California State University - Northridge Dramatically Increases Enrollment & Cuts CPA in Half

The Goal

Fill all seats for various educational programs

How We Did It

Product: The finest higher-education programs

Strategy: Reach the right students where they are


Increased YoY SEM revenue


Reduced CPA


Almost doubled conversion rate

University Student

California State University, Northridge is a public university in the Northridge neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, in the San Fernando Valley. The campus is part of the larger Cal State University system and was first established more than 60 years ago. It’s one of the largest universities in the state, offering a variety of programs including more than 125 bachelor programs, master’s degrees in 70 different fields, 3 doctoral degrees, and 24 teaching credentials.

The Challenge

The marketing department at CSUN has long-known that having an online presence is an increasingly important piece of the puzzle when it comes to reaching out to prospectives, filling out under-enrolled programs, and meeting outreach and awareness-raising goals.

They needed to figure out whether to build out a wholly in-house marketing team or retain outside help. If they opted for an agency, how would they go about vetting out the right partner to meet their needs?

After a thorough interviewing process, CSUN
decided to measure HawkSEM against a digital marketing agency they’d worked with in the past to see which company could provide them with the best results.

The Solution

While CSUN’s past partner had more history with the university, HawkSEM didn’t waste any time ramping up as quickly as possible to get our campaigns up and running. In the beginning, we spent time understanding the personas, keywords, budgets, timelines, and constraints around each of their programs. From there, we layered on our best practices, like action-oriented ad copy.

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We committed the time and attention to cutting out all the segments and parts of their program that didn’t work, and keeping the ones that did.

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We continuously experimented on ad copy until we settled on a formula that worked.

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We opened up bidding to enhanced CPC when that became available, added a healthy list of negatives, applied negative locations, rolled out remarketing campaigns with new banners, and monitored everything regularly.

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We only made modifications when the data gave us the green light to do so — all changes were justified.

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The Results

During this trial period between HawkSEM and CSUN’s past agency, we were able to drive about 50% more leads on like-for-like programs, all at double the efficiency or half the CPA.

These results were achieved at the end of the 2-3 month trial period. We were in charge of a little under 10 programs that CSUN directly used as a basis of comparison against their legacy partner.

Today, CSUN has given us reins of their full digital marketing catalog. We continue to touch base regularly to coordinate the rollout of new programs and the closing of old ones.

Because their overall digital marketing plan involves a dynamic and constantly-changing number of programs with different budgets, timelines, goals, and nuances, working with CSUN is reminiscent of a complex team sport — and we relish the opportunity to work with such an esteemed institution.

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