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How to Use Address Standardization to 10x the Value of Your Data

by Placekey

No matter how much thought you put into input fields and guiding your user with address inputs, there will still be errors (not all of which can be avoided). To make sure your records are accurate, you will need to make sure that you standardize address data. Incorrect address data has serious costs that you may not even realize.

The fact is, having standardized addresses is extremely important for a number of reasons. We outline the reasons why you need to standardize address data, how to do so yourself, and the best tools for the job. To make sure you know everything you need to about address standardization (and can do it yourself), we cover the following:

  • What is address standardization?
  • Examples of standardized addresses & common data input issues
  • 5 reasons to standardize your address data
  • How to use address standardization as part of your data hygiene process
  • How to standardize address data: 7 methods, languages, scripts, and more
  • Top 8 address standardization tools & software

Before we dive into details, let’s cover what address standardization is and why it’s so important.

What is address standardization?

Address standardization (or address normalization) is the process of checking and correcting address records to a standard format, according to an authoritative database (USPS in the United States). It involves checking for spelling, formatting, and abbreviation errors, and corrects addresses to a normalized format.

Are these the same address?

It is important to be able to distinguish address standardization from other, very closely related processes:

  • Address Matching (or geocoding) is the process of matching an address record in a database to physical location coordinates. Address matching is used in a few different contexts, and is often used to refer to address validation and standardization solutions.
  • Address Validation (or address verification) is the process of verifying that an address is referring to an existing and accurate address record.

Address standardization solutions typically normalize, deduplicate, validate, and match addresses to ensure address data is entirely accurate and reliable.

What is the difference between address standardization & address normalization?

Address standardization (or address normalization) is the process of converting addresses to the correct format, according to an authoritative database. Once complete, you will have correctly formatted and styled addresses that you can rely on when billing, shipping, and segmenting customers for marketing campaigns.

Address standardization and address normalization are used synonymously. 

What is USPS address standardization, and is it different?

USPS has a quick and easy-to-use lookup tool that will look up addresses for you, improving your ability to normalize your address data. The USPS lookup tool finds and standardizes address data by ZIP, address, or city and state. Use the information you have to lookup the correct formatting and to verify the address.

This solution comes directly from USPS, so you can rely on the accuracy of the address information you get back. However, you can only search one piece of information at a time, which means that using this tool can be tedious and time-consuming. This limits your ability to standardize addresses in bulk.

Alternatively, you can rely on an address standardization software tool that will let you input a bulk list of address data to have standardized. You can avoid address standardization altogether by using Placekey’s universal identifier, which uses alphanumeric codes in place of traditional addresses. These have already been standardized, and include a range of other location and address information, including USPS address formatting.

Examples of standardized addresses & common data input issues

To ensure your addresses are standardized in the United States, you should follow the USPS standards, even for your own records. This way, it will be easier for you to standardize your addresses.

When listed on a single line, addresses are formatted as below according to USPS:

123 W MAIN ST S APT 4, SCRANTON  PA 56789-1234

When written on a letterhead to be sent, the address should be written as follows:

ABC BUSINESS (Recipient Line)

123 W MAIN ST S APT 4 (Delivery Address Line)

SCRANTON  PA 56789-1234 (Last Line)

To help you with the components, we’ve broken down each separate part of the address below and the rules that apply.

  • Proper Case or CAPITALIZED - Addresses must follow proper case formatting or be fully capitalized.
  • Abbreviations - States should all be two capitalized characters (i.e. NY). There should be two spaces between the abbreviation and the ZIP+4 code.
  • Street direction - Directions should be abbreviated to one of the 8 standard single- or two-character address abbreviations (N, S, E, W, NE, NW, SE, SW). When standardizing, directional abbreviations to the left of the street name belong to the pre-directional field; directional abbreviations to the right of the street name belong to the post-directional field.
  • Street labels - Always include the street label (St, Ave, etc.) when standardizing addresses to ensure you are listing the correct address information.
  • Street names - Street names should be as exact as possible, and adhere to proper acceptable character case. There are three types of acceptable punctuation for street names (periods, slashes, and hyphens). Slashes are commonly used for fractional addresses; hyphens are commonly used for hyphenated addresses.
  • Secondary address unit designators - If you live in an apartment, suite, or other unit type, you will need to designate this as well. This should come at the end of the Delivery Address Line, immediately after the street label (i.e. 123 Main St Apt 4). If possible, avoid using the pound sign (#), instead using the more accurate designations (i.e. APT, STE, etc.). If you do need to use the pound sign (#), include a space between the pound sign and secondary number (i.e. 123 Main St # 4).
  • Corner Addresses - Whenever possible, use an exact address (123 Main Street) instead of a corner address (5th and Main).
  • Highways - Highways include the number after the street label.
  • ZIP or ZIP+4 - A ZIP Code must be provided with any address. Whenever possible, include a ZIP+4 for greater accuracy. Always use an exact match for the ZIP+4 when possible.

