There are many important decisions to be made when you’re starting a blog. One of the most important is what blogging platform you’ll use to publish your content. In this guide to Ghost vs WordPress, we’ll look at two popular blogging tools to help you choose the best one for building your blog.
To help you make the right choice, we’ll look at four key aspects of each platform:
First, though, let’s take a quick look at each of them and the companies behind them.
Ghost vs WordPress: an overview
Founded in 2013, Ghost is a nonprofit organization that provides open-source software for running online publications. You can buy hosting directly from Ghost or install the software onto any VPS hosting provider, then take advantage of its tools for blogging, newsletters, memberships, and more.
WordPress is one of the oldest and most popular Content Management Systems (CMS) for running a website, with around 43% of websites using WordPress . This software is open source and can be installed on any web host. Many web hosting companies even offer WordPress-optimized plans and tools to help you get started.
Ghost vs WordPress: in-depth review
The first thing to consider in the Ghost vs WordPress debate is the features included with each platform.
- Visual website builder
- Access to 19 free themes and numerous paid themes
- Easy-to-use blog editor
- Full-screen blogging mode
- Multi-author bylines
- SEO tools
- Newsletter publishing tools
- Membership program creation tools
- Team management tools
- Podcast support
- Integrations with Slack, Zapier, and more
- Easy content import and export
- Access to thousands of free and premium themes
- Site customizer for modifying theme settings and global styles
- Block-based visual editor for pages and posts
- Distraction-free and full-screen blogging options
- User management tools
- Access to thousands of free and premium plugins to augment the features of your site
When it comes to built-in features, Ghost is the winner in this part of the Ghost vs WordPress debate. You get more advanced tools for blogging and SEO, podcast support, and monetization options like membership programs. However, it’s worth noting that there are thousands of WordPress plugins that can add all kinds of functionality to a WordPress site, including most (if not all) of Ghost’s built-in features. Many of these plugins are also free.
Ease of use 🖱️
Now that we’ve got a handle on the features these two programs offer, it’s time to take a look at how they actually work.
To test the Ghost software, I signed up for a free trial of Ghost Pro, the hosting program offered by Ghost. This is the easiest approach for most bloggers, as it doesn’t require you to install the software yourself or deal with the technicalities of server setup.
When you sign up, the first thing you’ll do is choose a theme. I stuck with the default Casper theme to make things simple.
Once you’ve picked a theme and entered some basic information about yourself and your business (including your credit card) you’ll be directed to a page where you can view the basic layout of your site. The sidebar will link you to different ways you can start setting up your site: writing your first post, customizing your site, importing members, and managing the Ghost Admin area.
To modify your site’s appearance, click Customize your site and then choose Design from the options you’re presented with. This will take you to an editor where you can view changes to your site in real time.
The one thing that’s kind of counter-intuitive about Ghost’s site editor is that you can’t click directly on design elements to modify them. Instead, you adjust them in the sidebar:
The blog editor uses a minimalist approach similar to Medium or Substack. You can click on the top area to add a featured image, type a title into the second area, and then start writing your post in the third area. You can also click on the + to add a variety of multimedia blocks to your post.
You’ll also find it quite easy to set up your newsletter and membership program by clicking on the Gear icon in the site manager. Plus, find easy-to-understand analytics in your dashboard:
To use WordPress, you’ll need to buy a web hosting plan. Many plans come with pre-installed WordPress or a one-click install option, so getting started is easy.
When you first open WordPress, you’ll be prompted to add a new page, open the customizer/editor, or learn about block themes. In order to choose a theme, however, you’ll need to go to Appearance > Themes and click Add New. This opens a library where you can choose from thousands of themes.
If you do end up choosing WordPress in this Ghost vs WordPress battle and would like a suggestion for an exceptional free theme, we recommend either Neve or Raft. Neve is considered a classic WordPress theme, while Raft is classified as a block WordPress theme. Both are made by developers at our sister site and have a staggering quantity of five star reviews behind them.
If you’re wondering if there’s some advantage to choosing one type of theme over another, or what the differences are, you don’t need to overthink it that much. The practical takeaway is that block themes are newer and rely on a different customization interface called “Full Site Editing”, versus classic themes, which rely on the aptly titled “Customizer”. There’s more to it than only that, but for most people, that’s the main thing you need to know. Just in case your inner web developer spirit wants to see a really high-level overview though, you can check out this comparison chart.
After you install your chosen theme, go to Appearance > Customize (for classic themes) or Appearance > Editor (for block themes) to begin customizing your blog.
