May 27, 2024

Ghost CMS, what is it?

Ghost CMS is a light and fast platform, ideal for blogging and a valid alternative to WordPress.

Ghost CMS


Ghost is an open-source content management system (CMS) designed specifically for bloggers and online publications. Created with a particular focus on simplicity and speed, Ghost has become one of the favorite platforms for those looking for a lightweight and high-performance alternative to traditional CMS like WordPress. In this article, we'll explore the history, features, technical requirements, and similarities and differences with WordPress to better understand what makes Ghost an attractive choice for content creators.


Ghost was the brainchild of John O'Nolan, a former WordPress developer who felt the need for a more streamlined and focused platform for blogging. His frustration with the increasing complexity of WordPress pushed him to imagine a CMS that was focused exclusively on publishing content. O'Nolan wanted to create a tool that was simple to use, with an intuitive user interface and a focus on speed and performance.

In 2013, O'Nolan launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to raise money to make his vision a reality. The response was extraordinary: the campaign far exceeded its initial target, raising over £250.000 in just a few weeks. This success demonstrated the interest and demand for a CMS focused on blogging and allowed the team to develop and release the first version of Ghost in October of the same year.


The first version of Ghost was greeted with enthusiasm by the blogging community and web developers. Its Node.js-based architecture, which ensured high performance and fast response times, and the use of Markdown for content editing were particularly appreciated. Furthermore, Ghost immediately stands out for its clean and minimalist interface, which minimizes distractions while writing.

Since then, Ghost has continued to evolve, constantly improving its features and expanding its user base. The platform is managed by the Ghost Foundation, a non-profit organization that reinvests all revenues into improving the software. This organizational structure ensures that Ghost development remains focused on user needs and is not influenced by commercial interests.

Over the years, Ghost has introduced numerous new features and improvements. For example, the platform has implemented a user management system that allows bloggers to collaborate with other authors and manage editorial teams. Additionally, Ghost has integrated advanced SEO tools, performance analytics, and support for integrations with various third-party services such as Mailchimp, Google Analytics, and many other applications.

Another strength of Ghost is its active and engaged community. Ghost developers and users regularly contribute new themes, plugins, and improvements to the CMS core. The community also offers support and resources through forums, discussion groups, and tutorials, making it easier for new users to get started using the platform and for advanced developers to customize and extend Ghost to suit their needs.

The platform has also gained popularity among digital media publications, with many online magazines, professional blogs, and independent writers choosing Ghost for its reliability and ease of use. Ghost's ability to manage subscriptions and newsletters has further broadened its appeal, allowing content creators to monetize their work and build a loyal reader base.


Ghost is known for its clean and intuitive user interface, which makes writing and managing content a smooth and enjoyable experience. Here are some of the main features that make Ghost unique:

1. Markdown Editor

One of Ghost's standout features is its Markdown-based editor. This lightweight markup language allows bloggers to format text easily using simple, readable syntax. Ghost's editor also supports real-time preview, allowing users to see how content will appear as they write it. Markdown is particularly popular because it minimizes distractions while writing, focusing the user's attention on the content rather than the formatting.

Ghost Markdown

Ghost's editor also includes a number of keyboard shortcuts that further speed up the writing process. For example, you can create a bulleted list by simply typing an asterisk followed by a space, or create a top-level heading by placing the “#” symbol at the beginning of a line. This approach makes the writing experience on Ghost extremely fluid and intuitive, even for those unfamiliar with Markdown.

2. High Performance

Ghost was designed to be fast and lightweight. Thanks to its Node.js-based engine, the platform offers excellent performance and fast loading times. This is especially important for blogging sites, where speed can significantly impact user experience and search engine rankings. Node.js allows Ghost to handle a large number of simultaneous requests with minimal impact on server resources, ensuring smooth and responsive navigation.

Additionally, Ghost uses advanced caching techniques to further reduce page load times. This means content can be served to users almost instantly, improving both user experience and SEO metrics. Ghost's high performance not only helps keep readers on the site longer, but also helps improve your ranking in Google search results.


