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Using Ghost as Email Service Provider

Sending posts by email without publishing was a massive update to Ghost.
Using Ghost as Email Service Provider

In October 2021, I knew it was a significant feature when Ghost introduced sending emails to members without publishing them on the site.

For me, Ghost was already the #1 blogging platform, and it got even better.

And that update made Ghost worthy of use as an email service provider (ESP).

So, I'm writing this article to show you the advantages and disadvantages of using Ghost as an email service provider.


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.


TL;DR

Using Ghost as an ESP has positives and negative aspects to it.

The positives are:

  • Native subscriptions;
  • Great editor;
  • A clean design of email;
  • Tags for members.

And the shortcomings are:

  • There is no automation;
  • No clicks tracking from the readers.

Ghost ESP good features

Let's start with the positives of using Ghost for sending emails.

Subscriptions

If you use Ghost, you only need to create a Stripe account to charge money for a membership.

This makes it easy to earn money with your writing. Including if you use Ghost for sending a newsletter or a blog + newsletter.

Also, you don't have to install or configure advanced stuff to enable subscriptions.

This is one of the reasons I started using Ghost in May 2021.

Scheduling

As you might know, Ghost allows you to schedule posts.

These posts can be published on the site or sent only by email.

Scheduling is a feature for most CMSs and email service providers and something you would expect to exist.

And I'm mentioning this because it's one of those things that will make your life easy to publish on a regular schedule even if you're away from the computer.

Editor/ Design

I don't get tired of praising the editor on Ghost CMS.

Writing on the Ghost editor is fantastic. And it's one of the best CMS editors, if not the best.

It's clean, has lots of features to embed content, supports markdown, and writing in HTML isn't a pain.

However, I have 2 complaints about the editor. Those complaints are regarding sponsored links and making links open on a new tab.

For me, it's easy to write HTML and workaround this, but it's time-consuming. And for some folks, this could be annoying and hard.

Also, if you've used other ESP like Mailchimp, you are aware of email design.

However, if you used Convertkit, their emails are text-based, so there's no advanced design like in Mailchimp.

So, how does Ghost deal with email design?

Well, Ghost emails have a standard design leaning to text-based.

Inside the Ghost dashboard, you can customize the font and other settings. But you can't go full custom mode like Mailchimp.

Email newsletter design options on the Ghost CMS dashboard.
On the Ghost dashboard, these are the settings available to customize the email design.

Actually, that's good because email clients like Gmail don't like emails with lots of HTML.

Even worse, Gmail will see these as commercial emails and move them to the Promotions folder or, worse, to SPAM.

Further, Ghost emails are considered beautiful by lots of people. So, there's not the case of you sending ugly newsletters.

Tags

Ghost has a tagging system that you can use to decide who receives emails.

For example, on Ghost, there are membership tiers. And you can decide that only the higher level receives the newsletter.

Also, you can use tags to divide subscribers by interest if you write about contrasting topics on the site.

However, it will require you to do some work. And it can be confusing for subscribers to unsub from a tag they are no longer interested in.

I'm saying this because there is an unsubscribe button at the end of each email. But that button will cancel their subscription to all emails.

So, if you want to venture into tags, it's better to make a prominent link in the body of the email. Sadly, this tagging will require some coding knowledge to work correctly.

I don't use tags right now, and I don't think I will anytime soon. So it doesn't make sense for my use case and is less work. But it's a valuable feature for me some Ghost users.

Ghost ESP missing features

The ability to send emails without publishing on the site was massive. But, as an email service provider, Ghost CMS still has shortcomings.

And those are what I'll talk about now.

Automation

There is no email automation available on Ghost.

Not even a welcome email automation.

This sucks.

Especially not being able to send a custom welcome email.

In the past, when I was reviewing Buttondown, I read that automation isn't simple. Unfortunately, this means that there are no simple automation workflows.

Instead, automation involves advanced stuff. So, you either have automation emails that allow you to do crazy stuff, or you don't have automation at all.

And I think this might be a reason for Ghost not having automation. And, I don't think they will anytime soon.

So, if you need or really want email automation, Ghost isn't the best option for you.

Instead, look into Convertkit as it's one of the best email services for creators.

Clicks tracking

Another important feature missing is knowing which subscribers have clicked on links from the email.

Ghost can show which subscribers have opened the emails. But, in a world where email clients hide email opening tracking, knowing which person is clicking on links from the email is vital. At least for me.

My reasoning is that I don't want to bother people. So, if I send 5 or 10 emails and the person doesn't open them, what's the point of keeping sending emails?

If I keep sending emails, it will hurt my sender's reputation and reputation near that person.

And as open email rates aren't reliable as before, email clicks are. So it helps to see if a user is engaged.

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Side note: I've seen on Mailgun that you can enable email open and click tracking. But I never seem to make it work or show that data on the Ghost dashboard. So, there's a chance I'm doing something wrong.


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Sending newsletter through Ghost - my use case

I love the direction where Ghost is progressing.

They added lots of features in the past 7 months. And the biggest one was sending emails without publishing.

This allows me to send my newsletter through Ghost and keep everything in one place.

Also, what I'm writing on this blog isn't a newsletter. It's a combination of articles + short newsletter.

And now I can send a whole post by email when it makes sense, instead of doing it every week.

Further, my motive for using Ghost is to avoid dealing with automation and syncing members on Ghost and Convertkit.

Yes, I've tried using Ghost + Convertkit.

And when I did it, email clients dealt with emails differently. For example, emails from Convertkit were going into the Promotions tab in Gmail (this is normal and not exclusive to Convertkit).

But as I send 1 short email per week, I prefer to avoid spending time and money making a more complicated system work.

As things stand, Ghost is simple to use.

So, my workflow is:

  • Publish the article on Ghost;
  • Schedule the newsletter for later in the day or the day after.

This works for me, and it works for now.

It's cheaper, easy, and Ghost's current email service features are enough for me.

Yes, I would love to have automation, or at least have a welcome email. But it's not a deal-breaker for what I'm doing with this site.

Final thoughts

In the intro, I said Ghost can now be used as an ESP, thanks to their massive progress in 2021.

Thanks to their updates ranging from lowering the prices to sending emails without publishing on the site.

This last one was a pleasant surprise. And the reason I changed from sending entire posts to a newsletter.

Ghost isn't a fully-fledged ESP, especially with the lack of automation.

So, it isn't suited for businesses that want to sell with automation or send "drip campaigns".

Nor it's the best Email Service Provider in the market.

But Ghost doesn't want to do that anyway.

Ghost is built for creators that want to share and monetize their work.

And they excel in that.

To finish, I'll let you summarize what you can expect if you use Ghost as an ESP.

Ghost existing features:

  • Native subscriptions;
  • Use it as a blog/ site to show your writing;
  • Sending emails without publishing (aka, newsletter);
  • Email open rates information/ tracking;
  • Tags system for members;
  • Send emails only to paid or free members.

Missing features:

  • Email automation;
  • Welcome email;
  • Email clicks tracking;

Hope this article has helped you know more about using it as an ESP.

If you are interested, you can read my Ghost review here or if you are ready to start a Ghost website, click the blue button below.


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