28 min read

Strapi vs. Ghost: Choosing the Ideal CMS for Your Website

Choose the CMS that suits your content needs. We examine their features, advantages, and use cases to help you make an informed decision.

Tim Davidson
Tim Davidson

Most people who work in tech, online marketing, or have some contact with running a website have crossed paths with WordPress. Everyone seems to have their own personal gripe. So, when the new wave of headless Content Management Systems (CMSs) hit the market, it created a ton of hype.

Most headless CMSs provide a significantly better and more flexible user experience. The problem is they're built for enterprise clients and cost an arm and a leg.

This is where Strapi and Ghost enter the conversation.

These two are the 'best' self-hosted content management systems available right now (note: this is obviously subjective). You can download these CMSs and install them on a server yourself, bypassing the bandwidth and per-user payment pressure that all the other headless CMSs are known for.

Both CMSs go one step further since they're open-source. If you're comfortable playing around with JavaScrip (both Ghost and Strapi are built on Node) , you can change how they works, which is usually a privilege you pay delay for with other headless CMSs.

Ghost is the CMS that was used to write this article! It's packed with a bunch of really nice SEO features.

Strapi, on the other hand, is our go-to CMS when we're building an application or non-standard website for a client that needs a CMS that can be customized.

There's more to say on both of these points. In this article, I'll compare features, advantages, and recommended use cases for the two CMSs.

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    Strapi Overview

    Here's a quick overview of why Strapi is unique and how it works.

    Strapi is a Node.js-based headless CMS that offers a highly customizable and scalable platform. Its API-first approach decouples the content management system from the presentation layer, enabling seamless content delivery across various devices and empowering businesses to provide omnichannel digital experiences.

    Unlike Ghost, there's no option to run Strapi by itself. It needs to be integrated with a frontend framework like Next.js, Nuxt, Vue, React, etc. That process isn't something you're able to tackle without some technical knowledge.

    Key Strapi Features:

    API-first approach: Strapi's API-first approach enables complete separation between the backend and the presentation layer. The front end can be customized using any tech stack that consumes data from Strapi's API. This approach simplifies integration with third-party services, facilitating seamless connection and interaction with external APIs, services, or databases.

    Flexible content modeling: Strapi provides a flexible content modeling system, allowing businesses to define and structure their content according to specific requirements. Complex content types, such as articles, products, events or other structured data, can be created and managed. Ensure data integrity and accuracy with custom validations.

    Role-based access control (RBAC): Strapi's RBAC feature allows administrators to create custom roles with specific permissions at different levels. This enhanced security and control over sensitive operations within the CMS ensures that only authorized users can perform content-related tasks, preserving data integrity, confidentiality, and privacy.

    Authentication and user management: Strapi supports various authentication methods, including traditional username/password authentication and JSON Web Tokens (JWT) for secure and stateless authentication processes. Integration with third-party authentication providers like OAuth and Google Sign-In streamlines user authentication. Strapi's built-in user management capabilities enable efficient administration of user-profiles and permissions within the CMS.

    Customization and extensibility: Strapi enables the creation of custom plugins to extend the platform's functionality, catering to specific business needs. A vibrant community has contributed a wide range of pre-built plugins, covering various aspects of CMS customization and integration. Strapi's API-first approach also supports seamless integration with third-party tools and services, facilitating integration with existing infrastructure and software applications.

    Ghost Overview

    Ghost is an open-source publishing platform designed specifically for bloggers and content creators. They specifically went after WordPress and targeted non-enterprise clients.

    Ghost's unique selling proposition is that it provides integrated features for running a membership site. This is something WordPress struggles with. If you've ever used Memberspress, you'll understand.

    However, Ghost has more to offer than that. I would argue it's the best option for spinning up a website if you're not technical and don't want to use WordPress. You can get started quickly, the UI is excellent, and it's packed with great SEO features. If you're a developer and an open-source solution for blogging, then Ghost is a the perfect option.

    Here's a breakdown of its features.

    Key Ghost Features:

    Markdown editor: Ghost utilizes a markdown editor, simplifying content creation and formatting using simple syntax without complex HTML coding. It offers a lightweight and intuitive way to add headings, lists, links, images, and more.

    Customization and themes: Ghost offers a diverse collection of themes and templates, providing users with options for visual customization. Themes vary in layout, typography, color schemes, and overall presentation. Users can easily switch between themes, previewing the effects on their website's appearance before settling on the perfect fit.

    Minimalist writing environment: Ghost emphasizes a clean and distraction-free writing environment for content creators. Its minimalist interface removes unnecessary menus, buttons, and widgets, allowing writers to focus solely on creating high-quality content.

    In-built SEO features: Ghost incorporates built-in SEO features to enhance search engine visibility. Users can customize meta tags, generate XML sitemaps, and optimize content for better search engine rankings. These features improve organic traffic and content discoverability.

    Integration and extension: Ghost offers a robust integration library, allowing users to connect their Ghost site with various third-party services and tools. It supports integrations with popular platforms like Zapier, Google Analytics, Mailchimp, and more. These integrations enable seamless workflows, such as automating email campaigns, tracking website analytics, and connecting with other productivity tools.

    Membership and subscription support: Ghost provides native support for membership and subscription-based content monetization. Users can create different membership tiers, offer premium content, and manage subscriber payments securely. This feature is beneficial for content creators who generate revenue from their work.

