7 min read

ConvertKit vs Ghost CMS - which is better for creators?

Picking between Ghost and ConvertKit will depend, for the most part, if you already have a blog or not.
ConvertKit vs Ghost CMS - which is better for creators?

Ghost and ConvertKit are 2 of the best tools for creators and Substack alternatives.

The main difference between them is that Ghost can be used as a blog with a built-in newsletter. While ConvertKit is an email service provider for sending newsletters and monetizing it.

However, they aren't mutually exclusive, thanks to their integrations. This makes it possible to use Ghost for blogging and ConvertKit for sending a newsletter, for example.

Also, it's important to tell that Ghost CMS is open-source software that gives users more freedom about where to host and manage the site. While ConvertKit is a closed source, there are no decisions to make on this matter.

And in this comparison, you will find out more about their differences, strengths, and limitations.


Affiliate Disclaimer: Some links are affiliates. This means that if you buy after clicking on one of those, I get a commission at no additional cost for you.


Pros & Cons Summary of Ghost and ConvertKit

This is a summary with a list of the strengths and limitations of each platform.

Ghost

Ghost is the best alternative to Substack and the best platform for writers.

And their main strengths are:

  • 0% fees;
  • The paywall cannot be bypassed;
  • Hundreds of integrations (including Zapier);
  • Good search engine optimization;
  • Excellent editor for writing;
  • A hybrid platform for blog and newsletter;
  • A growing community with more devs creating tools and themes;
  • The freedom between self-hosting and managed hosting.

Like most tools, Ghost isn't perfect, so their main limitations are:

  • Self-hosting isn't intuitive (requires command-line knowledge);
  • Lack of email sequences;
  • Lack of native comments;
  • Theme customization requires coding;
  • Extreme focusing on content publishing (this makes Ghost not suited for other activities);
  • Limited newsletter analytics (no click tracking).

ConvertKit

ConvertKit is my favorite ESP for sending newsletters, and I've also made a comparison between them and Substack.

ConvertKit strengths:

  • Free to use up to 1000 subscribers;
  • Automated email sequences;
  • Integrations (example, Zapier);
  • Easy to sell digital products (as a one-time or recurring subscription);
  • Lots of analytics tools (including click tracking and subscriber engagement score);
  • Good email deliverability;
  • Low fees (only payment processing fees);
  • Email segmentation (send emails based on tags);
  • Landing pages builder;
  • Form builder (to embed on other CMS and website builders);
  • Referral program;
  • Team members;
  • Custom domain.

ConvertKit limitations:

  • Pricing based on subscribers puts pressure to monetize the newsletter;
  • The public archive is extremely limited (no comments or likes);
  • You need a standalone website to get discovered and grow the newsletter because ConvertKit doesn't have a hybrid model with a blog included;
  • Finding members that canceled subscriptions can be tricky.


Keep up with tech for your blog and newsletter


Comparing ConvertKit to Ghost

Starting and managing an account

Here I'm looking at how easy it is to start and create posts.

In the ConvertKit case creating an account is simple. Also, ConvertKit allows you to use their address to comply with ICANN laws.

Managing the content is also easy and fast to learn. Where things can be more complicated is with email sequences. Although, if you don't do anything crazy, this is another simple process.

In Ghost's case, things vary between the self-hosted and a managed hosting version.

When self-hosting, you need to pick hosting and set Mailgun to send newsletters. At the same time, managed hosting has everything configured and ready.

So, for that reason, I recommend using Ghost with managed hosting.

It's worth saying that you can import and export contacts from both Ghost and ConvertKit. And on Ghost, you can even import and export posts.

But other than that, the dashboard on Ghost is simple and is easy to find and manage the content.

Who wins this category?

ConvertKit because it is slightly easier to create an account. And is the faster option for a start sending a newsletter.

But, ConvertKit will require more work for blogs. I say this because, on Ghost, everything is the same dashboard. So, finding posts and newsletters is centralized.

Creating and writing

Now, I'll explore the process of creating content with each tool.

The editors of both tools are similar and share most features. So, I would say you can do most things with any of them.

Actually, I can't see any significant difference other than ConvertKit supporting layouts and A/B testing.

However, the editor of Ghost is better, especially for writing in Markdown. And with the additions Ghost made in December 2021, the editor got more complete and required fewer code hacks for writing.

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ConvertKit editor is a bit annoying and asks every time before pasting markdown text if you want to apply formatting or not.

Also, Ghost works as a blog. And it's pleasant to write short and long-form posts in it.

A screenshot of The Stack Junction dashboard using Ghost CMS.
Ghost dashboard 

Who wins this category?

Ghost.

Both have good editors, but Ghost has a better experience, lots of features, and isn't frustrating.

Customization

Next on the list comes customization and design.

ConvertKit has plenty of templates for landing pages, forms, and emails. Those can serve as inspiration or save time when creating emails.

