WordPress vs. Ghost: Which Platform Should You Choose?

You’ve been working to build up your business, flesh out a personal project, or get a new idea off the ground. It’s time to take that next step and create a dedicated website. But despite all the decisions you’ve had to make to get here, there’s one more important choice to consider: which website platform is right for you?

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Two of the top options today are WordPress and Ghost. Both of these blogging platforms offer excellent functionality, open-source software, and free self-hosted sites. But there are some critical distinctions between the two content management systems that will determine which one is the best fit for your needs. Take a closer look at what makes WordPress and Ghost unique to make your final decision before you start building your own website.

WordPress vs. Ghost: Exactly, what is the difference?

Before diving into the details of each hosting service, it’s worth reviewing the basics about these publishing platforms. Knowing a little bit about the history behind Ghost and WordPress will come in handy when comparing the two.

What is Ghost?

Ghost.org is the newer of the two open-source platforms. Launched in 2013 by John O’Nolan (a former UI team leader at WordPress), Ghost got its initial boost from a Kickstarter campaign. The project was funded in just 11 hours and was released later that year to the general public. The Node.js platform is owned and operated by a nonprofit organization called the Ghost Foundation. It has attracted some big-name users since its release, including IBM, Zappos, and Tinder.

What is WordPress?

WordPress was first created as an offshoot of b2/cafelog, a weblog tool from the early 2000s. Developed by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, WordPress launched in 2003 and quickly became one of the most popular open-source content management systems in the world. Currently, over 75 million sites use WordPress, including over 14% of the world’s Top 100 Websites. This PHP platform has consistently remained the leading content management system even as other WordPress alternatives have been released, such as Joomla, Shopify, Magento, and Squarespace.

Key Differences Between WordPress & Ghost

While WordPress and Ghost share some notable similarities in terms of their overall functionality as content management systems, they also differ in a number of critical ways. Let’s review some of the key differences between the two so you can better assess WordPress vs. Ghost when it comes to building your own website.

Ease of use

First and foremost, it’s important to note that you do not need to be a programming expert or a web developer in order to build a site on either WordPress or Ghost. Both of these are designed as publishing platforms for the average internet user with no special tech skills required.

That said, Ghost markets itself as a simple alternative to WordPress. This open-source software is very straightforward and has a sleek, clean appearance that’s very user-friendly. The minimalist approach makes it a bit more approachable for individuals who have never built a website before.

WordPress is the more complex of these two publishing platforms. But while there may be a bit more of a learning curve with WordPress on the backend, it also has greater functionality compared to Ghost. It offers nearly endless opportunities for customization (more on that below) along with the ability to create a multi-faceted website—all with no coding skills required.

Another thing to consider in terms of ease of use is the ability to troubleshoot problems you might encounter along the way. Ghost has a relatively small user community compared to WordPress, so you’ll be more dependent on their in-house support when you need help. WordPress, on the other hand, has a massive and well-established online community eager to offer up support. Solutions and helpful tutorials can be found easily just by typing your question into a search engine.

Themes, designs & plugins

WordPress is known for being one of the most customizable content management systems There are literally thousands of WordPress themes and templates to choose from (both paid and free), making it easy to find a design that’s perfectly aligned with your vision.

Beyond that, there are over 50,000 plugins available for WordPress for everything from eCommerce to SEO analytics to social media and beyond.

For someone who really wants to put a personal touch on their website, the ability to choose from so many different plugins is a major advantage of using WordPress. If there’s something you’ve been dreaming up for your site, there’s likely a plugin that already exists to help make it happen. You can even customize the backend with options like the Gutenberg editor plugin.

Note that you’ll need to use WordPress.org to get access to all of the potential customization options; WordPress.com offers is the WordPress-hosted version that comes with limited themes and no custom plugins.

Ghost, on the other hand, doesn’t offer as many custom features and add-ons.

Ghost offers a selection of free and paid themes for both self-hosted and Ghost-hosted sites, though they aren’t as customizable as those available on WordPress.

Ghost can be integrated with a number of other online tools, such as Slack, Google Analytics, MailChimp, and YouTube, so it does offer some flexibility in terms of customization—just not on the same scale as WordPress. Because it’s designed to be as simple and streamlined as possible, it’s a better fit for users who aren’t interested in exploring plugins and prefer to build more traditional websites using a simple, straightforward system.

Which is better as a blogging platform?

Are you mostly looking for a home for your blog?

