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## VLOOKUP – 3 Proven Secrets to Advance Your Lookup Formulas

Here’s how you can produce high-quality VLOOKUP formulas:

Of course, I’m assuming your backend list is clean and ready to pull.

What does it mean?

- Your index column is free of duplicates, leading and trailing spaces, misspellings, etc.
- Your index column is the leftmost in your backend list.
- The format of the left column is correct: numbers are not stored as text, dates are stored as ordinal dates.
- The index field is sorted in ascending order for approximate matching VLOOKUP.

Once you have your backend list ready, you can apply one of these techniques to create more professional VLOOKUP formulas…

**1) Limit the entry possibilities in the lookup cell**

Many times your NA error is the result of a misspelling. For example, you typed “Susan W” but your index column contains “Susan Wilson”.

Limit user entry possibilities with data validation lists. You can do this using the Excel Data Validation command.

Once you trigger this command… Go to Settings-Allowlist-Sources

Select the source as an entire index column. Each entry will be displayed in a lookup cell from which you can choose a value. For example: “Susan Wilson”, “Thomas Grady”…

**2) Increase the sense of confidence in the result by showing the message instead of the NA error**

Increase the sense of trust in the results by showing messages with meaning, for example: “Item not found”, “Missing entry”, etc.

Apply one of these solutions:

- Embed your formula in an IF function. For example: =IF(ISNA(VLOOKUP(),”value not found”,VLOOKUP()).
- Use the IFERROR function (Excel 2007). For example =IFERROR(VLOOKUP(), “value not found”). This solution is faster because Excel evaluates VLOOKUP once.

**3) Avoid VLOOKUP crashes due to **** Removed or moved ****backend-****column**

Use the formula to refer to the col_index_num argument. If you move, delete, truncate columns in a lookup array; Avoid easy VLOOKUP mishaps by doing this…

- Do not hard code the column number.
- In the backend create a row above the field headers, then number each column with the formula =COLUMN()-number of left columns.
- Now you can refer the col_index_num argument to the corresponding cell containing the column number.

If someone inserts a new column in the table, VLOOKUP still links to the correct column, and if someone inadvertently deletes it, you’ll know about it immediately because your VLOOKUP no longer works (#REF!).

**conclusion**

**VLOOKUP is easy to implement but difficult to rely on.** Furthermore, it is not easy to spot areas for improvement once you understand the basics. The above tips will help you improve your formulas and take them further.

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