WordPress Roles Explained: Permissions and Capabilities

Are you looking to give access to your WordPress website to a new user for the first time? Chances are you bumped into a bunch of new WordPress roles and got no clue which one is appropriate for your team member. 

In this article, I will cover the 6 basic WordPress roles: super admin, administrator, editor, author, contributor, and subscriber. We’ll go over the exact permissions and capabilities each one provides so your editorial team can publish and edit content on your WordPress site. 

By the end of this, you’ll know how to access WordPress user roles from your dashboard and assign new roles each time someone new joins your website. 

What are the basic roles of WordPress?

When you use WordPress as your CMS system, you’ll find six basic roles which are the super admin, administrator, editor, author, contributor, and subscriber. However, the meaning of each WordPress user role is not clear or intuitive enough for us to figure out.

Let’s take a closer look at what each user role means on WordPress and who should be assigned if you are expanding your content writing team. 

Super Admin

The Super Admin WordPress role is available when the website is part of a larger network of connected WordPress, also known as multisite installations. The super admin is the one who is responsible for the multisite network the role allows them to make high-level changes, and delete and add new websites. 

The Super admins are usually the site owners and it is unlikely to give that role to your freelance writer or content publisher. 

For their role, keep on reading.  


Administrators have access to all the admin-related features on the website they are assigned to, unlike the super admin who has control over a network of websites. Administrators on a WordPress site are capable to change anything that’s available on the admin bar. 

Administrators can change the look of the site through the themes, add or remove plugins, and delete, add, and modify posts, pages, and categories. You should give administrator access to trusted employees who are managing your website and trusted with your content. Otherwise, keep this WordPress role under your control. 


The WordPress editor is similar to an administrator but strictly limited to the content side. Editors have the ability to publish, edit, and delete posts and pages. An editor should be someone on your team who is only taking care of the content on your website. This role also lets the user change and edit categories which is extremely important if you are running a blog, affiliate site eCommerce store, or magazine site. 


Authors on WordPress can only edit, delete, and publish posts and pages that they created. Authors have less autonomy on the website compared to editors because they can’t control others’ posts on the site. Author user functionality is great for writers who are paid per article and have less influence on your overall website. 


Contributors on WordPress can do most things as an author, but they cannot publish anything on the website. Contributors have very minimal permission on the website, if you are hiring people to write for you, this could be a role to consider because they cannot make pages and posts public. 


The most minimal WordPress user access and capability go to the subscriber role. Anyone who is added as a subscriber can view content on the website but cannot modify, delete or publish any content. 

If you are running a membership-based website, your members should be added as subscribers so they can view the private pages of your sites.

Did this explanation help? Make sure you also read how to bulk schedule posts on WordPress and make your editor calendar automated and saving you a ton of time publishing posts and pages.

SEO Manager vs SEO Editor

When you have an SEO plugin installed on your website, such as Yoast SEO, your WordPress Dashboard can also show different default WordPress roles when you are trying to add a new user. Your screen probably looks something like this where the list includes SEO Manager and SEO Editor above subscriber.

The SEO manager and editor roles come in handy if you hired someone or paid a freelancer to do SEO projects on your website. But, what is the difference between the SEO manager and editor roles? Let’s dive in.

SEO Manager

An SEO Manager user role allows the member to edit the Yoast SEO settings and metadata information. Furthermore, SEO Managers have access to the SEO content box on in posts and pages and make changes to optimize the website for search engines. 

SEO Editor

An SEO Editor user role only allows the member to make SEO changes within the posts and pages but they are not capable of editing metadata information or changing Yoast SEO plugin settings.

So, if you have SEO content publishers on your team and their scope of work is limited, you should give them an SEO Editor role. 

On the other hand, if you are not into SEO and outsourced that to someone else, make those freelancers or employees the SEO Manager.

Where to find WordPress roles?

Adding, removing, and editing WordPress user roles are recurring tasks for a website manager. Here is how you add new users on WordPress and change their roles and capabilities on the website. 

  1. Open WordPress Dashboard > User
  2. Add new user 
  3. Scroll down to “Roles”
  4. Choose Role
  5. Add New User 

How to Create Custom User Roles in WordPress

If the six default roles don’t meet your website requirements, you can also customize them or create a brand new role that suits your team. Perhaps you are looking for a WordPress role that allows your team members to perform their own tasks and not make any changes in other areas of your site.

In order to create a custom user role on WordPress, all you have to do is to install the User Role Editor plugin – make sure you’ve backed up your website if you are worried of the  WordPress site crashing.  

Watch this video and follow his plugin tutorial to customize WordPress roles and capabilities or create a brand new user on your website: 

Customize Default WordPress role:

Step 1: Open WordPress Dashboard > Plugins > Install “User Role Editor” Plugin

Step 2: Hover to “User Role Editor” 

Step 3: Select Default Role 

Step 4: Tick or untick the capability you want > Click “Update”

Add New Role on WordPress

Step 1: Open WordPress Dashboard > Plugins > Install “User Role Editor” Plugin

Step 2: Hover to “User Role Editor” 

Step 3: Click “Add New Role” > Add Role Name> Display Role Name

Step 4: Tick the capability you need > Update

Step 5: Open New Users > Select New Role


Be cautious about who you give access to on your website. These WordPress roles are important for every beginner to understand because they can prevent a lot of technical problems later on. If you want to learn more about WordPress SEO, we’ve put together a simple content publishing framework for beginners to boost their website ranking with simple steps. You can also watch our YouTube tutorial and bring your website from 0 to 1000 visitors/month. 

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and join our Facebook community!

Thulisa Sigwabe
Thulisa Sigwabe

Thulisa is our Content Marketer and Creator here at WPHub. She creates WordPress tutorials and reviews popular plugins and tools to help you build and monetize your website faster.

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