However, it should be noted that at Managed Server Srl we noticed some limitations in Ghost performance on a particularly large installation, characterized by a large number of posts generated en masse with tools such as ChatGPT. In a scenario with over 300.000 posts and no additional plugins, database queries did not perform very well when compared to the same posts later migrated to WordPress. Considering the same posts and the same hardware platform (same cloud instance), the load average on Ghost was approximately three times higher than on WordPress.

This experience suggests that talking about high performance just because Ghost is based on Node.js, with an asynchronous and non-blocking architecture, may be an understatement. The real bottleneck often lies in the backend, which remains a MySQL database (or compatible fork such as MariaDB or Percona Server). This aspect needs to be considered when evaluating the overall performance of Ghost compared to other platforms such as WordPress.

Furthermore, we noticed that Ghost does not natively support Varnish, which is why we developed "Vernice.js" under the AGPL license. Introducing Varnish Cache Support for the Ghost CMS

3. Customization and Themes

Ghost offers a wide range of customizable themes, allowing users to create a website that reflects their aesthetic vision. The available themes cover a wide range of styles, from modern minimalism to more traditional designs, allowing each user to find the solution that best suits their needs. Additionally, themes can be further modified using Handlebars, a templating engine that allows you to create complex layouts with ease.

Handlebars' flexibility allows developers to customize every aspect of the site's design, from post pages to post lists, without having to write complex code. This makes Ghost a highly versatile platform, capable of adapting to a wide range of aesthetic and functional requirements. Additionally, Ghost also offers a theme marketplace where users can purchase premium themes created by professional designers.

4. Integrated SEO

The platform includes built-in SEO features that help bloggers optimize their content for search engines. This includes tools for managing metadata, creating optimized URLs, and automatically generating XML sitemaps. Ghost also makes it easy to insert SEO titles, descriptions and tags for each post, which are crucial for improving visibility in search results.


Additionally, Ghost supports integration with SEO analytics and monitoring tools like Google Search Console, allowing bloggers to track the performance of their content and identify opportunities for improvement. Ghost's SEO features are designed to be easy to use, even for those with no experience in search engine optimization, making improving your online visibility more accessible.

5. Integrations and APIs

Ghost supports numerous integrations with external services, such as Google Analytics, Mailchimp and many other applications. These integrations allow you to extend the functionality of the site without having to write custom code. For example, you can connect Ghost to an email marketing platform to manage newsletter subscriptions and send regular updates to readers.


The platform also offers a powerful REST API that allows developers to extend Ghost's functionality and create custom applications. The API allows you to access and manipulate site content, manage users, and integrate Ghost with other web applications. This makes Ghost an excellent choice not only for bloggers, but also for businesses that need more advanced, integrated publishing solutions.

6. User Management and Collaboration

Ghost allows advanced user management, allowing you to assign specific roles and permissions. This makes the platform suitable for editorial teams and publications with multiple collaborators. Available roles include administrators, editors, authors, and collaborators, each with a different level of access and control.


This feature is particularly useful for publications that require precise permission management and a structured review workflow. Administrators can manage site settings and approve content before publishing, while authors can focus on writing and editing their articles. Additionally, Ghost also supports real-time collaboration, allowing multiple users to work on the same content at the same time.

Technical requirements

To install and manage Ghost, some specific technical requirements are needed:

1. Server environment

Ghost requires a server with Node.js installed. The platform is compatible with LTS (Long Term Support) versions of Node.js, ensuring stability and security. LTS versions of Node.js receive regular updates and security patches for an extended period, making them a reliable choice for production installations.

It is advisable to use a dedicated server or VPS for best performance. This type of server offers dedicated resources and more control than shared hosting, allowing you to optimize server settings for Ghost's specific needs. Additionally, a dedicated server or VPS allows you to better manage traffic and concurrent requests, ensuring a smooth and responsive user experience.

For those who prefer a managed solution, offers a hosting service called Ghost(Pro), which eliminates the need to set up and maintain a server. This service is ideal for those who want to focus on content creation without worrying about the technical aspects of hosting.