    Multi-user collaboration: Ghost supports multi-user collaboration, enabling teams to cooperate on content creation and management. It allows users to assign different roles and permissions to team members, ensuring controlled access to specific sections of the CMS. This collaborative environment promotes efficient content creation and streamlines editorial workflows.

    Content scheduling and publishing: Ghost includes a content scheduling feature that allows users to plan and automate the publication of their posts. With the ability to set specific dates and times for publishing, users can ensure a consistent content release schedule and engage their audience at optimal times.

    Analytics and insights: Ghost offers built-in analytics that provides valuable insights into website performance, audience engagement, and content metrics. Users can track key metrics like page views, traffic sources, and social media shares, helping them understand their audience and refine their content strategy accordingly.

    Developer-friendly: Ghost caters to non-technical users and provides a developer-friendly environment. It offers a robust API and extensive documentation, allowing developers to extend the platform's functionality and build custom integrations.

    Strapi vs. Ghost: A Detailed Comparison

    Here we'll consider the essential factors to help you choose the CMS that aligns with your needs.

    Content Management Approach

    Strapi takes an API-first approach, providing developers with a highly flexible and customizable content management system. By decoupling the backend from the presentation layer, Strapi enables users to define their data structures, relationships, and validations. Businesses can create complex content types and build applications beyond content-driven websites.

    On the other hand, Ghost follows an integrated approach, providing a streamlined experience for bloggers and content creators. It delivers a minimalist writing environment that eliminates distractions and enables authors to concentrate solely on creating high-quality content. While Ghost can handle other types of content, its core strength lies in its simplicity and effectiveness as a blogging platform.

    Pricing and Plans

    One of the reasons Ghost and Strapi are two of our preferred headless CMS providers is that they're both open source. You can spin up a new instance on a $5/month DigitalOcean droplet without being held to ransom by the (sometimes outrageous) pricing mechanisms of headless CMSs. If you're uncomfortable running a virtual private server or working with the command line, both providers have cloud-based subscriptions where their teams will manage the infrastructure. Strapi charges $99/month*, which reflects that they're targeting established businesses. Ghost is focused more on the blogging community as a direct alternative to WordPress, and their entry plan starts at $11/month*.

    A screenshot containing Strapi's pricing model
    Strapi pricing plans
    A screenshot containing Ghost's pricing model
    Ghost pricing plans

    *Prices correct as at June 2023

    Customization and Extensibility

    Both Strapi and Ghost provide distinct options for customization and extensibility.

    Ghost offers a wide array of themes and templates to customize the visual appearance of your website. The Ghost marketplace features a diverse selection of free and paid themes, catering to various styles and preferences. Users can easily switch between themes and experiment with designs without extensive technical knowledge. In addition, Ghost allows customization through code modification and theme-specific settings, providing flexibility to match your branding and user experience.

    Strapi delivers customization and extensibility through its powerful plugin system. With Strapi, developers can create custom plugins to extend the core functionality based on their specific requirements. This capability allows businesses to tailor their content management system precisely to their needs and workflows. Additionally, Strapi benefits from a development community that has contributed numerous plugins, covering various aspects of CMS customization and integration. This extensibility makes Strapi a highly adaptable CMS capable of supporting multiple applications and workflows.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Q: Can I use Strapi or Ghost for my blog?

    A: Yes, both Strapi and Ghost are suitable for blogs. Ghost specializes in blogging and offers a streamlined writing experience, while Strapi provides more flexibility and customization options for content management. Choose Ghost if you prioritize a dedicated blogging platform and Strapi if you require one that caters to more complex content management and omnichannel experiences.

    Q: Can I migrate my content from WordPress to Ghost?

    A: You can easily migrate your content from WordPress to Ghost. Ghost provides an official WordPress plugin that allows you to export your WordPress content and import it into Ghost. This migration process ensures a smooth transition while preserving your existing content, making switching to Ghost as your preferred publishing platform easier.

    Q: Do Strapi and Ghost have built-in SEO features?

    A: Strapi and Ghost each offer built-in SEO features to enhance search engine visibility. Strapi allows you to define custom meta tags, generate automatic XML sitemaps, and set canonical URLs for optimized content. Similarly, Ghost provides similar features, enabling customization of meta tags, sitemap generation, and content optimization for improved search engine rankings. Leveraging these built-in SEO capabilities can help enhance organic traffic and improve the discoverability of your website.

    Make your choice based on your business case

    Strapi and Ghost are robust CMS solutions that cater to different use cases and user preferences. Strapi's strength lies in its flexibility, scalability, and extensive customization options, making it an excellent choice for businesses that require a highly tailored API-first CMS. On the other hand, Ghost provides a user-friendly and streamlined experience specifically for bloggers and content creators, with features like the markdown editor, minimalist writing environment, and built-in SEO.

    When choosing between Strapi and Ghost, consider your specific requirements, technical expertise, and the nature of your content. Evaluate whether you need a highly customizable API-driven CMS (Strapi) or a user-friendly publishing platform focused on blogging and content creation (Ghost). Both options offer unique features that can enhance your content management and publishing experience.

    Written by
    Tim Davidson

    Tim Davidson

    Tim is the face of the company. When you want to kick off a new project, or an update on your existing project, Tim is your man!

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