CSUN Case Study




Fill all seats for various educational programs


Product – the finest higher education programs

Strategy – reach the right students


Dramatically Increased Enrollment

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 in 1958, nearly 60 years ago. With a total student enrollment of 40,000, it is one of the largest universities in the State of California and offers a variety of programs including 134 bachelor programs, master’s degrees in 70 different fields, 3 doctoral degrees, and 24 teaching credentials.


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

The problem was more about figuring out whether to build out a wholly in-house team, or retaining outside help. And if the latter, how would they go about vetting out the right partner to meet their needs?

They finally decided on a partnered approach. After a thorough interviewing process, CSUN finally
decided to pit HawkSEM against a digital marketing agency with which they’ve had quite a
bit of history, and make the ultimate selection based on results and merit alone.


While CSUN’s old partner had a lot more history with the needs, programs, and nuances of the university, HawkSEM did not waste any time ramping up as quickly as we could to get our own campaigns up and running. Towards the beginning, we spent a good amount of time understanding the personas, relevant and high-intent keywords, and the budgets, timelines, and constraints around each of their programs. From there we layered on our best practices like cogent, action-oriented ad copy.

The solution was really no secret, we actually committed the time and attention to cutting out all the segments and parts that didn’t work, and kept the ones that did work.


We experimented on ad copy exhaustively until we settled on a formula that worked, and worked well.


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


We only made modifications when the data gave us the green light to do so; we would never make a change if such a change wasn’t justified. You can call us old-fashioned or boring, but our approach worked wonders.



During the comparison period between HawkSEM and the competing, legacy agency, we were able to drive about 50% more leads on like-for-like programs and at double the efficiency or half the CPA.

These results manifested itself 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. We blew them away on most major metrics.

Today, the legacy agency is out of the picture, and CSUN has given us reins of their full digital marketing catalogue. We continue to touch base over the phone on a weekly basis to coordinate the rollout of new programs and the closing of old programs.

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


Increased year-over-year SEM revenue


Reduced CPA


Almost doubled conversion rate


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