Case Study

How MasterClass grew
monthly non-branded traffic from 0 to 571K

Jose Luis Paredes, PhD

Data Specialist

The Challenge

MasterClass is changing the game in online education, providing access to knowledge from the world’s most influential people, including Hillary Clinton, Gordon Ramsay, Serena Williams, Dr. Jane Goodall and Stephen Curry.

In 2018, MasterClass had built a strong reputation for premium content with their expert-led courses and it was time to bring that high quality approach to their blog. At the time, SEO was an untapped channel that had the potential to complement their existing channels, drive sustainable revenue, and deliver significant scale.

With courses based on hundreds of diverse topics, and direct partnerships with highly authoritative figures, MasterClass had the ingredients to quickly become a dominant player in organic search–and they needed a partner they could trust to accomplish this together.

The Graphite Team is among the top 1% of all people I’ve worked with. They helped the MasterClass team develop a solid strategy across content, search engine optimization, and conversion funnels.

Ajay Varia, VP Engineering, MasterClass

The Solution

In mid-2018, MasterClass approached Graphite to build an ambitious organic growth strategy, one that would be able to outrank established SEO giants in the online education space. #1

Together, they agreed on two key objectives

Build a strategy that could drive 10M+ monthly visits

Increase the percentage of total website visits driven by organic search

Chart 1

High Impact Initiatives

Graphite’s approach to SEO is to focus on the top 5% of activities that drive high impact— we call these High Impact Initiatives (or HIIs). Across all our clients, these custom initiatives have consistently driven step-level traffic and revenue gains.

Topical SEO

The path to establishing MasterClass as a leading authority across multiple categories.

“MasterClass is a perfect storm for SEO…” says Marcos Ciarrocchi, one of Graphite’s co-founders, “...With such a wide range of topics, the universe of relevant searches and potential revenue is very large.”

Furthermore, MasterClass’ partnership with high profile celebrities provides a unique and defensible advantage –their content has a much higher likelihood of getting press and backlinks.


Scaling content production over 350 articles per month.

Graphite drove the content strategy by surfacing high impact topics based on search volume, purchase intent, and topical authority. They also trained the MasterClass team on how to write high impact briefs so that writers knew exactly what to include in an article to give it the best chance of ranking.

To save time, the team leveraged existing MasterClass content from dozens of course workbooks to create SEO-optimized articles. And within only a few weeks, newly published articles were getting traffic.


Accelerating time to impact with topical authority

While scaling content production played a critical role in MasterClass’ success, another key driver was the prioritization of which articles to produce. One of the biggest costs in SEO is the wasted effort of writing articles that never rank.

To improve topic selection, Graphite developed a scoring system for topical authority which made it easy for the team to select topics that were semantically related to content that was already performing well on the blog. This approach proved to be very effective, catapulting MasterClass into the leading position for several high value categories.


Leveraging traffic data to increase impact of conversion experiments

While traffic growth looked promising, the end goal for MasterClass was revenue. As website traffic increased, so did opportunities to convert that traffic into subscribers.

Graphite and MasterClass turned their attention to conversion by optimizing categories that had high revenue potential, meaning a combination of strong traffic volume and strong conversion rates. These categories became focus areas for on-going experimentation for both content and growth design.

The Results

In mid-2018, MasterClass approached Graphite to build an ambitious organic growth strategy, one that would be able to outrank established SEO giants in the online education space.


Catching up to industry leaders at record pace

In only a few years, MasterClass has established itself as a leader in SEO for online education, catching up to established leaders in the category. While MasterClass has seen significant growth, many of these competitors have had flat growth over the same time period.


Building SEO into the primary source of website traffic

At the start of the engagement, SEO was a small share of organic traffic. Today, organic search has become the biggest driver of net new traffic for MasterClass.



Increase in monthly non-branded profit


Percentage of SEO traffic of non-branded terms



Time between the start of the engagement of results

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