For those who prefer a high-performance hosting environment with Varnish Cache, HSTS Preload, Webp and HTTP/3 or QUIC support, you can opt for our professional Ghost Hosting solution.

2. Database

Ghost uses SQLite as the default database for simple installations and testing. SQLite is a lightweight, self-sustaining database, ideal for development environments or small websites with low traffic. However, for production sites, the use of MySQL or MariaDB is recommended, which offer greater scalability and reliability.

MySQL and MariaDB are robust relational databases that can handle large volumes of data and high traffic. By using these databases, you can benefit from advanced features such as data replication, automatic backup, and query optimization. Setting up Ghost with MySQL or MariaDB is relatively simple and well documented, making it easy for system administrators to implement these solutions.

3. Nginx or Apache

To handle web traffic, Ghost requires a web server such as Nginx or Apache. Nginx is often preferred for its efficiency and ability to handle large volumes of traffic. Nginx is known for its asynchronous architecture and low resource consumption, making it well-suited for serving static content and balancing workload across multiple servers.

Apache, on the other hand, is a very popular and versatile web server, with a wide range of modules that allow you to extend its functionality. While Apache may be less performant than Nginx in some scenarios, it is still a solid and well-supported choice for website hosting.

Regardless of the web server you choose, it is important to correctly configure the reverse proxy to route HTTP requests to the Ghost application. The official Ghost guides provide detailed setup instructions for both web servers, ensuring successful implementation.

4. SSL certificate

To ensure secure communications, it is important to set up an SSL certificate. Ghost supports integration with Let's Encrypt, which provides free SSL certificates. Let's Encrypt is an automated certificate authority that makes it easy to obtain and renew SSL certificates, improving website security at no additional cost.

Setting up SSL on Ghost not only protects information transmitted between the server and clients, but also improves your search engine rankings, as Google and other search engines favor secure websites. Ghost guides provide detailed instructions on how to generate and configure SSL certificates using Let's Encrypt and tools like Certbot.

5. Operating system

Ghost is compatible with various operating systems, but it is generally recommended to use Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Debian, AlmaLinux or Rocky Linux for greater compatibility and support. Linux offers a stable and secure environment, with numerous tools and utilities that facilitate server and application management.

Ubuntu, one of the most popular Linux distributions, is known for its ease of use and long-term support (LTS). LTS versions of Ubuntu receive security updates and support for an extended period, making them ideal for production installations. AlmaLinux or Rocky Linux, based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, is another excellent choice for production servers, thanks to its stability and active support community.

The official Ghost guides provide detailed installation instructions on both distributions, making the process simple even for those unfamiliar with Linux system administration.

Similarities and differences with WordPress

While Ghost and WordPress are both popular CMSs, the two platforms have significant differences in philosophy, design, and functionality. Here is an overview of the main similarities and differences:


  1. Open Source: Both Ghost and WordPress are open-source platforms, meaning that the source code is available to anyone who wants to modify or extend it.
  2. Themes and Plugins: Both platforms offer a wide range of themes and plugins to customize the look and functionality of websites.
  3. Community and Support: Ghost and WordPress have active communities of developers and users that contribute to the growth and improvement of the platforms.


