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Why Google Sheets Vlookup Not Working (Fix Errors With Examples)

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced user of Google Sheets, you’ve probably encountered formula parse errors at some point. These errors are quite common, even for seasoned users, especially when dealing with complex formulas.

Imagine you’re working on a project where you need to use the VLOOKUP function in Google Sheets. However, there are times when this function doesn’t work as expected and returns an error instead.

Now, you may be wondering why Google Sheets VLOOKUP not working. Well, there can be several reasons for this issue. In this guide, we’ll explain why VLOOKUP may not be working in 

Google Sheets and provide some solutions to help you fix it.

But before we go over why Google Sheets VLOOKUP not working, let’s look at a unique scenario to broaden your understanding. 

Scenario/use case of Google Sheets VLOOKUP Not Working

Picture this: Imagine you’re a beginner who recently started using Google Sheets for a personal budgeting project. You’ve learned about the VLOOKUP function, which can help you retrieve specific information from a large expenses table. However, as you start implementing the VLOOKUP formulas, you notice it’s not producing the expected results. Instead, it’s giving you an error message or returning the wrong value.

Now, you’re curious to understand why the VLOOKUP function in Google Sheets is not working as it should. 

In this guide, we’ll provide you with insights into the reasons behind VLOOKUP issues in Google Sheets. Additionally, we’ll offer solutions to help you fix the problem and achieve the desired outcomes.

Let’s begin our exploration into the reasons why your VLOOKUP function in Google Sheets may not be working and discover effective solutions to resolve the issue

Read Also: Reasons Why Excel Vlookup is not Working

Reasons why Google Sheets VLOOKUP Not Working

There are several reasons why Google Sheets VLOOKUP not working as expected. Read on as we have put together some common causes. Here, check them out. 

  • Incorrect range or search key: The reason why you can’t get the VLOOKUP function to work can be because of an incorrect range or search key. To fix this, you must ensure that the range you’re searching for and the search key match the data you’re trying to find. 

To put things simply, ensure the range is correct and include the search key column. 

  • Exact match requirement: By default, Google Sheets typically requires you to provide an exact match for the search key. So in a situation where you have slight variations or formatting differences, the VLOOKUP function may not find an exact match. 

If you ever encounter such issues, you might want to use wildcard characters or data cleaning to ensure a match. 

  • Different data types: Typically, the search key and the values in the search range should have the same data. In a situation where they are different, you might not be able to get the VLOOKUP function to work.

If your search key is a number, you must ensure the search range values are also numbers. That makes sense, right? 

  • Sorting issues: VLOOKUP typically requires the search range to be sorted in ascending order based on the search key column. In a situation where the data isn’t properly sorted, the VLOOKUP function will return an error. 
  • Hidden or filtered data: If you’re working with a data set where the search range includes hidden or filtered data, the VLOOKUP function may have difficulty accessing the complete range. This would either result in incorrect or missing results. 

You must ensure your data is visible and not filtered to fix the issue. 

These are just a few reasons why Google Sheets VLOOKUP not working. 

Now that you know why your Google Sheets VLOOKUP is not working, let’s give you some practical examples of how to resolve it. 

What we are going to do here is add the reason why Google Sheets VLOOKUP not working and show you a practical example. 

You Need an Exact Match

The last argument in a VLOOKUP function, known as range-lookup, allows users to determine whether they would want an appropriate or an exact match. 

In most cases, when you are looking for a specific product, order, customer details or employee information, you’ll need to perform an exact match. And should that be the case, you should use False for the range-lookup argument. 

While the argument is optional, Google Sheets automatically uses the true argument if left empty. But here is where things get interesting: the True argument relies on your data being correctly sorted in ascending order. So if your data isn’t tweaked like that, you’ll most likely get a wrong value or an error. 

Let’s take a look at the sample below for better insight. 

Assuming our objective here is to find an exact match for product ID EV1097 against the corresponding product in column B, and we fail to use the correct VLOOKUP function, we will end up with an incorrect result. Here is what we mean: 

Let’s say we use the following VLOOKUP syntax: =VLOOKUP(G3, A2:E9,2), we will get the wrong result.

Here is what our spreadsheet looks like after applying the above VLOOKUP function: 

Here is how to fix the issue: 

Since we are interested in finding an exact match, we need to enter False in the last argument. To achieve that, we will update our earlier VLOOKUP function. Here is what it should look like: 

=VLOOKUP(G3, A2:E9, 2, False)

Now, let’s try to enter the above formula in our sample spreadsheet to see if anything changes: 

After entering our updated formula and hitting the Enter button on our keyboard, here is what our spreadsheet now looks like: 

The screenshot above shows how adding False to our formula generated the exact result we were looking for. Whenever you’re looking for an exact match, it’s best to always add the False value to your formula. 

Resolving #Value Error when using the VLOOKUP function

When using the VLOOKUP function, it’s not uncommon to get a #Value error after applying your formula. When this happens, it shows that you used an incorrect argument. 

But don’t just take our word for it. Let’s look at some practical examples so you get the big picture. 

For this example, we will use the following sample data. 

Let’s say we want to look up Naomi’s points and fail to apply the correct argument, we will get a value error message. 

Here is how things would play out if we used the wrong argument for or VLOOKUP function: 

=vlookup(A1:B6, D4,2,0)

After applying the above VLOOKUP function, here is the result we got: 

Here is why we got the #Value error message. We used an incorrect VLOOKUP syntax. To get the right result, we must ensure our search_key comes first. 

Having established that fact, here is the right VLOOKUP syntax we should have used

=VLOOKUP(D4, A1:B6,2,0)

Now, here is what our spreadsheet looks like after applying the correct Vlookup Syntax: 

From the screenshot above, you can clearly see how using the correct VLOOKUP syntax allowed us to prevent getting any type of error message. 

If you’re working with Google Sheets and encounter any type of error message, always double-check your formula to see if you’re using the correct syntax or included the correct arguments. 

Final thoughts

In conclusion, encountering errors with the VLOOKUP function in Google Sheets is common, even for experienced users. However, understanding the reasons behind these errors and implementing the appropriate solutions can help you overcome them effectively.

In today’s guide, we showed you a couple of reasons why Google Sheets VLOOKUP not working. We didn’t just stop there; we took things up a notch by showing you how to fix some of these issues. 

If you ever encounter any issues when applying the VLOOKUP function, please endeavor to find out what type of error you’re getting and apply some of the solutions detailed in today’s guide to resolve the problem. 

Frequently asked questions: Why is Google Sheets VLOOKUP Not Working

Why am I getting a #Value error?

Is Google Sheets VLOOKUP not working for you after applying your syntax? If you get a value error after applying your VLOOKUP syntax, it might be because you used an incorrect syntax. If that’s the case, take some time to double-check your formula and fix what could be wrong. 

Why do I keep getting incorrect results?

The VLOOKUP function is pretty sensitive. When performing an exact match, you need to ensure that you include False. Failure to do so will return an incorrect result in some instances.