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How To Setup Your Self-Hosted Ghost Blog? (Without Tearing Your Hair Out)

Want to get started with technical article writing? Here I explain what Ghost is and how to self-host a modern blogging platform easily

Guillaume Vincent
Guillaume Vincent

Table of Contents

This article contains many referral links. This helps me to provide you new great content!

Ghost is a great and intuitive blogging platform. Having started with Medium to get started, I was looking to start my own blog. I first took a look at WordPress but changed my plan: I was spending more time on form than content.

When I discovered Ghost, it clicked. It was a perfect fit for my needs. However, no blogging without hosting.

Today you will through this tutorial on Ghost, you will discover:

  1. You'll see what Ghost is.
  2. The two different hosting options for Ghost and why self-hosting is ideal to start a blog
  3. Start self-hosting your Ghost blog on DigitalOcean simply and at the best price

What Is Ghost?

The Ghost logo brand
The Ghost logo from https://ghost.org

Ghost is a free and open-source blogging platform written in JavaScript. It is designed to simplify online publishing. Ghost aims to be a straightforward and intuitive platform with a minimalist user interface.

Unlike WordPress, Ghost is purely a blogging platform and not adapted for landing pages, and e-commerce websites. On the other hand, it is perfect for multi-author blogs, magazines, and portfolio sites. So choose Ghost for a content-based strategy.

Based on the NodeJS technology, Ghost offers much better performance than WordPress. This is an important factor to consider for the responsiveness of your pages and user experience. It directly impacts your SEO score.

Speaking of SEO, Ghost offers native tag optimization. It also provides large integration with third parties.

The greatest strength of Ghost is its simplicity. It uses Markdown rather than visual WYSIWYG editing. This allows you to immerse yourself in the content you are writing.


Why Self-Host Your Ghost Blog?

Managed vs self-hosted

Concerning hosting, you have two options with your Ghost blog:

  1. Managed: You don't have any server maintenance or Ghost upgrades to manage. The blogging platform is hosted on Ghost's server.
  2. Self-hosted: Your host your own blogging platform. You have to deal with maintenance and version upgrades.

The notable difference is the price you can afford to pay.

Pricing

The cheapest plan for managed Ghost starts at $25 a month billed yearly. It is the minimum ticket to use a custom theme. Add to that the addition of a domain to have a more professional look. This is not an obvious price to pay when you want to start a blog.

This is why I opted for the self-hosted with DigitalOcean. DigitalOcean is a cloud provider and official partner of the Ghost open-source project. It provides a straightforward Ghost installation through a marketplace.  

To give you an idea: the cheapest plan you can buy on DigitalOcean for Ghost is $5 a month.

You will receive $100 credit clicking and registering on DigitalOcean with the banner below:  

DigitalOcean – The developer cloud
Helping millions of developers easily build, test, manage, and scale applications of any size – faster than ever before.


Start Your Ghost Blog On DigitalOcean

Create the droplet

At DigitalOcean, droplets are Linux-based virtual machines. They run on physical machines. Each new droplet you create is a new server you can use.

Creating a droplet is very simple:

  1. Connect to your DigitalOcean account
  2. Click on "Manage" on the sidebar menu
Droplet management in the DigitalOcean console
Droplet management in the DigitalOcean console
  1. Then choose "Droplets"
Creation of a new DigitalOcean droplet
Creation of a new DigitalOcean droplet

Now you have to choose an installation image for the new droplet. DigitalOcean provides an image to install Ghost.

Type "ghost" in the search bar and select the image:

Selection of the ghost image for the droplet
Selection of the ghost image for the droplet

The droplet image contains the Ghost server and the necessary MySQL database.

Choose a plan for the new droplet:

Choose a customization plan for the new Ghost droplet
Choose a customization plan for the new Ghost droplet

For getting started, you can choose the cheapest one start. You'll be able to update the plan following the evolution of your needs.  

Configure the authentication to the droplet. Many bots on the internet attempt brute force attacks. For better security, choose "SSH keys".

Configuration of the authentication to the droplet

For a little extra kick, you can have backups. I highly recommend you this option:

The automated backup option for the droplet

Finish the Droplet creation by clicking on "Create Droplet".

Take notes of the Droplet public IP when creation is done. We will need it in the next section.

Configure the Ghost Installation

Now it is time to configure the Ghost installation. You need to connect over SSH to the droplet.

Load the private SSH key corresponding to the public one you used when creating the droplet:

$ eval `ssh-agent`
# Change the path with your own private key if it is different
$ ssh-add $HOME/.ssh/id_rsa

Connect to the droplet:

$ ssh [email protected]<your_droplet_public_ip>

Once logged on the server, a prompt for the ghost configuration is displayed. You need to fill in your domain name and email for the SSL certificate:

Ghost will prompt you for two details:

1. Your domain
 - Add an A Record -> xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx & ensure the DNS has fully propagated
 - Or alternatively enter http://xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx
2. Your email address (only used for SSL)

Press enter when you're ready to get started!

Once finished, go to https://<your-domain>/ghost. On the welcome screen click on "Create your account":

The Ghost Welcome Page
The Ghost Welcome Page

Enter your email, create a user and password, and enter a blog title:

Creation of the admin Ghost account
Creation of the admin Ghost account

Invite additional members to your team if you want or click "I'll do this later, take me to my blog!" at the bottom of the page:

Configure Ghost settings and theme

Once Ghost is configured, you can log into the administration interface and configure the platform in more detail.

On the left menu, you have the menu with the posts and elements to manage:

The Ghost interface sidebar
The Ghost interface sidebar

You can configure the Ghost settings by clicking on the gear icon at the bottom left:

Access the Ghost settings
Access the Ghost settings

You can customize the branding and theme:

The Ghost settings
The Ghost settings

You need to download the theme and upload it to the interface:

Configure a theme in Ghost
Configure a theme in Ghost

Ghost offers free themes to start. There are also paid themes. They offer a better aesthetic and advanced features: membership and newsletter support.

The blog you are reading uses Krabi theme:

Krabi Theme

Membership and Subscription Ghost Theme

Visit

Krabi is one of the many themes proposed by Aspire:

Aspire Themes

Membership and Subscription Ghost Theme

Visit

Conclusion

In this Ghost tutorial, you have seen first what Ghost is : a blogging platform your own. The strengths of Ghost is its simplificy and minimalism. You focus on the content you write and not the design.

When you are starting a new blog, price is a key factor. This is the main reason to choose to go on a self-hosted Ghost blog. Having multiple blogs is also a good one.

DigitalOcean offers a solution with its marketplace to deploy Ghost easily. You just pay the hosting fees of the server. This makes it a very attractive solution to self-host your Ghost blog.


Congrats, you have set up your self-hosted Ghost blog. Now it's time to write!

CloudBlogging

Guillaume Vincent Twitter

DevOps Engineer & AWS Certified Solution Architect. Cloud enthusiast and automation addict