How to Start a Blog with Ghost?

Ghost is built for just blogging. Therefore, if you want a website just to publish blog posts, Ghost is a great option. There are two ways you can start a blog with Ghost: self-hosting or using Ghost-Pro, the paid hosted version of Ghost. In this article, we’ll see some advantages of using Ghost and how to start a blog with it.

Some Ghost Features

  • A nice dashboard
  • Great writing experience with markdown-aware rich text editor
  • Customizable themes and a themes marketplace
  • Free/paid memberships
  • Integrations with platforms like Google Analytics, Stripe, Mailchimp, etc.

Ghost vs WordPress

WordPress is the leader of CMSs with a stunning 40% market share. If you are deciding between Ghost and WordPress, here’s a quick comparison.

GhostWordPress
CodeGhost is written in Node.js and uses more modern design techniques and good security practices.WordPress uses PHP for the back-end and has a bad reputation for using “messed up” PHP code. It works but from a developer’s perspective, it’s hard to maintain.
DatabaseMYSQL/SQLLiteMYSQL
PerformanceOptimized for speedYou may need to do some optimizations to make WordPress fast. There are one-click install plugins to do this. However, some plugins may also slow down your website.
Self-hostingIf you are self-hosting, you will need to know how to work with the command line to install Node.js packages and some other command-line tools. However, there are some platforms like DigitalOcean that provide easy installation options.Self-hosting is a little easier in WordPress as there are bundled PHP packages that you can easily deploy to even a shared host.
UsageBlogs (and newsletters)Blogs, e-commerce, and more.
PluginsThe most essential feature for blogging comes by default. It is possible to extend the theme for some work like adding a commenting system to your Ghost blog. There’s an integrations page that looks like a plugins marketplace but all use code-injection or editing your theme code.WordPress has a lot of powerful plugins, which can extend the dashboard, and do some super awesome things than just code injection. For example, there are some plugins that can turn your WordPress website into a complete e-commerce store. Or, if you consider WordPress commenting plugins like Hyvor Talk, it’s just about installing a plugin and a few clicks here and there. This is done thanks to the underlying WordPress API, which is something Ghost does not have.
Hosted VersionStarts at $9/month (no custom themes), and $25/month (with custom themes). 14-days trial available.The hosted version is WordPress.com. Free plan available with ads. Installing plugins is only available with the $25/month plan.

In short, Ghost has all the functionalities (editing posts, media, SEO) you need for blogging or starting a newsletter. On the other hand, WordPress is great for any kind of website. Choosing the best pricing and hosting is up to you.

How to Start a Ghost Blog?

Let’s get into the basics of running a website. You need to serve your website to your visitors using a server. In Ghost, you can either have your own server (self-hosting) or let Ghost.org host your ghost blog for you (hosted version, Ghost Pro).

1. Self-hosting

If you are a developer who likes to mess with servers and maintain software installations, self-hosting is the best option. As Ghost is open-source, you can install it on your own server. Unfortunately, as Ghost is written in Node.js, it is not possible to host it on most shared hosts (they use PHP). So, you will need to buy a VPS server from a provider (do a Google search for this with the term “VPS provider”). Then, you will need to follow the official documentation on installing it on your server.

If you use AWS for your servers, check Installing Ghost on AWS EC2.

2. Ghost (Pro)

Ghost (Pro) is the hosted version provided by the Ghost team. This is easy to set up. You don’t have to worry about updates and maintenance. Just go to Ghost.org and start your blog today. Pricing is as I showed in the WordPress comparison.

Publishing your First Ghost Blog Post

Writing your first ghost blog post on your started Ghost blog

Once you set up the Ghost account, it’s time to start writing your first blog post. Here are some resources to get started.

  • Using the Ghost Editor
    This article explains:
    • Rich Text Editing
    • Adding Embeds, HTML, etc.
    • Programming Code and Snippets
    • Using Markdown
    • Uploading Images, setting alt tags and captions
    • Previewing, scheduling, and publishing posts
  • If you have previously written on platforms like Medium or WordPress, formatting is very similar to that. You have all basic options like bold, italics, etc.
  • Before publishing make sure to add a featured image (for social media and sharing) and a description. Ghost handles most things about SEO so you don’t have to worry much.

Members

Ghost introduced Members in Ghost 4.0. Just like you can log in to websites like Facebook, you can allow your visitors to create an account on your blog and become a member. You can choose this to be free or paid, with multiple plans. You can also make each post available for only subscribers of a certain plan. Members provide their email when signing up. So, setting up an email newsletter is really simple with Ghost and does not require additional third parties.

Embedding Hyvor Talk for Comments

To embed anything to your theme (commenting system, newsletter signup, advertisements), you will need to edit the Ghost theme files. The process is different depending on how you installed Ghost (self-hosted vs Ghost Pro). In self-hosted Ghost, you can easily edit your files by logging into your server. However, editing files in Ghost (Pro) is not that easy. You will need to download the theme, edit the files, re-upload it to Ghost.

If you would like to collect feedback/thoughts from your readers, you can easily add comments to your blog with Hyvor Talk. Here you will need to edit the Ghost theme.

  • Sign up for Hyvor Talk and get your installation code
  • Next, add the installation code to post.hbs and save the file
  • Re-upload your theme (in Ghost Pro)

See adding comments to Ghost for more details including connecting Ghost members with Hyvor Talk.

Similarly, you can embed a third-party newsletter signup form.

Code Injection (for Analytics, Live Chat) on Your Ghost Blog

If you want to add a code, for example, HTML code from your analytics provider’s tracking code, follow these steps.

  • Ghost Dashboard -> Menu -> Settings -> Code Injection
  • Add your code to “Site Header” (between HTML <head> tags) or “Site Footer” (before the </body> tag)
  • Click the “Save” button

Useful Resources: