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## VLOOKUP – 10 Handy Steps to Escape From a Typical Error Trap

The VLOOKUP function is generally considered to be a problematic formula. Why does this happen?

Let’s recreate a typical case…

- The backend list is in place.
- You have an index column to search on, for example: “product code”.
- You write a VLOOKUP formula in less than a minute: you enter the lookup_value, you select the data set, you set the column number to retrieve and the fourth parameter (exact or approximate match).
- All the problems start when you press enter; The lookup value is supposed to be in the backend, but you get a NA error. Your frustration increases when no amount of change fixes the error.

Then, you are out of ideas and bored.

**Escape the NA Error Trap in 10 Steps… **

- Check that the index column is on the leftmost side of your lookup table.
- Check that there are no leading and trailing spaces in the left column.
- Check that there are no misspellings in the left column (pay attention to this when searching for texts).
- Check that the index column’s data is the same as the lookup_value argument. For example, if you are searching for numbers, the left column should not contain numbers stored as text.
- Check that the left column is sorted in ascending order when you perform the approximate match VLOOKUP.
- Check that the formula is well written; All arguments must be complete. Remember to set the fourth argument to 0 for an exact match formula.
- Check whether lookup_value is referenced correctly or lookup_value is properly hard coded.
- Notice that lookup_value refers to the left column of the table array. For example: your lookup_value points to the “product name” column but your left index column field is “product code”.
- Check that the table_array argument refers to the correct data set. Check this when you insert columns into the backend list or to confirm that the table_array range is entered correctly.
**If you still receive the NA message; The backend index column does not include****search value.**

The most important way to escape the VLOOKUP trap is to make your index column a high priority quality control point. Don’t make the mistake of looking for an index column that is completely messy. You will have problems again and again.

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