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How to Vlookup with Wildcard in Google Sheets (With Examples)

VLOOKUP is a powerful function in Google Sheets that allows you to quickly find and return data from a table. It’s a great way to save time and automate tasks. 

Whether you’re a seasoned data enthusiast or a beginner taking your first steps into the realm of spreadsheets, mastering the VLOOKUP function is a game-changer. 

But what if we told you there’s a way to supercharge this function with wildcards, enabling you to reveal hidden data gems in your sheets?

In this article, we’ll embark on an exciting journey to unravel the secrets of VLOOKUP with wildcard in Google Sheets, helping you become a data wizard. By the end, you’ll have a powerful skill in your arsenal that lets you uncover elusive data and save countless hours of manual searching. So, let’s dive in and discover how to wield this magic. 

Powerful Use Case/Scenario for using Vlookup with Wildcard in Google Sheet

Imagine you run a small online store specializing in unique handcrafted items. Your product catalog has grown significantly, and you’ve accumulated a vast list of customers and their various orders. As your store becomes more popular, you start receiving customer inquiries about certain products they’ve heard about but need help finding on your website.

One day, a customer asks about a mythical “Starry Mug” that was rumored to be available in your store. Unfortunately, the customer doesn’t have the exact product name or description, making it impossible to use a simple search. With hundreds of products in your catalog, manually sifting through the data seems daunting and time-consuming.

This is where VLOOKUP with wildcard in Google Sheets comes to your rescue. By employing this powerful technique, you can quickly find any product that contains the word “starry” in its name, description, or even a related tag. The wildcards will act as placeholders for unknown characters, allowing you to broaden your search and find the elusive “Starry Mug” amidst the sea of data.

Intrigued by the possibility of easily accessing such hidden gems, you decide to explore and master VLOOKUP with wildcard in Google Sheets. As you’ll soon discover, this technique opens up a world of opportunities in data management and empowers you to make more informed decisions for your business.

So, let’s embark on this data adventure together and unlock the potential of VLOOKUP with wildcard in Google Sheets. Prepare to be amazed as you unravel the secrets within your very own data and take your spreadsheet prowess to new heights. Let the quest begin.

Tip for using wildcards with Vlookup

Before we jump into the practical aspects of how to use Vlookup with wildcard in Google Sheets, here are some tips for using wildcards with Vlookup you should know: 

  • Make sure that your data is sorted in ascending order before using wildcards. This will help VLOOKUP to find the correct match more quickly.
  • If you’re using multiple wildcards in your search string, enclose the entire string in quotation marks. This will help Google Sheets to interpret the wildcards correctly.
  • If you’re not sure if a particular character is a wildcard, you can use the tilde (~) character to escape it. This will tell Google Sheets to treat the character as a literal character, not a wildcard.

Vlookup with wildcard in Google Sheets: Practical examples

Having provided you with some background on Vlookup with wildcard in Google Sheets and highlighted an excellent scenario for deploying this powerful Google Sheets function, it’s time we go over some practical examples to show you how to perform Vlookup with wildcard in Google Sheets. 

Whether this is your first time attempting to Vlookup with wildcard in Google Sheets or something you have done before, the examples we will cover in this section will give you a comprehensive overview of how to execute Vlookup with wildcard in Google Sheets. 

Let’s get started, shall we?

Using wildcard with Vlookup to find a partial match 

Imagine a scenario where you need to leverage Vlookup to find a value that isn’t an exact match in the source table. Sounds daunting right? Well, not anymore. By leveraging wildcards with Vlookup, you’ll be able to find a partial match almost seamlessly. 

Let’s look at this unique example together so you get the bigger picture of how this works. 

Let’s say you have the sample data below featuring several URLs, and you are tasked with finding the URL featuring the name Twitter from the list: 

If you look closely at the table above, you’ll see that none of the website addresses listed exactly match the name ‘Twitter.’ However, if you look again, you’ll find that a part of the name ‘Twitter’ appears in cell A11.

Now, when we use the Vlookup function to find this partial match, we call it a ‘partial lookup.’ It’s a handy way to search for information similar to what you’re looking for, even if it’s not an exact match. Let’s see how this partial lookup works.

Let’s quickly see how to Vlookup with wildcard in Google Sheets to make a partial lookup for our sample data. 

Step 1: Choose the cell where you want the lookup result

Before we delve further, we must choose the cell where we want our lookup result generated. For this example, we will use cell D2, so go ahead and select that cell. 

Step 2: Enter the Vlookup formula 

Having selected a cell where we want our lookup result generated, we need to now enter our Vlookup formula. So head over to the formula bar and type in the following formula: 


Step 3: Hit Enter 

Now that we’ve entered the Vlookup formula correctly, as described in the following steps, the only thing left to do is press the Enter button on our keyboard. When we do this, Google Sheets will use the formula to calculate and show us the result in the cell we selected.

If you followed each step we demonstrated, your spreadsheet should now look something like this:”

In the image above, we used Vlookup with wildcard in Google Sheets to find the value for ‘Twitter.’ Now, we want to do the same thing for ‘Facebook,’ ‘Instagram,’ and ‘Reddit.’

But instead of doing the whole process for each lookup value one by one, we can use a clever trick. Google Sheets has an ‘auto-fill’ option that can do the hard work for us.

With auto-fill, we can quickly generate the results for ‘Facebook,’ ‘Instagram,’ and ‘Reddit’ without doing each lookup separately.