This means they got you covered when it comes to customizing your newsletter and landing pages. So, you have total control over publishing and your public archive page.

As for Ghost, options aren't worse. And there is an abundance of themes to pick from, ranging from free to premium themes. Some will make your site look like Medium or Substack.

So, the final result can make your site completely unique. And, if that isn't enough, you can hire a developer to make you a custom theme.

Who wins this category?

Ghost is a bit better.

Even if ConvertKit has a big library of templates, Ghost offers more customization options.

However, ConvertKit is a great option that will give you complete control over the newsletter aspect. So, don't be fooled and think it will limit your ability to create a recognizable identity.

It's just the case of Ghost being slightly better.

Pricing

Now comes the cost of each tool.

And on Ghost's case, this is complicated and varies depending on if you self-host or not.

The most popular self-hosting for Ghost starts at $5/month, while there are managed hosts with free plans. And the best Ghost hosting is Ghost (PRO), starting at $9/month.

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Yet other hosts like Midnight have a fixed price that doesn't increase with subscribers.

To summarize:

  • Most recommended self-hosting for Ghost starts at $5/month;
  • Best managed hosting for Ghost starts at $9/month;
  • Free managed hosting for Ghost: DigitalPress.

On the other side, ConvertKit pricing is linear. You can start for free up to 1000 subscribers and for paid plans start at $9/month.

However, prices will keep growing if you keep getting more subs. This means there are no fixed price options like on Ghost.

A screenshot of ConvertKit pricing plans as of February 2022.
ConvertKit pricing

Who wins this category?

Ghost.

When comparing Ghost (PRO) and ConvertKit, their prices are almost similar. So similar that both have a plan called Creator and the difference between them is 1 dollar.

Yet, Ghost wins because there are other options where prices don't grow with a subscriber count. As I mentioned on YouTube, this lower price comes with some upsides and downsides.

Monetization

And what options to make money there are with each platform?

On Ghost, it's possible to make money with memberships and display ads.

Memberships work well for newsletters, or episodic posts (think about books), while display ads monetize informational content.

ConvertKit has a similar monetization strategy with paid newsletters. However, it's more developed for selling digital products (like e-books, consultancy, etc.) and a tip jar.

Who wins this category?

It's a draw.

They share the similarity of monetizing with memberships, but they differ on other ways to make money. So, Ghost will be better for you if you want to publish informational content. Whereas, ConvertKit is better for selling digital products.

Growing

Now let's see how they compare to growth.

At this moment, ConvertKit doesn't have a proper public archive and a good way for people to find your newsletter via search engines.

However, ConvertKit has landing pages and puts subscription forms on other websites. And this will help grow the newsletter by importing members to ConvertKit from your blog without needing 3rd-party tools.

On the other hand, Ghost has good search engine optimization. And if you do things right, you can rank well to grow organically.

Who wins this category?

Ghost.

Ghost has a better online archive of the newsletter, can be used as a blog, and has good SEO.

So, it's better for growing further and eventually making more money with subscriptions or ads.

Why Use Ghost for Your Paid Newsletter

Ghost CMS is a top option for creators to make money with memberships.

They make it easy to charge memberships and content on your site. And with Ghost, people cannot bypass the paywall by disabling JavaScript.

Also, Ghost has basic stats for the newsletter in the dashboard, keeping things in one place.

So, with 0% fees, good tools for growing organically, and a lot of customization available, Ghost will suit you for a modern newsletter + blog combination.

Why Use ConvertKit for Your Paid Newsletter

Using ConvertKit for a paid newsletter is a wise decision if you are looking for an email service that is easy, powerful, and doesn't cost you a fortune.

Their focus is on helping creators earn a full-time income with their newsletters.

Also, ConvertKit is more valuable than only sending a newsletter and charging for a subscription. With them, you can sell any kind of digital product.

Further, ConvertKit has low fees on payments, which helps creators reach profitability faster.

And remember, they have a free plan that is useful for beginners.

Final Thoughts

ConvertKit is a lot different than Ghost. Actually, Ghost versus Substack is a better pair for a direct comparison.

However, as I addressed at the start of the article, ConvertKit leans towards being a pure email provider (or email marketing platform if you want). At the same time, Ghost is a modern combination of a blog with a built-in newsletter.

So, preferring one or the other will depend, for the most part, if you already have a blog/ site.

This means that if you already have a blog, ConvertKit will suit you better. In addition, they have advanced analytics and email automation, making them better as an email marketing platform.

On the other hand, Ghost will be your best option if you want to monetize your content via memberships.

So, recapping:

  • Starting is easier on ConvertKit;
  • Writing on Ghost is much better;
  • Ghost has more customization options, but ConvertKit is pretty good for customizing the newsletter aspect;
  • Ghost can be much cheaper if you have a big following and use a host like Midnight;
  • ConvertKit focus on making money with memberships and digital products, and Ghost with memberships and display ads;
  • Ghost will be your best bet for growing organically.