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Ghost CMS review - #1 blogging platform with newsletter

Ghost aims to be the best CMS for publishing content. This is a review of how well they achieve this goal
Ghost CMS review - #1 blogging platform with newsletter

If you want a modern and fast website check out Ghost CMS.

In this article, you'll find what makes Ghost a powerful CMS and a solid alternative to WordPress for some use cases.

Ghost V4 was released in March 2021 and generated a lot of praise in the creator community.

Now, let's find why the future looks bright for this CMS.


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.


Ghost Summary

Ghost was founded in 2013 to focus on one thing: publishing. And 8 years later, they are amazing at it!

This open-source platform has a native newsletter and membership feature. This makes it one of the best platforms for authors.

Yes, newsletters are hot and cool again. And with Ghost, you will be able to create one with ease.

Unless, your managed host includes sending emails, you'll have to create a Mailgun account and pay for sending emails on top of the hosting fee.

The best part? There are no platform fees. You only have to consider Stripe fees.

Also, you can use it for a blog or the website for a podcast.

So, if your focus is on delivering content, consider using Ghost. It's probably the best for these use cases.

Furthermore, Ghost is suitable for personal and professional use.

It's built with Node.js and uses REST API that allows several integrations.

This amount of integrations is what makes Ghost extremely attractive and suitable for professional use.

Integrate Ghost with Zapier and Integromat. This allows you to automate some tasks in your workflow, especially those that are repetitive.

I will now take a closer look at the features, strengths, and limitations of Ghost CMS.

Main Ghost Features

There is a lot to love about Ghost CMS.

Here you have the main feature list:

  • Strong SEO features.
  • Native Schema Data in posts.
  • Native memberships.
  • Native newsletters (send posts as a newsletter).
  • Extensive integrations.
  • Multi-language support.
  • Schedule posts.
  • Role-based permissions for authors.

The complete changelog of Ghost 4.0 here

Ghost strong points

Now let's dive deep into what makes Ghost a great CMS.

Open-source

Open-source software is an advantage for 2 reasons.

Reason 1, it can be used for free. If you self-host a Ghost website, you don't have to pay for it. You only pay for the hosting.

Reason 2 gives greater confidence that Ghost won't disappear even if the Ghost Foundation stops developing it.

In short, everyone can make a copy of the source code and continue the development if that scenario happens.

In extreme cases, this is also useful if you want to change or add a feature to Ghost. Although this is not encouraged because maintaining a codebase is not a small task.

Easy to create a website

Creating a Ghost website is easy with managed hosting.

If you use a managed host, the website will be ready in minutes. Also, future updates and backups are taken care of.

As someone who struggled to learn how to self-host Ghost as a static website, let me tell you paying for this type of service is one of the best decisions I made.

I've covered the way you can host a Ghost website here.

SEO features

At the time of this review, Ghost 4.x has important SEO taken into consideration.

These are the best SEO features in Ghost:

  • Optimized URLs: short, clear, and easy-to-read URLs are a good practice.
  • XML sitemap: this file tells search engines of all the pages on the website.
  • Social cards: you can optimize how the links will appear on social media.
  • Canonical tags: this tag clarifies search engines to avoid duplicate pages indexing.
  • Schema markup: this code helps search engines understand the type of content present on the page. In Ghost, Article schema is enabled by default.

If you want to change the Schema markup, you'll need to change the theme files. This forum post should give you a head start on the topic.

Great for paywall content

Ghost doesn't need plugins. Instead, it comes with a complete set of tools for a quality online publication.

This makes it easy to create a paywall for your content.

Just pick a theme that supports memberships.

Connect your Stripe account

Define which posts are public or for members only.

Done, you have your paywall ready!

Integrations

Ghost has a plethora of integrations available.

You can integrate it with almost any platform by using the available integrations. Plus, you can simply create a custom integration. Isn't this amazing?!

An excellent integration is adding a new member to an external email service provider. This is great for sending newsletters, besides the usual sending of posts by email.

Make use of Integromat and Zapier to automate repetitive tasks and save time.

These are some of the direct integrations available on Ghost CMS.

Ghost weaknesses

Besides being a great CMS, Ghost isn't suited for everyone and every use case. Find out why below.

Extreme focus on publishing

Ghost is only focused on content publishing as a blog, newsletter, or podcast.

So, if you try to use it for other purposes, you might not have a good time.

For a more complex website structure, WordPress will for sure be a better use case of your time and efforts.

Self-host isn't intuitive

Self-hosting a Ghost website will imply that you use the command line. A lot!

Installing Ghost? You need to use the command line.

Updating? Command-line, again.

There is no easy update button inside the dashboard (like in WordPress).

This means you'll need to know what you're doing or follow tutorials to install all the requirements and Ghost CLI.

Attention: Only run code that you understand in the command line! Running malicious code can damage your machine with severe consequences.

Image source: https://ghost.org/features/

Theme customization

Customizing a theme on Ghost isn't an easy task.

There are no sliders, drag & drop, or any other types of theme editors.

Ghost themes use Handlebars. If you want to customize them, your only option is to change the code on the theme file.

Alternatively, there are lovely themes available in Ghost Marketplace, Super Themes Co., or Theme Forest.

Is Ghost better than WordPress?

Yes. For blogging and sending a newsletter, Ghost is better.

It's also faster and easier to maintain by using managed hosting.

For complex content websites or e-commerce, WordPress is superior.

Although. Ghost is only focused on content websites and being the best independent publishing platform.


1 email every Monday about blogs and newsletters


What is Ghost best used for

Ghost is best suited for blogging, sending a newsletter, or a podcast feed website.

Ghost was created in response to WordPress becoming bloated and further away from its publishing origins.

Choose Ghost if you want a modern platform that allows you to focus on publishing content.

Where to host a Ghost website

Ghost requires a decent Virtual Private Server (VPS) to run with 2 types of hosting: self-hosting and managed hosting.

Because Ghost CMS is open-source, you can self-host it for free.

Alternatively, you can use managed hosting for an easy experience.

Managed hosting is also recommended for security reasons and peace of mind.


Best Ghost CMS hosting - managed and self-hosting options
Find the best hosting companies and how to save money by self-hosting a Ghost website.
Ghost CMS: self vs managed hosting
Self-hosting is suited for developers and advanced users. In contrast, managed hosting makes it easy to use Ghost.

Ghost is an alternative to

The following table shows that platforms that Ghost is a viable, if not better, alternative.

Objective Platform Info
Blogging WordPress Ghost is arguably better for blogging.
Newsletter Substack Ghost doesn't have fees for subscriptions.

Review Summary

Ghost is great for having 100% control over your content.

Exporting the content and members list is easy. This is the definition of freedom and not being tied to a platform.

Additionally, this CMS is flexible and powerful to focus on 2 assets: a website and a mailing list.

You can have a bigger audience on social media platforms, but the importance of having a website is tremendous. This way, you have a home for your content that you control.

Furthermore, the native newsletter feature is fantastic. This allows you to deliver content directly to the inbox of your audience.

The easy set-up, ease of use, memberships without fees makes Ghost one of the best, if not, the best blogging platform available.

Although it isn't perfect and a niche CMS, Ghost can be used by several creators with great success.

Just don't try to fight against the platform way of working, and you should be fine.

If Ghost's strong points align with your needs, give it a try. You most likely won't regret using it.

By the way, Ghost will end up being cheaper than WordPress in most cases. This happens because WordPress relies a lot on plugins to add functionalities and, Ghost doesn't even have plugins.

Just to recap.

You can easily create the website in minutes with managed hosting. In addition, Ghost is open-source, has robust SEO features, membership without fees, and many integrations.