Below, we outline common standardization issues, covering what is commonly input with an accurately standardized version, so you can normalize your address lists.

Address standardization input issues and standardized versions

Below, you can see the common unit designators used, along with the USPS standard. Keep in mind that when you are not sure, you can use the # sign. Be sure to include a space between the pound sign (#) and the number.

Common unit designators

What is my USPS standardized address?

To determine your USPS standardized address, visit to see the proper way to address a letter, and use their available lookup tool or one of their many APIs to find the correct address format to use. These will ensure that you use proper formatting when sending mail via USPS, increasing the deliverability of your mail and products.

USPS also has three APIs available, each for a very specific task:

  • Address Standardization: converts addresses to the correct format according to an authoritative database (the USPS in the United States).
  • Zip Code Lookup: check the Zip Code and Zip+4 for an address you input.
  • City and State Lookup: check the city or state associated with a Zip Code you enter.

While these APIs are extremely reliable, as you are dealing directly with USPS, you are limited to 5 requests per API call. This can significantly limit your processing power, and limits how many addresses you can standardize in bulk.

How to use the USPS ZIP Code Lookup Tool

You may have a partial or full address, and be looking to complete the address or ensure that the address you have is standardized according to USPS. To do this, you can use the USPS ZIP Code lookup tool, searching by address, by city and state, or by ZIP Code.

There are three main forms for standardizing addresses using the USPS tool

Depending on the option you choose, you will have different input options.

  • By ZIP Code: Input a ZIP Code, and the tool will return information about the cities that this ZIP Code covers.
USPS Zip Code lookup tool
  • By City and State: Input a city and state, and the tool will return information about the addresses that exist within this city or state.
USPS city and state lookup tool
  • By Address: Input a street address (and any other related information, such as the company, apartment or suite number, city, state, and ZIP Code), and the tool will return information about the address.
USPS address lookup tool

Regardless of which lookup tool you use, you will have form fields that are labeled for the type of information you should input. Choose one of the three available options along the top, and then fill in the available form fields. Once you’ve input all information you can, click Find.

Click Find once the lookup tool is filled in

The tool will return information about the address, helping you easily standardize addresses for accuracy and consistency.

6 reasons to standardize your address data

Top reasons to standardize address data

Having non-standardized addresses can cause a number of problems for you, not all of which are obvious. We outline the top 6 reasons to standardize your address records below.

  • Eliminate duplicate data - Reduce duplicate records to ensure data accuracy.
  • Clean data in, clean data out - Preprocess data to ensure accurate outputs.
  • Save on mailing costs - Limit mailing and shipping expenses by reducing errors.
  • Improve lead segmentation - Organize your leads for targeted marketing.
  • Minimize fraud - Reduce the risk of fraud to your business and your customers.
  • Accessible application development - Ensure easy communication between your systems.

We cover the main six reasons to standardize your address data below in further detail, so you can learn how you can benefit from normalizing address records.

1. Eliminate duplicate data

Duplicate addresses cause a variety of problems, the most obvious of which is errors in shipping in billing. This can double your administrative and mailing expenses, and cause you to send double the promotional products for marketing.

Duplicate addresses can cause confusion (and even annoy) your customers, sometimes to the point of losing them. Duplicate addresses could also cause confusion about what items have been sent, causing customers to miss bills or products.

More importantly, duplicate addresses will harm your ability to segment data correctly and accurately. This can lead to errors in customer segmentation, which will carry over into marketing, customer support, and more. When you can rely on your data being accurate, you can better develop personas and create marketing campaigns.

2. Clean data in, clean data out

The principle of ‘garbage in, garbage out’ is more important than ever when it comes to your data. Most of your decision-making will be based on your analytics; if you’re relying on inaccurate, flawed data, then you are bound to draw incorrect conclusions. This can also lead to a number of processing issues, such as shipping and billing.