If so, you might find that Ghost is better suited to today’s casual blogger. This platform uses Markdown, which essentially functions like HTML shorthand, and offers a minimalist interface with easy options for formatting, incorporating images, and embedding videos. Those looking to build an audience will also appreciate that the functionality for getting subscribers, managing member payments, and sending out email newsletters are all included. Because Ghost was originally created and still serves mainly as a publishing platform, it’s a great option for blogging.

WordPress, which uses WYSIWYG editing, can also be used as a blogging platform. The interface is still quite easy to get a hang of, but there are more bells and whistles built in to the platform compared to Ghost. Essentially, WordPress might have more than you really need if you just want a quick and easy way to update your blog.

It does, however, present a more versatile and effective option for creating multi-author blogs, a dynamic online portfolio, or a business website where a blog is just one component.

Which is better for eCommerce?

On WordPress, the solution to eCommerce is as simple as adding one of the platform’s many plugins. In this case, the eCommerce plugin is called WooCommerce. With over 30 million downloads to date, it’s safe to say that this is one of the most popular eCommerce options out there. Because it’s so adaptable and customizable, WooCommerce works well for large and small businesses alike.

Ghost, on the other hand, isn’t really set up for eCommerce on the same scale. It does work with Javascript integrations, so you can potentially link your Ghost site with Stripe, Gumroad, or another similar service. Overall, Ghost is not the preferred platform for large-scale online sales, but it can work on an individual level for writers, artists, and other creators.

Which is better for SEO?

Both Ghost and WordPress offer options for managing and optimizing SEO, but they approach it in different ways. Essentially, Ghost makes SEO more approachable for the average user, while WordPress is better suited to someone who wants to achieve impressive search engine rankings.

With Ghost, SEO management is built right in. Some of the SEO features you’ll find integrated into the platform include Google AMP pages, canonical tags, optimized URLs, and XML sitemaps. You can also have social sharing buttons automatically added to your new posts.

WordPress offers SEO capabilities through a number of optional plugins. Yoast SEO Premium is the most well-known and is an easy option for configuring posts and pages for search engines. But beyond that, there are hundreds of SEO-related plugins you can add to get even more insight for optimizing each page and boosting your page rankings.

How much do they cost?

Free downloads are available for both WordPress.org and Ghost. However, in order to use either software for free, you’ll have to use a self-hosted version. That means you’ll need to have your own server available to host your site on the internet, such as Bluehost or Digital Ocean. The web hosting will involve additional costs, so this isn’t technically a 100% free option. However, it’s definitely possible to find low-cost hosting providers, especially for smaller sites.

If you want hosting included, you can go with WordPress.com, which means WordPress will serve as your hosting company. There’s a free option that will place ads on your site, or you can choose from a variety of monthly paid plans that are ad-free, starting at just $4 per month (billed annually). Keep in mind there are fewer options for customizations if you go with this route.

WPEngine is also another great option for hosting your WordPress website. Their different packages allow you to choose the option that’s best suited for your current needs.

Ghost also offers a hosted version on their own servers, but their pricing model does not include a free option. While there is a free 14-day trial, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee to continue using Ghost as your hosting company after the trial period is up. Basic plans start at $29/month for annual billing. A couple perks with Ghost’s paid plans for hosting are that there are fewer restrictions on customizations and no ads will be added to your site.

WordPress vs. Ghost: So, which should I choose? 

Whether you decide to create a WordPress site or a Ghost site should really depend on what your site will primarily be used for.

In general, WordPress websites give you a much wider range of options in terms of how you can set up and use your site. It’s the best choice for someone who is interested in one or more of the following features:

  • Web design: WordPress sites have the potential to be much more visually stunning, and the huge number of themes and WordPress plugins makes it easier to create a site that looks exactly the way you want it to.
  • eCommerceWooCommerce is one of the top WordPress plugins for online sales, and Ghost does not offer an equivalent.
  • Business promotion: WordPress is the preferred option for creating an impressive business website with landing pages, custom features, and more.

Ghost is generally preferred by those who want a streamlined publishing experience. It’s best for users who want one or more of the following features:

  • Easy blogging: If your primary goal is just to blog as easily as possible, Ghost is the better option due to its simplified software.
  • Minimalist interface: Ghost is less cluttered visually compared to WordPress and makes writing and publishing posts as uncomplicated as possible.
  • Built-in SEO and social sharing: Unlike WordPress, Ghost has basic features for search engine optimization and social media sharing built right in, so you don’t have to worry about adding any plugins to your site.

So, will you be a WordPress user or a Ghost user? Consider your long-term goals when selecting which of these platforms is the best choice for you.