If you’re launching your first-ever website or looking for a new blogging platform that offers more than what you have at the moment, you'll need to do some research. Tedious though this may sound, it's the only way to find the right website builder for your needs.
No doubt you’ve heard of the heavy hitters: WordPress.org, Squarespace, and Wix. They've all done great jobs of promoting their name around the web, so much so that they're practically household brands.
In contrast, Ghost.org, quite like its name, isn't as well-known. With only 7,000 active users in 2021, this open-source website builder hasn’t enjoyed as much attention as its competitors.
But Ghost is special in quite a few regards and might be the perfect solution for your web needs.
This Begs The Question: What Makes Ghost So Unique?
For one, Ghost was funded by a Kickstarter campaign in 2013. Even now, they're still a nonprofit organization. All their revenue goes back into developing its features. Consequently, the company is much more transparent than its competitors about its development and costs.
But an intriguing back-story isn’t enough of a reason to consider using this tool. What’s more interesting is that Ghost resembles WordPress in many ways. For starters, it's an open-source blogging platform and, therefore, completely free to download and use. Also, like WordPress, Ghost started out as a publishing platform with a focus on providing a great writing experience.
However, what elevates Ghost is that it remained faithful to this initial purpose throughout its entire development. As such, it offers writing and publishing features for bloggers and journalists that are seldom seen with other website builders.
For those reasons, we think Ghost deserves a closer look. So, in this review, we’ll uncover everything you need to know about this website-building solution!
Let’s get started.
Ghost Website Builder Review: Pros and Cons
Still unsure if Ghost‘s for you? Here’s a quick rundown of this website builder’s core advantages and disadvantages:
Ghost’s Pros 👍
- It's free to download and use. You can host your own website and spend as much time as you want setting up your site.
- The Pro plans offer affordable managed hosting and high-quality service.
- Ghost's publishing and writing features, like custom post templates, HTML inserts, and guest invitations for authors, are pretty unique.
- One-click install themes are available.
- Ghost comes with advanced SEO features built into its framework
Ghost’s Cons 👎
- Ghost users don’t have access to an app market packed with integrations as their competitors do. WordPress and Wix, for example, both come with hundreds of apps and widgets that make expanding the platform's functionality easy.
- Ghost's community isn’t huge and isn't as active as its competitors.
- Phone support isn't available with any of Ghost's Pro plans
- Ghost isn’t suited to eCommerce. Instead, its functionality is best suited to publications and blogs.
Ghost Website Builder Review: Pricing
Like we said, Ghost is entirely free to download and set up. So, you can create a website in your own time and at no cost. You have complete customization freedom to work on its design and functionality until you’re 100% happy.
However, when it comes to publishing your site, you’ll need to pick a hosting provider and get a domain name. You might also want to splurge on other tools that integrate with Ghost or plump for a premium theme.
If you have your own server, you can host your site yourself, so long as you know what you’re doing. But if not, you could opt for Ghost Pro. This is a managed hosting service specifically offered to Ghost users. You can try these premium services for free for 14 days.
The Starter Plan
This costs $9 per month. Here, Ghost's installation and set-up are managed for you. On top of that, this plan facilitates:
- Up to 25k views on your site per month
- 1,000 members
- One staff user
- A free SSL certificate
- Access to Ghost’s CDN for faster loading speeds.
- You can connect a custom domain.
- Access to basic integrations, including Slack, Unsplash, and FirstPromoter.
- 15 free themes
- Server maintenance
- Regular backups
- Threat and uptime management
The Basic Plan
For $29 a month, you get everything in the Starter package; however, your limits are upped to:
- 100k views a month
- You can register two staff users.
- More integrations, including Github, Zapier, and access to Ghost's API.
You’ll also get basic migration help, which covers migrations from Substack, Medium, Patreon, MailChimp, Revenue, and Buttondown.
The Standard Plan
For $79 per month, you get everything mentioned above, plus:
- 500k views per month
- You can add up to five staff users
- You can manage 8,000 members in your subscription plans.
- Priority support
- Further migration help for tools like WordPress, Podia, and Memberful.
Also, if you pay an extra $25 a month, you can add a custom SSL certificate.
The Business Plan
For $199 per month, Ghost's most extensive plan can handle up to 1 million views per month, 15 staff users, and 35,000 members. You're also guaranteed uptime of 99.9% and a custom SSL certificate. You also benefit from a dedicated account manager, and you can receive migration help for Hubspot and RebelMouse. Plus, for an extra $50 a month, you can unlock a managed subdirectory.
Ghost Website Builder Review: Features
As we've already hinted at, Ghost is primarily a website builder focusing on its content management system and publishing experience. It achieves this through a combination of email list-building features, newsletters, subscriptions, and writing tools.
Below we've dug a little deeper into Ghost’s core features by category:
Site Management and Editor
Ghost’s website management features enable you to create custom-branded websites consisting of static pages (for about, contact, etc.) and blog post feeds.