Preprocessing (or cleaning) your data before processing it is essential to get the best results. By standardizing your address data, you ensure that all of your address records are accurate, according to an authoritative database. Knowing that this data is correct allows you to draw insights with confidence.

3. Save on mailing costs

Without having standardized address data, you will run into a number of simple mailing issues. Most obvious of these would be shipping and billing issues, such as errors in delivery. This can result in bills or products being sent to the incorrect address, bills being sent twice, and more. If USPS can’t deliver an item, you are out that cost (and may even need to pay a return fee to get your product back).

While this may not be important if you don’t send much via the mail, for businesses that send large amounts of mail this can add up significantly. With standardized addresses in your database, you can send mail with confidence, reducing reshipping costs and maintaining a positive relationship with customers.

4. Improve on lead segmentation

One of the most important reasons to standardize your data is for proper lead segmentation. Without normalizing address data, you will have a number of errors in your data, causing flaws in your lead segmentation. When developing customer personas and analyzing your demographics, you will be using incorrect information.

This will lead to a number of issues down the line, as it will be extremely difficult to group current and prospective customers based on region, ZIP code, city street, and more. Having standardized address data ensures that your customer personas and demographics are rooted in reality, and not riddled with flaws and inaccuracies.

5. Minimize fraud

The more accurate your address records are, the more protected you - and your customers - are against fraud. Ensuring that you are using accurate addresses will ensure that you don’t ship product, bills, or other mail to the wrong address, potentially exposing your customers to fraud.

The fact is, fraud prevention costs are often not realized until fraud occurs. However, these costs can be much more substantial than the cost of fraud prevention methods and solutions. Ultimately, you are protecting your reputation and relationship with your customers, partners, and everyone you do business with.

6. Accessible application development

To be able to query a normalized database for addresses, you need the applications you are using to work intuitively together. To ensure your address records are accurate, you need to make developing applications accessible, so that they can be built to your needs.

If you keep addresses in different formats in different databases, you’ll have problems communicating between systems. Having standardized addresses ensures that databases can easily communicate with each other, without causing errors or inconsistencies in your data.

How to use address standardization as part of your data hygiene process

Address standardization is not a stand-alone solution; in most cases, address standardization is one component of data cleaning, meant to ensure you have accurate data and make comparing records easier. For address standardization to work and be useful, you’ll need to fit it within a comprehensive address cleaning strategy.

To do this, you’ll need to do three things. While you can perform these tasks in any order, we recommend the following for the most seamless process:

Step 1. Address standardization

The first thing to do is standardize the address data you have. Addresses commonly have misspellings and formatting issues due to input errors. By standardizing addresses as the first step in your process, you can normalize all addresses, correcting spelling, formatting, and other errors.

Once corrected, it will be much easier to perform the next steps.

Step 2. Address data deduplication

Now that you have normalized addresses, you can deduplicate your records. It is best to standardize your addresses first, because duplicates will be much easier to spot and confirm. Without standardizing addresses first, it will be difficult to tell if addresses are in fact duplicates.

However, with address normalization complete, it is extremely easy to find the duplicates. You can then remove any extras. If you attempt to deduplicate before standardizing addresses, you will likely still have some duplicates after standardizing.

At this point, your address lists are standardized and deduplicated; each address should appear once and they should match proper formatting.

Step 3. Address validation

Now that the addresses have been standardized and then duplicated, we can validate our addresses. By standardizing and deduplicating addresses before validation, you have a smaller list of addresses to validate. If you validated addresses before standardizing, you would be wasting a lot of processing time, because you are validating a number of addresses that will turn out to be incorrect. You are also validating duplicate addresses that have spelling or formatting inconsistencies.

By validating addresses as the last step, we significantly reduce the size of our address lists that need to be validated. This will save significant time and effort on the overall process.

How to standardize address data: 7 methods, languages, scripts, and more

Now that you know the basics of address standardization and why it’s essential, we will cover how to actually standardize addresses. If this article doesn’t go into enough detail for your needs, see our article on how to standardize address data.

Although the end result should be the same, there are a number of different ways to standardize addresses. We cover seven of the best ways to standardize address data, so you have address data that you can rely on.