Check out the video below to see how it’s done and get a better understanding of this time-saving technique:

After using the Google Sheets auto-fill feature, you will now have a list of all the website addresses (URLs) from the original table containing each lookup value you were searching for.

Explaining the Vlookup with wildcard in Google Sheets formula

In the example above, we showed you how to use Vlookup with wildcard in Google Sheets. Now, let’s explain the formula we used to get the lookup result. Understanding this formula will help you confidently handle similar examples in the future without any doubts.

Usually, you might be familiar with the regular Vlookup formula like this:


But in our example, we introduced wildcards to make the search more flexible. Here’s how we did it:


What we did was simple: We added an asterisk (*) before and after the cell reference C2. This clever use of wildcards tells the VLOOKUP function to search for any text in the source table that contains the word in cell C2, even if there are some characters before or after it.

So, the formula now searches for a match in the table, and when it finds one, it returns the full website address (URL) that corresponds to the word you’re looking for.

This trick with wildcards makes your Vlookup more powerful and flexible, allowing you to find matches even when the text varies slightly. It’s a handy tool to have in your spreadsheet toolkit.

Vlookup with wildcard in Google Sheets: Example 2

We’ve already explored one example of using Vlookup with a wildcard in Google Sheets, but we understand that sometimes one example may not be enough to fully grasp the concept. So, let’s look at another example together!

By going through this new example step by step, we believe you’ll gain a better and more complete understanding of how to use Vlookup with a wildcard in Google Sheets.

Exploring different examples helps solidify your knowledge, and by the end of this exercise, you’ll feel more confident in applying this powerful technique to your own spreadsheets. Let’s dive into the next example and unlock even more secrets of Vlookup with wildcards in Google Sheets. 

Here is the sample data we will use for our second example: 

Imagine we have a table like the one above, showing information about employees. Now, we have a partial name, ‘Jen,’ and we want to find and retrieve all the information about the employee whose names contain ‘Jen.’

To do this, we’ll use a standard Vlookup with a special character called a ‘wildcard asterisk,’ which looks like this: ‘*.’

Here’s how you can find and retrieve the information you need:

Step 1: Update the spreadsheet to reflect the lookup value

The first thing we want to do is update our spreadsheet to feature our lookup value. This is pretty straightforward. 

Step 2: Choose a cell where you want the lookup value generated

Having updated our spreadsheet to reflect our Match criteria and lookup value, we need to choose a cell where we want our lookup value generated. For this example, we will use cell F6. 

Step 3: Enter the Vlookup formula 

Now that we know where we want to see our lookup result, it’s time to enter the Vlookup formula. Don’t worry; we’ll guide you through it step by step!

For this example, we’ll use the following formula:


Here’s how you do it:

  • Click on the cell where you want the lookup result to appear.
  • Look at the top of the window; there’s a long white bar called the ‘formula bar.’ Click on it.
  • In the formula bar, carefully type in the formula exactly as shown: 


Step 4: Hit Enter

Having typed in your Vlookup formula, you want to double-check and see if you entered the formula correctly. When you’re sure, press the Enter key on your keyboard. 

The Vlookup formula you just entered will do its magic. It will search for the partial value in cell F2 (which we added an asterisk to using ‘&”*”‘) in the table from cells A1 to C11. When it finds a match, it will show the corresponding value from the second column.

Here is what our spreadsheet now looks like after our lookup value was generated. 

To generate the lookup value for the last name, we only need to make slight changes to the formula we used earlier. 

Here is the appropriate formula we will use to lookup value for the last name: 


To apply this formula, click on cell F7, head to the formula bar and type the above formula: 

After applying our formula, we should have something like this: 

That wasn’t too difficult, was it?

Now, let’s generate the lookup value for the email address. We will use a slight variation of our earlier formula. 


To apply this formula, select cell F8, where we want to generate our lookup result. With that done, head to the formula bar and enter the above formula. 

With our formula now locked in, hit Enter on your keyboard to generate the result. If you did everything exactly as we showed you, you should have something like this: 

Now, that’s how to Vlookup with wildcard in Google Sheets. 

Final Thoughts 

To wrap things up, we’ve embarked on an exciting journey to uncover the wonders of Vlookup with wildcards in Google Sheets. Through two illustrative examples, we’ve learned how to use this powerful function to find and retrieve data based on partial matches, saving us valuable time and effort. By flanking our lookup value with the wildcard asterisk (*) character, we’ve expanded our search horizons and discovered hidden data gems within our spreadsheets.

The first example introduced us to the concept of Vlookup with wildcard in Google Sheets, where we found elusive product URLs by searching for partial names like “Twitter” in a product catalog. This technique empowered us to effortlessly discover products even when the exact names were not known.

In the second example, we expanded our understanding by using Vlookup with wildcards to retrieve employee information based on partial names like “Jen.” This versatile approach allowed us to quickly gather data related to employees whose names contained the specified partial text, proving invaluable in larger datasets.

With this newfound skill, you’re now equipped to unleash the full potential of Vlookup with wildcards in your own Google Sheets adventures. Whether it’s analyzing vast product catalogs, managing employee records, or exploring any dataset with partial information, Vlookup with wildcards stands ready to be your data wizardry tool.

Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t hesitate to experiment with different scenarios and data sets. The more you explore and utilize Vlookup with wildcards, the more confident and efficient you’ll become in harnessing the full potential of Google Sheets. Embrace the power of Vlookup with wildcards and let your spreadsheet prowess soar to new heights.