Bazaarvoice Spotlights boosts organic search rankings and traffic to Academy Sports + Outdoors’ category pages

Company profile

Sports, outdoor and lifestyle retailer

Bazaarvoice Solution

Bazaarvoice Spotlights
Bazaarvoice Conversations

Client since


About Academy Sports + Outdoors

Academy Sports + Outdoors is a $4.6 billion company with 200+ US stores offering a unique assortment of quality hunting, fishing and camping equipment and gear, sports and leisure products, and much more. The company’s philosophy is to deliver an unparalleled shopping experience by providing convenience, offering a broad selection of quality products, delivering exceptional customer service and selling the right stuff at everyday low prices.

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Academy attracts new online shoppers using Bazaarvoice Spotlights to display compelling, keyword-rich content from customer product reviews on key category pages to improve SEO.

Solution at a glance


Drive organic search traffic to attract shoppers who are new to Academy.


Use Bazaarvoice Spotlights to place SEO-friendly customer review content on category pages.


Improve SEO and influence conversion with compelling, keyword-rich content from customer reviews.

If you’ve ever shopped at Academy Sports + Outdoors, you know about the huge variety of quality products they carry in stores and online. There’s something for everyone - from first-time campers, to lifelong hunters and anglers, to students hunting for just-right back-to-school backpacks and sneakers.

But what about shoppers who don’t already have Academy top-of-mind and instead rely on broad searches? What’s going to lead them to this wonderland of gear, apparel, and equipment when they go online to start their shopping journey?

The answer is other customers – through the reviews they write about the products Academy carries. Academy uses those reviews to drive search with Bazaarvoice Spotlights, an SEO-focused solution that adds more of the type of content that search engines favor on category pages.

Providing a scalable way to add compelling content to category pages

With so many different kinds of products represented at Academy, scalability is absolutely essential to successfully optimize product category pages, according to Academy SEO Manager Napo Ghonda.

“The challenge has always been how to generate a good amount of content for these pages without having to write it all ourselves,” says Ghonda. “Before Spotlights, we were optimizing category pages by touching each individual page and writing content for it.”

Now, the customers are the ones creating the content, in the form of product reviews that Spotlights places on Academy’s top category pages. It’s a very effective and scalable way to provide the fresh, keyword-rich content that can bring in a high volume of traffic for category-related keywords like “best camping gear” or “affordable gas grills.”

Replacing “merchant speak” with the authentic voice of the customer

Not only does Spotlights provide a scalable way to add SEO-friendly content to pages, it also replaces what Ghonda calls “merchant speak” with customer-centric search phrases that have credibility for shoppers.

“When the customer writes ‘this is the best bike,’ that carries a lot more weight than when we write it,” says Ghonda.

An additional benefit of having customers do the talking about products comes in vendor relations. Given the vast selection of products at Academy, the company has to be sensitive to any perception that it may be promoting one brand at the expense of another.

“If we as a company say a particular product is really great or the best, another brand with a similar product is going to say, ‘why aren’t you talking about us that way?” says Ghonda. “But if a customer says it, we don’t have that problem.”

Demonstrating success: Impact of Spotlights on search results

Academy used A/B testing to measure the impact of using Spotlights for its category pages. For the test period, Spotlights was deployed on 96 category-level pages within the domain. To measure the impact of Spotlights, Academy and Bazaarvoice agreed to track SERP (search engine results page) rank for 1,215 high-value keywords. When Spotlights was removed from category pages, the search rank for 663 of the tracked keywords fell an average of 2.8 positions in Google search results.

The loss of rank for these words resulted in a loss of 2,676 users per day to these pages, and an estimated annual loss of 976,740 users per year. Academy indicated that the month in which the experiment was performed represented an average month for the brand.

Extrapolating from that, the company concluded that the effective Cost Per Click (eCPC) is about one-seventh that of the paid search program. And the total Spotlights program cost is less than 1% of Academy’s annual PPC program.

Using Spotlights to convert shoppers to customers

As much as Academy welcomes the SEO benefit of Spotlights, that’s just the beginning of the positive impact the company is experiencing.

“On top of the SEO benefit, it’s helping with conversion,” says Ghonda. “We’ve seen through our tracking that people are actually interacting with Spotlights and then purchasing.”

“At the end of the day, it’s a business, so it’s not just about the SEO benefit,” says Ghonda. “We need to be sure we’re making money.”

Getting fresh, relevant content on the pages that users are searching for most is the first step in attracting new customers and, ultimately, more revenue. It’s also an all-too-familiar challenge for many retailer SEO teams. Academy’s experience with Spotlights is a great example of how a retailer can innovate from a strong base of consumer-generated content to conquer that challenge.

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