We noted it earlier, but one of the more interesting aspects of comparing Ghost and WordPress is that the development of Ghost was inspired mainly by the WordPress platform. It doesn’t want to be everything that WordPress has become but instead remains true to the WordPress platform’s original purpose. It’s no accident that the team behind Ghost bill it as the fast, modern WordPress alternative.
Upfront Costs and Hosting
Both solutions are open-source software that requires you to secure self-hosting and a domain name. While the initial software download is free, those latter two items are not.
Domains cost anywhere from $10 to $15 annually. Depending on the service, hosting costs run anywhere from a few dollars a month to $20 or more. The platforms are comparable in this regard, with one major exception
One of the central differences between Ghost and WordPress is the requirements for hosting each platform. WordPress is about as universal as it gets. Any web host can accommodate WordPress. One of the most popular is Bluehost, one of WordPress.org’s preferred web hosts.
There’s not much separating the two platforms here, but WordPress has the edge as a more universal platform.
Ease of use
The key to great software is how easy it is to navigate, use, and complete your intended tasks. When building a blog, that translates into how quickly you can set up and begin posting.
Though it’s a widely used platform, there is a considerable learning curve for those unfamiliar with WordPress. Much of your initial success will depend on how quickly you acclimate to everything that WordPress throws at you. You have a ton of options, choices, and decisions to make.
WordPress then doubles down with themes, widgets, and a dizzying array of plugins, including free and premium options. All of these make your site look better and run smoother but can overwhelm some.
The good news is that once you grow accustomed to the interface, WordPress is easy and intuitive to manage. But based on its breadth alone, though, it is always an ongoing process.
By its very nature, first-time users will find Ghost more accessible. Its narrower focus on creating and publishing content translates to fewer options and overall clutter.
The interface is clean and uncomplicated, and simple to navigate. The color-coding of icons is a particularly nice touch. Overall, Ghost’s dashboard feels modern, which helps its cause over WordPress, which favors it’s functionally almost to a fault.
As far as publishing a post, both Ghost and WordPress offer similar experiences. Ghost, however, has its limits. Unlike WordPress, if something is lacking with Ghost’s approach, you may not have the option to improve it.
That flexibility to adjust the WordPress platform to fit your need is a big reason for its success. Anytime WordPress is part of a comparison, it’s unfair to use customization as one of the criteria – the platform cannot be beaten. If you don’t like something in WordPress, it’s a good bet you can change it.
To be sure, the WordPress customization catalog features over 55,000 plugins, more than 4,000 themes, and countless widgets and integrations. The level of customization borders on the absurd and is one of the key reasons WordPress is so popular – you can truly create any website.
Ghost has its own customization options, just nowhere near the volume of WordPress. Overall, there are over 90 themes available from the Ghost repository. Additional functionality comes in the way of more than 100 integrations. You can also adjust several other settings and visuals, including fonts, logos, menus, and templates. Yet all will pale to the sheer volume of adjustments found on WordPress.
In this regard, Ghost is much like a standard hosted platform. You can customize, but only within the boundaries of the software’s single-minded focus. With WordPress, you don’t have to make such compromises.
Blogging and Publishing
A vital component of both platforms is their ability to take the guesswork out of creating and publishing content. WordPress started as pure blogging software before evolving into the behemoth site builder of today. Ghost aims to recreate the niche “best at what you do” focus of WordPress’ early days.
It’s not surprising then that Ghost has the more potent software from a writing and publishing standpoint. The functionality focuses on making your work stand out online. The platform is fast responsive and utilizes Markdown as its central formatting tool.
If you’ve never used Markdown before, there is a bit of a learning curve, but it’s not steep. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll notice a definite improvement in the flow of your writing.
Therein lies the whole goal of Ghost’s platform – to simplify your blogging so you can do more of it. There’s an impressive suite of SEO tools built directly into the software and includes auto-generated canonical tags, automatic XML sitemap creation, Facebook open graph tags, Google AMP support, and URL optimization, to name a few
For all of its standout qualities, WordPress can seem cumbersome if all you want to do is blog – an 18-wheeler compared to Ghost’s compact SUV. WordPress is a noticeably slower platform. It also uses a WYSIWYG editor, an excellent tool for novices but can bog down the writing process as your portfolio grows. Native SEO is virtually non-existent.
Of course, all of the above is changeable through plugins, which is where you fully realize the power of WordPress. It can be both a blessing and a curse. WordPress is the better option if you don’t mind the extra steps of “building out” your blog. If all you want to do is blog and publish, Ghost is a better choice.
Similar to customization, few platforms offer the income-earning options of WordPress. You can use your WordPress blog to display ads, sell memberships and subscriptions, insert affiliate links, accept donations, offer digital goods or downloads, or create an online store and sell physical goods.
Plugins take your money-making endeavors even further. The free WooCommerce plugin is arguably the best of any ecommerce solution currently available. It’s supported by its own bevy of extensions that further enhance the already powerful tool.
Given the extent of WordPress plugins, you have plenty of options for how to approach your monetization.
Technically speaking, you can do most of the above with Ghost. Natively, however, the platform’s ecommerce centers on selling subscriptions or memberships, either to your blog or access to specific content.
The dashboard features a prominent income tracker and includes simple tools to help you control access to various pieces of content. Aside from affiliate links, generating revenue on Ghost requires using integrations.
Apps like Google AdSense, Gumroad, BigCommerce, and Shopify extend your blog’s income potential, but it’s less intuitive than the WordPress approach.
Once again, that circles back to why you’re using the software. You can use Ghost to post ads, sell products, or digital downloads, but the membership approach should be your central focus. With WordPress, you can generate revenue in many ways without jumping through any extra hurdles.