You can also:
- Connect social media accounts for richer embeds – your site’s metadata is directly linked to your social profiles.
- Password protect your web pages.
- Inject code into your site’s header, footer, or page content for extra scripts and styles
- Edit with markdown support that completes your syntax as you type
- Enable full-screen editing for a distraction-free writing experience
- Embed cards consisting of images, HTML snippets, or dynamic content
- Create custom redirects
- Publish your site in multiple languages
And as for collaborating with others…
- You can create a single-use account link for guest authors. This enables them to work on their post and publish when they're ready. You can similarly regulate the permissions granted to staff members – i.e., you have complete control over what they can see and edit on your website.
- Each staff user comes with its own custom profile containing the user's name, bio, location, and social accounts to provide complete author metadata.
- You can easily suspend users so they don’t have access to your website but still maintain any content they've produced/published for you.
Ghost‘s publishing features were explicitly designed to provide an excellent writing and content management experience; they include being able to:
- Edit open graph content (this is displayed when you share content on your social networks).
- Create internal tags to organize your posts; this makes filtering through your own content much more manageable.
- Schedule posts for whenever you want them to go live.
- Create custom excerpts of your post to provide readers with a quick summary
- Set featured posts on your site to highlight your most relevant content.
- Create an archive of tags and authors that can easily be browsed to help readers find specific posts
- Multi-author bylines allow you to add multiple authors to each post with their own bios.
- Create custom post templates. If you have a standard format for your posts or pages, you can save them as a template to quickly recreate them.
- You can create custom RSS feeds to submit your podcasts to iTunes. There are multiple ways to include source audio.
Another thing that makes Ghost stand out is its advanced SEO capabilities. Other website builders often require you to add a widget or plugin to gain this much control, which means Ghost is likely to save you some money here.
For instance, Ghost:
- Creates automatic Google Sitemaps
- Automatically creates structured metadata for each web page.
- Automatically generates clean permalinks.
- You can create custom URL structures for posts and different website sections.
- All markup includes tidy attributes, including alt attributes for images and link tags for RSS feeds.
- You can customize the metadata and tags for each web page.
- Ghost comes with superior, fast performance. According to their website, they average 20x faster than most WordPress sites!
Memberships and Subscriptions
Although this feature is still in beta, you can monetize your blog by selling subscriptions and premium content. You can even send newsletters to your members. More specifically, you can:
- Set up recurring subscriptions using the Stripe Integration
- Create member webhooks so that whenever a member's added or deleted, a pre-defined trigger is actioned accordingly
- You can send email newsletters in just a few clicks. You can even publish blog posts in an email newsletter format, so readers can enjoy fresh content straight from their inbox
- You can import or export members via CSV.
- You can create a member signup system and start collecting email addresses.
Like other website builders, Ghost also provides a library of free and premium themes on its theme marketplace. These are organized into categories like: newsletters, documentation, magazines, photography, podcasts, projects, and travel. There are 15 free Ghost themes to choose from.
You can also build custom themes following Ghost's theme documentation. These themes use handlebars.js by default which is simple to learn yet powerful! All theme assets are automatically cached and optimized for good performance. Plus, you can define custom routing and templates for different data structures.
Build Upon What’s Already There…
Ghost is an open-source framework and constantly under development. You have complete freedom over the source code and can expand it with your own functionality. Check out Ghost’s developer documentation to get started.
Ghost Website Builder Review: Customer Support
Suppose you ever run into trouble with Ghost. In that case, you can rely on their online help center. Here, you'll find plenty of guides and tutorials on how to use its features. The help documentation is quite extensive and easy to follow. There’s also a developer forum where you can speak to your peers and trade tips and tricks.
If you want to contact Ghost's customer support team, you'll have to become a Ghost Pro user, enabling email support.
Ghost Website Builder Review: Our Final Verdict
All in all, we think Ghost has some pretty impressive features on offer – especially its writing and publishing tools. The platform provides everything you need to create a beautiful blog with great functionality.
Plus, the advanced SEO features included in the framework empower you to optimize your content for search engines without the extra monthly cost of a plugin.
Custom post templates and guest-author invitations are also pretty neat features for anyone serious about running blogs or online journals.
In short, if your website's focused on journalism, news, or creative writing, Ghost has a lot to offer! For anything else, its capabilities aren’t as far-reaching. We can see why the platform hasn’t enjoyed as much success as its competitors. It's highly specific and not quite as adaptable.
Also, thanks to its open-source nature and smaller community, Ghost isn’t as easy to build upon. For hobbyist bloggers, Ghost is too powerful and complex. On the flip side, it might be too limiting for anyone who wants to launch a fully-fledged online store.
If you're still unsure whether Ghost's the right call for you, why now download it today? It doesn't cost a dime, so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by giving it a try. If you decide to go down that road, let us know in the comments below how you liked it. Speak soon!
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