Usability testing involves evaluating a user's performance on your site and making modifications to improve that site performance. This is not the same as asking a user if they liked your site, or even if they found your site easy to use. Usability testing requires the careful development of a list of tasks for a small group of volunteers, matching your target audience to perform on your site. At the same time, you observe and take notes and timings. Trends in performance issues can be observed in only five to eight sessions. Contact the Web Manager if you would like help designing and conducting usability testing on your site.
So what, you ask, does this have to do with search engine optimization?
Usability testing helps you improve your site performance, which in turn produces a more positive user experience. Users like well-designed sites. They come back to them. They bookmark them. They share them. The link to them. As noted elsewhere in this SEO guide, search engines equate site popularity with importance, which they use in ranking search results for display. Therefore, indirectly, efforts such as usability testing benefit search engine optimization.