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Why Address Validation isn’t a Substitution for Address Matching

by Placekey

If you’re currently using address matching and address validation as synonyms, you’re likely missing out on an additional tool that you could be leveraging for more accurate location and address data. Each performs a different function, but they are often used together to find and combine accurate address data.

Still, it’s important to understand why address validation is not a substitute for address matching and universal identifiers for physical locations. From there, you can learn how to combine these solutions for improved location accuracy and more location information in one place, which can help you leverage deeper insights from your data.

We’ll cover two key points to explain the difference:

  • Address matching vs address validation: what’s the difference?
  • 4 reasons why address validation isn’t a substitute for address matching

First, we’ll cover the difference between the two, and define each clearly. Then we’ll show you when to use each so you know how to leverage this information for significant impact, and finish by explaining why address validation isn’t the same as address matching.

Address matching vs address validation: what’s the difference?

The difference between address validation and address matching is that the former involves verifying an address exists in a database and the latter involves assigning an address in a database a physical location in the real world. Address matching is often improperly used as a synonym for address validation.

As you can see from the definitions below, they are actually two separate processes:

  • Address matching (or geocoding) is the process of assigning location coordinates to an address in a database. The output is a pinpoint on a map representing the location of an address in a database along with all address information.
  • Address validation (or address verification) is the process of checking that an address exists within an official, authoritative database. The output is an indication of whether the address you input is valid based on the authoritative database (USPS in the US).

In the United States, the authoritative database for address verification is the United States Postal Services (USPS), but there are international standards as well. In the US, all address verification services must have CASS Certification, which must be renewed annually, and which provides updated address information to ensure accuracy and consistency.

Address matching essentially allows you to pair real-world location data with address data, to ensure accuracy and combine information for greater insights. Unlike address validation, address matching allows you to combine different types of information so you can draw more significant and detailed insights quickly. It also allows you to pair address data (which is mostly text information) with real-world location data - to the point of being able to pinpoint a specific location.

While address validation often leads to address standardization, these are also not synonymous. Address standardization, unlike address verification, involves correcting addresses to a standard format to ensure proper use.

Address matching is used when…

Just to remind you, address matching (or geocoding) is the process of assigning a map coordinate location to an address in a database. These are the common use cases of address matching, from most basic to more specific, though there are more applications specific to your industry that you could build out from the list below:

  • You want to match a physical location with an address in a database - In its most simple use case, address matching allows you to pair a geographic, real-world location on a map with an address in a database, linking information in both places.
  • You want to lookup or reverse lookup address and location data - You either have an address and want location data (pinpoint on a map), or you have location data (latitude and longitude), and want corresponding address information. 
  • You want to analyze combined information - After pairing these two information types, you can easily assess both sets of information together, drawing deeper insights.
  • You want very accurate location data associated with your addresses - Geocoding ensures that your physical location data is extremely accurate, as you’ve pinpointed address information to a very specific location.
  • You want to analyze a number of locations based on area - After geocoding addresses, you can trust that your data is more accurate, allowing you to more confidently draw quality insights from your data analysis.
  • You want to plot a network of locations to analyze customer behavior - In some cases, you will want to geocode addresses that matter to you most so that they are accurate and reliable. You can then plot a network of locations that allow you to gain greater insights and customer engagement data.
  • You want to develop routes based on locations in an area - Plot locations using address matching, allowing you to build service areas and routes. This can be used by a school board to determine the best bus routes by accurately plotting students that require the service, or determine the best service routes for garbage collection so you can define work zones.
  • You want to map or lookup landmarks that do not have defined postal addresses - Landmarks do not always have addresses, and in some cases, they share their address with other POIs, such as business, other landmarks, and public resources. Geocoding can allow you to map landmarks, and then lookup and analyze this data in the future.
  • Data enrichment and data development - With combined data sets, you can enrich data by quickly cross-referencing resources. You can also combine data and update information in one location, making it easy to manage and analyze.

Address validation is used when…

To refresh, address validation (or address verification) is the process of verifying that an address exists within an official, authoritative database. Below, we outline common ways to use address validation. There are theoretically many use cases specific to your business and industry, which you will need to find for yourself based on the core functionality described above and the use cases described below.