Method 1: Using an open source universal identifier like Placekey

Placekey code

Legacy address standardization software relies on closed systems and the ability to integrate with other systems. In many cases, this means connecting to a database via an API or using a software that facilitates this. The downside of these solutions is that they are closed solutions, and you can only use them for the capabilities they were designed to be used for, and are restricted to the extensions and add-ons that they make available.

Open-source solutions, on the other hand, let the community of users contribute by developing their own solutions, add-ons, and modifications. These solutions foster improvements, and allow the users to create solutions that fit their unique needs.

Placekey is an open-source universal location identifier that ensures all addresses are standardized and verified, so you can focus on using this address and location data to improve address data and gain deeper insights.

Method 2: Standardize addresses in Excel

Microsoft Excel is a commonly used data management solution both at home and work. For this reason, it’s highly accessible. It is not always the best for address standardization, but there are ways you can perform this using Excel.

You can customize your own address standardization solution within Excel, but you can also use existing ones, the most prominent of which is the STANDARDIZE function. You can easily calculate standard deviation within your address datasets, and then normalize data to the correct formats.

  • Placekey Microsoft Excel Add-in: Leverage the full functionality of the Placekey API within Microsoft Excel, allowing you to standardize and match addresses.
  • YAddress: Easily standardize address data by inputting your addresses into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. YAddress will tokenize and normalize address data seamlessly.
  • Excel VBA Master: Normalize and fill out all of your missing address data easily within Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, making data accessible and simple to share.

Method 3: Address standardization in Python

Python, like other programming languages, is perfect for automating routine and repetitive tasks. With the ability to parse, tokenize, and compare datasets, Python is ideally suited for address standardization. Whether you choose to build your own solution or install an existing library, you can use Python to perform address standardization effectively.

For more on how to do this, see our article on how to use Python for address standardization. If you want to research some solutions right away, here are some we’d recommend:

  • Placekey Python library: Easily install this Python library to work with Placekeys, perfecting your address data and eliminating the need to standardize addresses yourself.
  • usaddress (Python library): Using a probabilistic approach, allowing you to account for the likelihood of a match before standardizing.
  • pypostal (Python library): After installing the libpostal C library, you can use these official Python bindings for parsing and normalizing addresses anywhere across the world.

Method 4: Address standardization in JavaScript

JavaScript is a powerful programming language that offers a lot of functionality. With JavaScript, you can create custom scripts and run automated tasks that would otherwise take significant time to process. You can install an existing library to get started right away, or build out your own solution for customized performance.

Below, we cover some of the top JavaScript solutions and integrations for address standardization:

  • Placekey: This JavaScript library is built for working with Placekeys, allowing you to easily use this API and customize it for your needs.
  • usps-webtools: This JavaScript library lets you verify and lookup addresses with ease.

Method 5: Address standardization in R

The R programming language can be used to automate tasks and easily compare different strings. Using R, you can preprocess data for accurate results, allowing you to normalize addresses with confidence. There are a number of R libraries that exist that you can easily install and implement. Alternatively, you can build your own solution using R to standardize address data.

To compare solutions right away, look through the options below:

  • Placekey R library ({placekey}): This package for R can be easily set up, allowing interaction with the Placekey API, entirely removing the need to standardize addresses.
  • postmastr (R toolkit): This toolkit is designed for parsing street addresses using the R programming language.
  • rusps: This USPS API allows you to connect using the R programming language to standardize addresses.

Method 6: Address standardization using an API

An API (application programming interface) is an ideal solution for address standardization, as it can allow communication between two databases, improving the efficiency, speed, and effectiveness of your address standardization efforts. These solutions can often be set up quickly and are already designed for efficiency.

Below are some of the easiest APIs to use for address standardization:

  • Placekey: To make Placekey extremely accessible, it’s open-source and easily accessible via an API, with documentation available for developers.
  • USPS: The USPS Web Tools API gives users access to USPS data free of charge, allowing seamless integration for address standardization and verification.
  • SmartyStreets: SmartyStreets has a number of APIs available to make standardizing, validating, and looking up addresses is simple.

Method 7: Address standardization in bulk or on insert

In general, there are two main times to standardize addresses:

  • In bulk: Address lists are input in bulk, and all addresses are standardized.
  • On insert: At the time the address is input into your database.

