What is the Ghost Blogging Platform? Everything You Need to Know

When it comes to blogging platforms, Ghost is one of the lesser-known options out there. 

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While bigger names like WordPress get more attention, that doesn’t mean they’re the best fit for everyone who wants to publish content on the web. In fact, Ghost offers a number of great features that have helped them to start gaining more name recognition in recent years. 

Learn more at Ghost.org to find out if it might be the right place to publish your writing online.

The history of Ghost: How it started

Ghost originally sprang from an idea of a former WordPress employee. 

John O’Nolan was Deputy Head of the WordPress User Interface team from 2009 to 2011. While he appreciated the many capabilities offered by WordPress, he recognized that it had changed substantially over the years to become more of a content management system than a blogging platform. 

In 2012, not long after leaving his post at WordPress, O’Nolan came up with the idea for Ghost. He wanted to create a platform that was solely dedicated to building blogs. With much less clutter and a streamlined design, Ghost would make blogging not only easier, but more enjoyable, too.

O’Nolan wanted to keep some of the key features that made WordPress so attractive—namely, the free, open source platform. But he also wanted to make it more accessible for beginners. 

In fact, his original concept referred to it as “WordPress-lite” with the sole purpose of “enabling digital publishing for the masses.”

The idea garnered a lot of positive feedback, so O’Nolan decided to pursue it in earnest. He teamed up with a friend, Hannah Wolfe, to work on a prototype, and by April 2013 he launched a Kickstarter campaign to get funding for the initial development of the Ghost platform. It took less than a day to receive full funding, and the campaign raised nearly eight times its initial goal within a month.

Co-founders O’Nolan and Wolfe released the first version of Ghost in September 2013, though only backers of the Kickstarter campaign were permitted to access it. The following month, it was made available to the public on Github. 

The project also set up a nonprofit called the Ghost Foundation to ensure that the platform would continue to grow without being bought or sold by outside investors.

Since then, Ghost has become a fast-growing platform with more of a niche audience compared to content management systems like WordPress. There have been over 2.5 million Ghost installs to date, and major companies like Zappos, IBM, and Tinder are counted among its users.

The basics of how to use Ghost

The Ghost platform uses Markdown (a type of HTML shorthand) and is coded in Node.js, which allows developers to write Javascript code. 

The good news is that you don’t need to have any coding experience to use Ghost. 

It’s completely accessible to any internet user and offers simple functionality to bypass any use of HTML or other computer language to publish content online.

If you’re thinking about setting up a blog on this platform, here are some of the key things to know about how to use Ghost.

Approachable dashboard

The dashboard for Ghost is minimalist. 

Those who have tried to create a WordPress blog in the past will notice the differences immediately. The simplified approach makes it easier to do what bloggers want to do: write, publish, and schedule posts. 

Key metrics are also easier to find, including stats on audience engagement.

Easy editor

Similar to the dashboard, the design for drafting and editing posts is extremely useful for bloggers. It’s easy to format text and incorporate images, videos, and other embedded features. You can easily tag your content and schedule posts on an editorial calendar. 

Email marketing

One of the most popular features for bloggers who use Ghost is the integrated email marketing feature. 

You can easily set up your blog to invite readers to sign up for email newsletters and blog updates, and you can even introduce a paywall to charge readers for access to your content.

SEO and social media

Ghost users don’t have to download and pay for any additional plugins to manage their search engine optimization or social media. These features are built right into the platform and are managed automatically.

Security features

World-class developers have put the Ghost platform together, and they know a thing or two about security. 

Users of Ghost can be rest assured that the publishing platform features industry-level security with SSL certification and firewalls to prevent breaches.

Ghost web hosting options

Ghost users can choose from a self-hosted or hosted version of the platform. For either option, you can start off with a 14-day free trial, which gives you time to figure out which paid plan you want. 

The version of Ghost that works best for you will depend on several factors, including how you want your blog to function, whether you want to find your own web host, and how much you’re willing to spend. 

Option 1: Self-hosted version

You can use Ghost at no cost and add a custom domain when you sign up for a self-hosted site. 

This means you need to find your own server to host your site on the internet, which will come with a monthly fee. 

There are many low-cost hosting providers available, however, especially if you are just creating a personal blog that will not be monetized or read by a large audience of hundreds or thousands. 

