or hire an expert like the inoryum agency to develop a theme (I've worked with them in the past).
However, Ghost isn't a no-code website builder where you can customize everything with sliders and buttons.
Instead, you must know how to code to make most layout changes. So, it's not perfect for everyone, but at least customization is possible.
Also, Ghost doesn't use plugins, but they have integrations. So the end result is basically the same as those integrations allow adding missing features.
There are hundreds of integrations as Ghost API can connect to several other services, including Zapier.
Winner for category customization
Beehiiv wins the customization category by a small margin.
On the newsletter side, beehiiv is the clear winner, as it lets you customize your newsletter exactly how you want it without coding. This contrasts with Ghost, which doesn’t let you customize the newsletter side of things.
But when it comes to website customization, Ghost is better. You can use one of the free themes available, buy a premium Ghost theme, or create one yourself. Unfortunately, on beehiiv, you cannot customize anything on the site at this moment.
So, neither of these tools is very good for customizing both the blog and newsletter.
Now comes the cost of each tool.
How much does beehiiv cost?
Beehiiv prices are reasonable with a generous free plan. And they don't take a percentage of your revenue!
Most free plans are capped at 1,000 subscribers, but beehiiv allows up to 2,500 subs in the free plan.
But to enable custom domains and paid memberships, you'll have to upgrade to one of their paid plans.
I'm not a fan of the custom domain being associated with a paid plan because small newsletters won't be able to afford it.
This is a case of winning on one side with a generous free plan and losing on the SEO side unless you upgrade.
Beehiiv's "Grow" plan starts at $42/month and gives team members and the API access.
The "Scale" plan ($84/month) unlocks multiple newsletters and the referral program.
For anyone that makes significant money with their newsletter, beehiiv is a good deal. Plain and simple.
They have great tools and don't take a revenue cut.
This alone makes it cheaper than a platform like Substack when you earn more than $5,000 per year.
On top of that, beehiiv has many features that, if you use other platforms, you would probably spend a lot more.
I'm talking about paying separately for a blog, newsletter, and referral program.
How much does Ghost cost?
Ghost is open-source, meaning you can host it where you want and have some price flexibility.
Ghost (Pro) is the best hosting option, starting at $9/ month. They have the best overall service with fewer headaches and take care of everything.
I'm using it myself and after trying other options in the past.
If you prefer to self-host, you must maintain and take care of security yourself. The more popular option is DigitalOcean starting at $5/ month.
There are more hosting options that you can learn about in this managed hosting guide.
Winner for category pricing
Beehiiv won this category. They has a generous free plan for creators with smaller newsletters. The free plan allows up to 2,500 subscribers, which is not bad, especially if you’re starting with your newsletter.
And its paid plans start at a reasonable price and include features like team members and multiple newsletters.
In Ghost’s defense, its prices are flexible because it's an open-source platform. But if you choose to self-host, you'll have to take care of security and maintenance.
That’s why Ghost (Pro) is the best service overall, and it starts at only $9 per month, and they take care of all the maintenance and boring parts.
Although Ghost (Pro) starts cheaper than beehiiv paid plans, the price of Ghost grows the more subscribers you have. While on beehiiv, the prices are more static and tend to be cheaper for creators with several thousand subscribers.
Now, I'll analyze the options to make money with each platform.
Monetization options on beehiiv
It's possible to monetize on beehiiv with paid memberships and ads from their native ad network.
Memberships are probably the bread and butter of many creators.
It's a dead simple process: connect a Stripe account, select the price, and subscribers pay to access the content.
Beehiiv also has membership tiers. Making it possible to offer different perks to readers.
I like these tiers because more engaged readers can contribute more.
Their ad network makes it easy for creators to work with advertisers and get paid directly on the platform.
This is great because it removes the need to go and find a sponsor in other places, which is time-consuming and tiring for the creator.
But if you prefer to work with sponsors outside of the ad network, you can embed the sponsored content into the post.
However, I advise you to use a sponsored tag to avoid problems with Google.
Monetization options on Ghost
On Ghost, it's possible to make money with memberships and display ads.
Memberships work well for newsletters or episodic posts (think about books) and display ads to monetize informational content.
To enable membership go to settings, connect your Stripe account, decide the prices, and you're good to go!
For display ads, you need to put the Adsense script on the site or use the integration to start showing ads on your site.
Winner for category monetization
Beehiiv wins the Monetization category.