Ultimately, which method you choose will depend on your needs and processes. In some cases, it will make sense to have addresses standardized on insert, so that addresses added to your records are automatically standardized. In other cases, it may make more sense to standardize in bulk, by inputting a list of addresses. You may also use a mix of these, depending on how you acquire, track, and manage address data.

Top 8 address standardization tools & software

While you can create your own address standardization solutions or use scripts that are already built for different programming languages. There are also a number of software solutions that are more accessible to someone that has little experience with scripts.

We compare the best eight address standardization solutions below, so you can choose the best tool for your needs.

1. Placekey

Placekey what and where

Placekey is a free universal location identifier for physical locations. Each Placekey encodes location, address, and point of interest information for simple tracking, lookup, and management. Placekey combines point of interest and geospatial data, so that you can draw more meaningful insights from your data, all from one place.

Cost: Free

Best Feature: Universal location identifier that has standardized addresses.

2. SmartyStreets

SmartyStreets address standardization solution
Image Credit: SmartyStreets Address Validation

SmartyStreets specializes in USPS and international address validation, allowing you to verify and standardize addresses one-at-a-time or in bulk. Easily link SmartyStreets to your datasets using an API, and SmartyStreets will perform address validation and standardization functions for you.

Cost: $0/mo to $300/mo | Contact for quote for Enterprise plans

Best Feature: Easily standardize addresses in bulk or individually.

3. Esri

ArcGIS Pro by Esri
Image Credit: Esri ArcGIS Pro

Esri’s ArcGIS platform is a powerful mapping and analytics GIS tool, giving you location intelligence data. You can then leverage this information to improve your address data, customer segmentation, and shipping and mailing service.

Cost: Contact for quote

Best Feature: A powerful GIS mapping and analytics tool for your address data.

4. Precisely

Precisely MapInfo solution for addresses
Image Credit: Precisely Addresses

Precisely offers a range of data integration and management solutions, with a specifically designed solution for address verification and standardization. MapInfo gives you access to geospatial data that you can leverage to draw deep insights and develop demographic models.

Cost: Contact for quote

Best Feature: Leverages Precisely’s Spectrum technology to perform complex data analysis functions.

5. Tableau

Tableau solution in use
Image Credit: Tableau Desktop

Tableau is an analytics platform that brings your data to life visually, so you can easily analyze and draw insights from your data. As a powerful business intelligence tool, Tableau can be used to validate and standardize addresses efficiently.

Cost: $12.00/user/mo to $70.00/user/mo

Best Feature: Focused on providing visual analytics that make drawing insights simple and effective.

6. Power BI

Power BI solution in use
Image Credit: Microsoft Power BI

Power BI is a business intelligence tool built specifically for Microsoft, making it an optimal solution for working with Microsoft Office and Azure. This solution leverages analytics data, allowing you to display this visually and draw meaningful insights. With multiple capabilities and flexibility in how data can be tracked and presented, it can be used to standardize complex address records.

Cost: $9.99/user/mo to $20/user/mo | $4,995/capacity/mo

Best Feature: Easily integrates with Microsoft products.

7. Geocodio

Geocodio solution
Image Credit: Geocodio

Geocodio is an address matching and standardization solution that allows you to match addresses individually and in bulk. This tool will correct spelling and formatting mistakes, normalize address data for improved accuracy, and preprocessing data to make all of this easier. Easily standardize US and Canadian addresses with ease, so you can ensure your records are up-to-date and accurate.

Cost: $1,000/mo (Unlimited) | Pay as You Go

Best Feature: Geocoding and data matching made easy.

8. Melissa

Melissa solution
Image Credit: Melissa

Melissa is an email verification and standardization solution that will help you manage your address records effectively. Validate and enrich contact data to improve your ability to segment, organize, and market to leads. At the same time, you can significantly improve your delivery accuracy.

Cost: $3 (1,000 credits)

Best Feature: Comprehensive address verification and standardization in one place.

With all of this knowledge at your fingertips, you can begin standardizing addresses in your database, ensuring accuracing. Ultimately, this will let you improve lead segmentation, reduce shipping errors, and manage addresses with confidence.

If you need help matching addresses to physical locations, see our ultimate guide to address matching. Alternatively, you can avoid all of the hassles of standardizing addresses by using Placekey’s universal location identifier. All addresses are standardized, verified, and deduplicated so you can do what you do best!

Get ready to unlock new insights on physical places