  1. Focus
    WordPress is an extremely versatile CMS that can be used to create a wide range of websites, from personal blogs to complex online stores, news portals, discussion forums, membership sites and much more. Its versatility comes from the wide range of plugins and themes available, which allow you to extend the functionality of the site in practically any direction.
    Ghost, on the other hand, is specifically designed for blogging and content publishing. The platform is optimized for bloggers and online publications, offering a focused user experience and features that make it easy to create and distribute articles. Ghost focuses on simplicity and speed, making the publishing process as seamless as possible.
  2. Technology
    WordPress is based on PHP and uses a classic LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) architecture. This combination has been the backbone of many websites for years and is well supported by a wide range of hosting providers. However, the LAMP architecture can have some limitations in terms of speed and scalability, especially for websites with very high traffic.
    Ghost, on the other hand, is built on Node.js, a JavaScript runtime platform that offers better performance in terms of speed and scalability. Node.js allows Ghost to handle a large number of concurrent requests with efficient use of server resources, ensuring fast response times and a smooth user experience even under load. This makes Ghost particularly suitable for publications that require high performance.
  3. User interface
    Ghost's interface is more modern and minimalist than that of WordPress, which can be more complex for less experienced users. Ghost's user interface is designed to be intuitive and distraction-free, allowing bloggers to focus on writing and publishing content. Ghost's dashboard is clean and simple, with all the essential features at your fingertips without overwhelming the user with unnecessary options.
    WordPress, on the other hand, has a more feature-rich, but also more complex interface. The vast array of options and settings can be overwhelming for new users. However, this complexity allows for much deeper customization and advanced content management, making WordPress suitable for a variety of uses beyond simple blogging.
  4. Editor
    WordPress uses a block-based visual editor called Gutenberg. Gutenberg allows users to build complex content using modular blocks for text, images, videos, widgets and more. This approach is very flexible and allows you to create rich and dynamic layouts without having to write code.
    Ghost, on the other hand, uses a Markdown editor, which offers a smoother writing experience for bloggers. Markdown is a lightweight markup language that allows you to format text using simple, readable syntax. Ghost's editor supports real-time preview, allowing users to see how content will appear as they write it. This minimalist approach reduces distractions and makes writing more natural and focused.
  5. Content Management
    Ghost is optimized for publishing articles and blog posts, with built-in features for managing subscriptions and newsletters. The platform includes member management tools, which allow bloggers to build a loyal reader base and monetize their content through subscriptions. Additionally, Ghost offers functionality for sending newsletters directly from the dashboard, making it easier to distribute content to subscribers.
    WordPress offers more flexible content management, but less focused on blogging. With WordPress, you can create virtually any type of website thanks to the wide range of plugins available. However, this flexibility can lead to greater complexity in setting up and managing the site. For example, to manage subscriptions and newsletters, you may need to install and configure various plugins.
  6. SEO and Performance
    Ghost offers built-in SEO features and superior performance thanks to its Node.js-based architecture. Ghost's SEO features include tools for managing metadata, creating optimized URLs, and automatically generating XML sitemaps. Additionally, the platform is designed to be fast and lightweight, which improves both user experience and search engine rankings.
    WordPress, despite having numerous SEO plugins available, can be slower without adequate optimizations. The speed of WordPress largely depends on the plugins installed and the quality of the theme used. However, with the right optimizations, WordPress can perform just as well. The flexibility of WordPress allows you to customize SEO optimization and performance to your site's specific needs, but requires greater attention and technical expertise.

While WordPress and Ghost share some key characteristics such as being open-source and highly customizable, their differences mainly lie in approach and technology. WordPress is an all-round solution, suitable for a wide range of websites and projects, while Ghost is a specialized platform that excels at blogging and content publishing.

Download link

To download Ghost and start using it, you can visit the platform's official website at the following address:


Ghost is an excellent choice for bloggers and online publications looking for a fast, lightweight, and easy-to-use platform. Its intuitive interface, high performance and integrated features make it a valid alternative to traditional CMS like WordPress. If your goal is to publish high-quality content with a platform that doesn't bog you down with unnecessary complexity, Ghost could be the perfect solution for you or at least a viable alternative to WordPress.

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Managed Server Srl is a leading Italian player in providing advanced GNU/Linux system solutions oriented towards high performance. With a low-cost and predictable subscription model, we ensure that our customers have access to advanced technologies in hosting, dedicated servers and cloud services. In addition to this, we offer systems consultancy on Linux systems and specialized maintenance in DBMS, IT Security, Cloud and much more. We stand out for our expertise in hosting leading Open Source CMS such as WordPress, WooCommerce, Drupal, Prestashop, Joomla, OpenCart and Magento, supported by a high-level support and consultancy service suitable for Public Administration, SMEs and any size.

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