Some popular hosting options include Digital Ocean, Bluehost, Dreamhost, and GoDaddy.

Option 2: Hosted version

Ghost offers a number of paid plans that allow you to bypass the tasks of finding your own web host. 

When you choose a paid plan through Ghost, that essentially means that Ghost is serving as the host for your site. After the free trial, you’ll have your choice of plans starting at $9/month when billed annually. Benefits of paying for a hosted version of Ghost include the ability to add more customizations to your site and no ads automatically being placed on your blog (which often is the case with “free” hosted options on other platforms like WordPress.com).

Website design & customization

One of the most exciting parts of setting up your own blog is putting your own personal touches on the site’s front end. Ghost blogs are easy to customize using the following features.


Users can easily add and edit the primary navigation menu on their site in the Ghost platform. Pages like “Home,” “About,” and “Contact” can be designed, and some themes allow for secondary navigation as well. This makes it easier to help your readers search through your content and find what they’re looking for. 

Ghost themes and templates

Ghost offers a number of free and paid theme options within their platform’s “Theme Marketplace.” 

The platform allows you to preview how these themes will affect the appearance of your home page, individual blog posts, and site navigation. It’s also easy to upload pre-built or custom themes from other sources if you prefer.

The Ghost blogging platform: Is it really the best for blogging?

Ghost is often touted as the best platform for bloggers. 

But what makes it so great for publishing your content online?

The thing that really sets Ghost apart is that it’s made just for bloggers. Nearly all platforms that allow people to self-publish websites (WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, etc.) are designed to be used for a wide variety of purposes. So in addition to blogs, these platforms can be used for creating business websites, online portfolios, ecommerce sites, and more. 

That’s great for people who want added flexibility when creating a site, but if all you really want to do is write and publish blog posts, no platform makes it as easy as Ghost does. It’s the no-nonsense blogging tool that makes it as simple as can be to publish your content online.

One possible contender in this space would be Medium, which is also designed primarily as a blogging platform and has fairly straightforward software. 

On Medium, however, there’s a strong community focus that makes it more of an open site where people are encouraged to explore content and leave feedback. Plus, you won’t get your own domain, and Medium has some rights over your content.

If you want to keep ownership of your blog, write about a wide variety of topics, or limit your audience, Medium is probably not the right fit for you.

Ghost or WordPress? 

Should you use Ghost or WordPress as your blogging platform? 

If you’re still wondering which one is right for you, consider these key differences between the two platforms:

  • Ease of use: Ghost is easier to use and has a much more streamlined platform. You can jump right in and get going, while there’s often a learning curve involved with WordPress, which uses the sometimes tricky WYSIWYG for formatting as opposed to Ghost’s super-simple Markdown.
  • Customization: WordPress offers more options for customization compared to Ghost, including countless WordPress themes and plugins. However, there are still plenty of ways to personalize a Ghost blog.
  • Hosting: WordPress and Ghost both offer self-hosted versions and hosted versions of their software. For the former, WordPress.org is the self-hosted option and WordPress.com is the hosted option. 
  • Cost: WordPress has slightly cheaper monthly plans available, but both have low-cost options. Self-hosted options are free on both platforms.

Still not sure which one is the best pick for your blog? Read more about Ghost vs. WordPress.

How much does Ghost cost?

Whether you choose a self-hosted or hosted Ghost site, the open source software is the same. However, the costs are different, and there are some pros and cons which you’ll want to weigh before selecting one of these options.

Ghost(Pro) is the hosted version, and plans start at $9/month billed annually. For additional features, or to serve a larger audience, you may need to upgrade to a more expensive plan.

Ghost is the self-hosted version, and it’s free to use. But you’ll have to find and pay for your own hosting, and certain features, such as the built-in emailing system, are a little trickier to use. There are tutorials available if you need help, but it takes more effort to get things set up. 

If you’re not especially tech-savvy, it’s easier to just pay for a Ghost(Pro) hosted version.

Why should you use Ghost?

If what you want is the easiest and most enjoyable way to build a blog, Ghost is a great fit. 

It’s simple and straightforward, so you can get started right away without having to tinker with the software to figure things out. It can also be scaled if your readership grows or you want to send out email newsletters or offer premium subscriptions for your content. It’s competitively priced, too, which makes it accessible for all kinds of bloggers.If you’re ready to start blogging, check out Ghost.org and discover just how easy it can be.