Beehiiv allows monetizing content with its paid memberships and Ad Network, enabling creators to earn revenue without extra work. This means beehiiv does the heavy work of finding sponsors for the newsletter, and the creator can focus on writing.
While Ghost also easily allows charging memberships, they lose in the advertisement side. Setting up Adsense is easy but doesn’t pay much. And setting up other ad networks requires more effort or technical effort.
So, beehiiv is ideal for those who want to monetize their content with memberships and ads.
SEO & Growing tools
Let's see how they compare SEO and other tools.
How good are beehiiv's SEO and other growing tools?
Beehiiv's main focus is on newsletters, but I have to praise their development and the effort they put into the website.
And they are good when we talk about SEO.
On beehiiv, you'll find essential SEO features like:
- Robots.txt file;
- Custom meta descriptions;
- Schema markup;
Most hybrid tools focused on newsletters aren't this good.
This shows a willingness to improve, listen to users, and improve on competitor flaws.
So, I have to say I'm impressed with the things beehiiv did in their short existence, while some competitors have had the same flaws for years (cough Substack cough).
On top of that, beehiiv also allows access to their API, which you can use for integrations.
This opens the other to tools like Zapier and Make that you can use to integrate beehiiv with hundreds of other tools.
You'll be in good hands regarding SEO and integrations on beehiiv.
Beehiiv has newsletter recommendations where different publications can recommend each other and grow together. The excellent part is they allow people to subscribe with 1-click, making it frictionless.
How good are Ghost’s SEO and other growing tools?
Ghost is great at search engine optimization and has all the tools required for success, even if you ran a paywalled publication.
These are the features that make Ghost SEO-friendly:
- Custom URLs;
- XML sitemap;
- Custom social cards;
- Canonical tags;
- Schema markup;
- Meta description;
- Image alt text.
And since Ghost has integrations, you can create your own referral program to grow your publication.
Ghost released in August 2022 a discovery feature for Ghost (Pro) customers. This means more opportunities for more people to find publications using Ghost. Plus the potential SEO benefit of getting a link from a respected source.
Also, on Ghost, you can write custom HTML and use nofollow and sponsored links, avoiding going against Google guidelines.
Winner for category SEO & Growing tools
This is the most difficult category to explain, but in short, beehiiv wins the Growth & SEO category because it’s more balanced than Ghost. Let me explain.
Here I’m combining SEO and ‘Growth’.
Ghost is much better for SEO than beehiiv. So, if your blog is more important than the newsletter, Ghost will be a better tool for you.
But the newsletter side is what lets Ghost down. For example, Ghost doesn’t have email automation tools and A/B testing for newsletter titles, which beehiiv has.
On the other hand, beehiiv has important search engine optimization features like sitemaps, robots.txt files, etc., making them competent in the SEO field.
But beehiiv goes one level better than Ghost by having email automation and A/B testing, which I consider essential for ‘Growth’.
On top of that, Beehiiv also has a feature where different newsletters can recommend each other and help each other grow with one-click subscriptions — another thing that helps with Growth.
So, Ghost is better for SEO, but beehiiv is better for Growth. When I combine both things, beehiiv has a slightly higher rating on my checklist.
After comparing beehiiv vs Ghost, we can see that beehiiv is technically superior in most categories.
However, Ghost is the better choice if your priority is blogging, while beehiiv is the best for newsletters.
Beehiiv’s free plan subscriber count is generous, making it perfect for beginners.
Additionally, for users focusing on newsletters and more than 5,000 subscribers, beehiiv is cheaper than most tools on the market.
In contrast, Ghost is an excellent platform for blogging. Their editor is one of the best available and my personal favorite because it’s simple and flexible.
I use the custom HTML block on Ghost all the time to customize my blog, although it's not necessary if you prefer not to use it.
But before we end this, it is important to be aware of some of their limitations.
Beehiiv is limited when it comes to customizing the website, which may be a drawback for some users. And on Ghost, customizing themes requires coding, which may not be ideal for everyone if you don’t know how to code. That's why the alternative for most is simply buying a theme for Ghost.
Given these things, I recommend choosing Ghost if your main goal is the blog. And I recommend beehiiv if your newsletter is your main focus. Especially if you have more than 5,000 subscribers, because beehiiv will be more affordable than Ghost at higher subscriber levels.
- Content creation: 7.4
- Customization: 6.9
- Growth tools & SEO: 8.4
- Management: 10
- Monetization: 6.9
- Ratigng as a blog: 7.9
- Rating as a newsletter: 9.0