For the Customizer, you can do things like click on the header and footer to adjust them. The sidebar is used to configure other settings, such as site colors and menus. Note that the settings available here will vary based on the theme you’re using.
For the Full Site Editor, you’ll get access to Templates and Template Parts. You’ll use these to customize the look and feel of various sections of your website.
Separate from the Customizer and the Full Site Editor is the main WordPress post/page editor. This is called the “block editor” and it’s somewhat more involved than the Ghost editor. However, it’s still user-friendly and pretty straightforward.
You type in the appropriate areas and use the sidebar or the + button to add multimedia blocks that perform different functions (e.g., paragraph, list, image, etc). You’ll get a quick tutorial the first time you open the editor, which is a helpful touch by the WordPress development team.
Also, in case you’re wondering about the name being block editor and how that might work if you choose a classic theme over a block theme, the answer is that it makes no difference. It is the default WordPress editor, irrespective of whether or not you use a block theme or a classic theme.
Where WordPress gets a little more complicated is when you want access to things like analytics, SEO tools, spam filters, contact forms, or any other functionality beyond basic design and publication of posts/pages. In these instances, you’ll need to add plugins by going to Plugins > Add New.
Once again, Ghost is the clear winner here. The site management area is easy to navigate and you can easily create a membership program and newsletter, no plugins required.
You won’t get built-in ecommerce store building functionality with either of these blogging tools. However, you can still set up an ecommerce store using either platform.
This is one area of the Ghost vs WordPress debate where WordPress is the winner, thanks largely to the number of ecommerce plugins available for WordPress. This variety allows you to find the perfect plugin for your needs.
Ghost and WordPress are both free to install, but you’ll need to pay for a web hosting plan to make your blog available online.
To use Ghost, you’ll need to either purchase a VPS hosting plan or buy Ghost Pro hosting directly from the creators of Ghost. For most bloggers, Ghost Pro is the more effective option because you don’t have to install the software. Your server and software updates will also be managed by the Ghost Pro team.
There are four Ghost Pro pricing plans:
- Starter for $9 per month allows you to run one newsletter and one premium membership tier with up to 500 total members
- Creator for $25 per month allows you to run up to three newsletters and five premium membership tiers with up to 1,000 total members
- Team for $50 per month allows you to run up to five newsletters and unlimited premium membership tiers with up to 1,000 total members
- Business for $199 per month allows you to run unlimited newsletters and premium membership tiers with up to 10,000 total members
To use WordPress, you can purchase hosting from any company. Many even offer pre-installed WordPress or a one-click install option so you can start building your blog in minutes.
We recommend using one of the following hosts:
- Bluehost WordPress hosting plans start at $2.95 per month
- Dreamhost has WordPress hosting plans available starting at $2.59 per month
- SiteGround offers WordPress hosting plans starting at $2.99 per month
These prices make it significantly more affordable to start your blog with WordPress. There are also several free and low-cost membership plugins that allow for unlimited tiers and members. This can make it possible to start a membership program on your WordPress site and grow that program without being forced to move to a higher-cost hosting plan.
So, who wins this part of the debate of Ghost vs WordPress?
Unfortunately, there is no decisive winner for this category. In terms of initial investment, WordPress is the more affordable option. The availability of affordable membership plugins can also make it more affordable in the long run. On the flip side, if you’re planning to run a blog without a membership program, you’ll find that the renewal costs of traditional web hosting make WordPress more expensive than Ghost.
Ghost vs WordPress: which is best for blogging? 🧐
So, what is the best platform for blogging? Ghost or WordPress?
The truth is that it depends on your goals. If your focus is entirely on publishing content (i.e., blogging) and you want to be able to run your blog and newsletter from the same place, Ghost is your best choice. Ghost is also ideal for monetizing your content with a simple membership program, but it can become very expensive if you want to have a variety of membership tiers and/or grow past 1,000 members.
If you want to be able to run an ecommerce store, build and sell courses, or use your website for other things separate from, or in addition to, your blog, then WordPress is the best option. There are many thousands of plugins that can help you accomplish all of these things without ever learning a line of code. Plus, a lot of them are free. Moreover, the membership plugins available for WordPress typically allow you to have unlimited tiers and members. This makes WordPress potentially more affordable for running a membership program in the long run.
And that wraps up our Ghost vs WordPress breakdown. Which one are you going to use?
Ready to become a successful blogger? Many of the best content marketing strategies are the same regardless of the platform you use. Check out our A-to-Z Guide on how to make money blogging to learn more!