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Avoid 7 Vlookup

FREE

Mistakes every

Excel® User is Prone

to Commit
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By John Franco
Excel-Spreadsheet-Authors.com
Avoid 7 Vlookup Mistakes© FREE

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Avoid 7 Vlookup Mistakes© FREE

Mistake #1. Writing the Vlookup Formula before


Getting the Backend Table Array Ready

If you are like most users that focus only on writing the Vlookup and
wait the answer to be pulled and be presented to you, big mistake.

You may sometimes have the results done, other times you will
struggle until desperation.

For example, the following Vlookup formula is correct:


=VLOOKUP(A2,Haystack!$A$2:$E$12,5,0)

Just to remember the syntax:


VLOOKUP(lookup_value,table_array,col_index_num,range_lookup)

But it still returns an unwanted #N/A.

Any change made to the formula will continually retrieve an error.

You need to change your frontend-only mindset. There are so


many things to check at the lookup list first, let’s see…

Is the index column you are looking the left one?


Is the index column free of duplicates?
Is the index column entries free of leading, trailing spaces?
Is the index column sorted ascending (for approximate match)
And other checks…

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Avoid 7 Vlookup Mistakes© FREE

Mistake #2. Setting a lookup_value that refer to a


non-left index column

It is very common that you set your Vlookup to query unintentionally


another field (a field that is not located to the left)

For example: you are searching Product Codes but your table array
has the Product Price as the leftmost column.

The worst part with Vlookup is that a table array with Product
Price column at the left is only valid to search the Product
Price column.

Query other field by moving the index column to the leftmost side of
your table array before writing the Vlookup formula.

If you are bored to move the given column to the left each time you
search a different field, you should use the INDEX and MATCH
formula.

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Avoid 7 Vlookup Mistakes© FREE

Mistake #3. Forgetting to Assign Absolute Reference


($) to the table_array Argument before Copying the
Formula

As many formulas, Vlookup is also copied and pasted down.

For example, the following Vlookup formula is correct:

=VLOOKUP(A2,haystack!A2:E12,5,0)

After being copied and pasted down once, you have now this one…

=VLOOKUP(A3,haystack!A3:E13,5,0)

The above formula is apparently correct but…

What is wrong?

The table_array went from A2:E12 to A3:E12

This may appear so simple but it is something overlooked.

Avoid it by just selecting the table_array argument and press F4 to


set the absolute reference.

Once the formula is absolute referenced like this one:


=VLOOKUP(A2,Haystack!$A$2:$E$12,5,0) you can then go on.

Believe me that detecting an error in the formula:


=VLOOKUP(A3,haystack!A3:E13,5,0) is not as easy as appear to be.

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Avoid 7 Vlookup Mistakes© FREE

Mistake #4. Forgetting to Set the Argument


range_lookup to 0 for the Exact Match VLOOKUP

Many users overlooked the importance of setting the correct


range_lookup parameter.

Just to remember:

range_lookup=0 means that Vlookup will search the exact match


only

range_lookup=1 means that Vlookup will search the exact or


approximate match

Here is the missing part, if you omit range_lookup, Excel interprets it


as 1.

The worst part occurs when you assume the approximate-


returned-value is the exact match. Big mistake.

This is easily overlooked. Just to illustrate the point, let me ask you a
question: did you notice it in the following formula?
=VLOOKUP(A3,haystack!$A$3:$E$13,5)

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Mistake #5. Entering the lookup_value Incorrectly

Well, you have all things set correct.

But…

You don’t have the guidelines to enter Text, Dates or numbers in the
lookup_value.

Don’t worry…

Here are clear guidelines:

Enter the number with all the decimals, for example:


=VLOOKUP(1.23,arguments) may return #N/A because the
number in table_array is 1.225. Excel works with all the decimals
behind the scenes
Don't quote numbers, for example
=VLOOKUP("1.23",arguments)
Quote texts, for example =VLOOKUP("Susan",arguments). Excel
interprets strings without quotes as named ranges
Hard code dates properly, do it this way:
o Use a number that represents a date serial number
=VLOOKUP(40091, …)
o Use DATEVALUE function this way:
=VLOOKUP(DATEVALUE("10/5/2009"), …)
o Use DATE function this way:
=VLOOKUP(DATE(2009,10,5),H5:I7,2,0),...)

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Mistake #6. Swearing Vlookup is the Solution to All


your Lookup Reports Assignments

Many users discover the power of Vlookup and fall in love too fast
with it.

In fact, Vlookup formula is a big deal but has its shortcomings.

Don’t waste your time trying to get more from the inappropriate
formula.

Here are the Vlookup Exact Match limitations listed:

VLOOKUP 0 searches on a left index column. Why left? Databases


tables have the key column on the left so I assume they consider
this in the design. (INDEX and MATCH allow you to set the index
column)
VLOOKUP 0 does not retrieve the location of the found value in
terms or row, column or cell reference. This data is crucial in some
applications, for example: when you want to use adjacent data or
take decisions about what to do next according to the location of
the value. The function MATCH retrieves the row number of the
value found
VLOOKUP 0 only retrieves the first occurrence. This is especially
dangerous when you use wildcards or when you have duplicates
with wrong attributes
VLOOKUP 0 searches based on single criteria only. Well, there are
workarounds to overcome this: Helper columns, Array Formulas
and SUMPRODUCT

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Mistake #7. Trying to Fix the Error at the Frontend


when the Cause is at the Backend and vice versa

The worst part of fixing errors in a Vlookup formula is being


disoriented.

Getting a #N/A and not knowing where to start is really


frustrating.

I have abandoned spreadsheets due to my incapacity to detect the


source of a given error. If you are using Vlookup constantly, this may
have happened to you too.

If so…

This is easily overcome. You must write the formula just after all the
variables that produce errors are correctly set.

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What Readers Say about Excel-Spreadsheet-

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Excel Resources
Forums

http://www.mrexcel.com/forum/index.php

http://www.excelforum.com

http://www.eng-tips.com/

http://www.allexperts.com/el/Excel/

http://www.tek-tips.com/

Articles, Blogs, Tips and more

http://www.mrexcel.com/

http://www.chandoo.org/wp/

http://www.blog.contextures.com/

http://www.blogs.msdn.com/

www.cpearson.com/

www.contextures.com/

http://www.spreadsheetpage.com/

http://www.exceluser.com/

http://www.mvps.org/links.html#Excel

http://www.ozgrid.com/

http://www.exceltip.com/

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About John
John Franco is native of Ecuador, he is a Civil
Engineer and a bachelor in Applied Linguistics with
focus on creating systems for work, his long term
objective in life is helping others to put their ideas into
the world.

His first entrepreneurial initiative is the web site


http://www.excel-spreadsheet-authors.com/; which is dedicated to
mid/advanced Excel users so they can polish their skills to reach
higher productivity and clarity.

He quitted his job after having worked 7 years for Norberto


Odebrecht Construction Company (ranked among the World’s Top 50
Largest Construction Contracting Firms according to Engineering News
Record 2008).

Email him at: john.francofarias@gmail.com

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