There are a number of very good reasons why Search Marketing is practically made for inbound marketing. For a start, search starts with the user's own interests. They are the ones that create the search query. However marketers still get to create the destinations.
Inbound marketing works when those doing it provide the users with something they want that also helps the business to accomplish its aims. Like a band posting footage from a concert to help sell a new album or an author who runs a blog that keeps her in touch with her fans. This activity builds the community around the brand, creates interest in the bands music or the author's work. It gives the biggest fans something to share with their friends online and off. It also creates interest and content.
Pull Marketing and Search
A lot of the work that goes into creating a general inbound marketing and content strategy are also relevant to search marketing, both paid and organic. To get the most from inbound marketing it is important to know your market. What they want to know, what information is available to them already, how they find it and what actions they are likely to take while interacting with your material. And many of these points also matter in search.
Search is very much a pull marketing channel. Even paid search only matters if the user was searching on those keywords. Search marketing relies on being where your users go with the right information for them at that point in the sales cycle. An inclusive search strategy that considers the full process from research and consideration through to final purchase and maintaining the relationship with the customer fits perfectly with most general inbound strategies with similar aims.
Linking it Together
Search is a valuable part of inbound marketing, and in many ways applying inbound marketing concepts to search can be equally useful.
Search marketing works by being where your customers are, at a point where you can influence their decision. Be it through paid or organic, an ideal strategy will get a link to an appropriate resource supported by effective messaging in front of a potential customer. There are a number of different models that can be used to determine searcher intent from the general yet essential Informational/Navigational/Transactional model to a researched, detailed, product vertical specific one.
Content Inventory and Conversion
It is important to have content that is useful for the customer, if it is great enough to share is better. Connecting the user to the page with the best call-to-action matters, you would not want to send general product description informational traffic straight to a credit card payment form. It would also be a waste to rank for a specific product model and price query based on an excerpt on a list page.
Would you be trying to work with that site if there was no SEO benefit? If the answer is no, maybe you shouldn't. Especially with <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpbCKWu0I0A" target="_blank">"Guest Blogging" at scale</a> in danger of becoming the new black in webspam. Getting content, links and citations should do more than potentially help your SEO. It can get your content to rank for keywords your site can't yet, allow you to reach a new community and even just drive referrer traffic.
Inbound Search Marketing
Search is very much about pull marketing. Ideally the user should only ever come across content, even the paid ads, relevant to their query. As such it should be easy to integrate with an inbound marketing strategy, especially as search engines like Google continue to make it harder to influence the results through easily automated or scaleable means. In this environment aligning search with inbound marketing supports both strategies. Activities that build community and drive social sharing support search engine marketing as much as making sure the right content can be found by the right people will help to drive your inbound activity.