  • You want to check that an address exists - Verify that a specific address exists, and gain access to the standardized version of the address.
  • You want to verify that your address data is completely accurate - You want to verify an address you have before using it, to ensure you have a valid, corresponding address.
  • You want to ensure the correct delivery address is used - Improve successful delivery rates and prevent lost deliveries by verifying that the address you are sending a package to is valid and accurate. This is ideal for shipping and ecommerce sites that want to verify shipping addresses prior to sending.
  • You want to minimize costs and improve efficiency - Ensuring accuracy prior to delivery reduces a number of costs and saves your team time on reshipping, data and pricing corrections, HR, PR, and more.
  • You want to preserve and improve your reputation - Inaccurate address information (that lead to billing and shipping errors, etc.) cause customers to be dissatisfied with your service. In contrast, consistent, accurate address information will improve your service and reputation.
  • You want to prevent and reduce fraud - No matter your industry, ensuring that your company is using accurate address information will help protect against and reduce fraud.
  • You want to prepare an address for geocoding - Prior to geocoding an address, you want to ensure that the address exists and that all address information is accurate.

4 reasons why address validation isn’t a substitute for address matching

Though address validation can be important, it’s really not a substitution for proper address matching, which removes ambiguity in your POIs. An address matching tool like Placekey that creates a universal identifier for POIs will help eliminate databases with invalid address data.

1. Address validation and address matching are different processes

Our other points will make this obvious, but it’s worth clearly stating that address validation is a separate process to address matching. In most cases, address validation is a step that you do before address matching, or which you do together to completely identify a specific point of interest.

For example, prior to geocoding an address, you should always perform an address validation to ensure the address is accurate. You always want to do this prior to matching addresses to specific locations on the map according to latitude and longitude, as this will ensure that you only geocode accurate addresses. Matching addresses incorrectly will only cause you problems later, as your data (and analyses) will be inaccurate.

2. Address validation does not let you plot address locations on a real-world map

You can’t use address validation to plot locations on a map, as you can with address matching. Therefore, address validation doesn’t actually help you combine information from both real-world map locations and address information. 

Only address matching allows you to pinpoint a specific location on a map, and match it to the address information associated with that location in the real-world.

3. Address validation alone does not ensure that addresses match

Performing an address validation will only verify that the address information matches the data in the authoritative database (in the US, this is the USPS). Address validation doesn’t actually ‘match’ an address in the same way as address matching. Instead, it checks that the address exists within the database, essentially ensuring that it is a valid address with proper formatting. It doesn’t actually link an address to a pinpointed location on a map, corresponding to a physical place in the world.

4. Address validation may not always match data properly

Email validation doesn’t ensure that you correctly match the address to the location you are looking for, but verifies that it is the correct address according to the database. This sounds the same as the point above, but there is a small distinction to make. For example:

If you were to attempt to validate the following addresses, you would expect them to return the same results.

  1. 123 Main Street, Suite 4, Springfield, MO, 65801
  2. 123 Main St, #4, Springfield MO

However, in address verification, you would simply be able to verify if the address exists as formatted, and potentially be able to standardize the address. While address verification would validate these addresses as authentic, it would not standardize them for you. For example, when standardized, we see that these are actually NOT the same address.

  1. 123 Main Street, Suite 4, Springfield, MO, 65801
  2. 123 Main Street, Unit 4, Springfield, MO, 65812-0011

You can see how address validation won’t necessarily allow you to match an address to a specific location on a map, but will verify that the address is valid and deliverable.

While you do want to match addresses, there are flaws with traditional matching. This post goes into detail about the address matching problem. It is extremely hard to distinguish POIs, as well as track different POIs that exist at the same address over time. This requires a universal address system that allows you to encode specific POIs within the address. Fortunately, Placekey has developed a standard universal identifier that lets you mark POIs and enables storing and sharing related address, location, and place information.

Placekey’s universal identifier solutions is free to use, so you can generate and lookup Placekeys to accurately manage locations and their POIs with specificity. This also allows you to track multiple POIs at a specific location, and to track POIs over time. With the Placekey API (which is also free), you can easily integrate Placekey with your other solutions to make use of Placekey’s universal location identifier solution.

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