You can use an INDEX/MATCH formula to look up an item in a list, as explained in this Contextures page. It’s trickier than a VLOOKUP formula, but it can look to the left and adjusts well when data columns are added or deleted. The generic layout of a single-criterion INDEX/MATCH is:

=INDEX(ColumnToIndex,MATCH(ItemToMatch, ColumnWithMatch, 0))

The MATCH section results in a row number that gets applied to the ColumnToIndex.

When looking up items with more than one criteria, I like to use an INDEX/SUMPRODUCT formula, replacing the MATCH part of the single criterion formula with SUMPRODUCT array multiplication, as descibed by Chandoo. Very generically that looks like:

=INDEX(ColumnToIndex,SUMPRODUCT(Multiply a bunch of columns and criteria))

This post started as an explanation of that approach. But in looking at the Contextures “INDEX/MATCH – Example 4” in the link above, I think it might be better. So this post is now a comparison of the two approaches.

Below is a live, downloadable worksheet with pairs of double-criteria lookup formulas – an INDEX/SUMPRODUCT and INDEX/MATCH in each case. Each row has two lookups: the first returns the number of home runs for that team and year, the second looks up a relative ranking.

I actually broke the formulas into two columns, which is what I’d do in a real project. Columns I and J contain INDEX formulas which refer to the lookup formulas in column H. The INDEX formulas first check if the lookup in column H actually returned a row. IF not “NA” is returned.

I break the lookup formula into two parts like this for a couple of reasons. The first is that if there’s no match the SUMPRODUCT in column H returns 0, which is important to see. The second is there’s often more than one formula referring to the calculated row, so it’s more efficient to only calculate it once and then use it in the different INDEX formulas. In this case the row is used for both the column I and column J INDEX formulas.

Here are the two lookup formulas, in cells H2 and H3, that are used to match the correct row. They are matching 2006 for the year and CHC for the team:

=SUMPRODUCT(($A$1:$A$33=$F2)*($B$1:$B$33=$G2)*(ROW($A$1:$A$33)-(ROW($A$1)-1)))

=MATCH(1,($A$1:$A$33=$F3)*($B$1:$B$33=$G3),0)

At their core they contain the same logic: **($A$1:$A$33=$F2)*($B$1:$B$33=$G2)**, which multiplies TRUEs and FALSES to return an array of Ones and Zeros. Here’s the SUMPRODUCT version with the above section evaluated by highlighting it and pressing F9. Note the 1 in the 19th position:

The SUMPRODUCT then multiplies that array times an adjusted row number, while the MATCH version finds the position of the number 1 in the array. Both result in row 19.

As mentioned above, the SUMPRODUCT formula returns 0 if no match is found. The INDEX formulas in columns I and J need to deal with that, otherwise they will return incorrect results. For example, if you have something like **=INDEX({1,2,3,4,5},0)**, the result is 1. You might be surprised that it returns anything at all, but the nature of an INDEX formula is that if the row argument is set to 0 it evaluates the entire column. The actual row returned depends on the row of the formula. Confused? Me too.

The MATCH version, on the other hand, returns “#N/A” if no match is found, which is probably what you’d expect, and therefore good. And it’s shorter, also good. The only pitfall is that it’s an array formula and must be entered using **Ctrl-Shft-Enter**.

I’ve tried to make both sets of formulas more robust by including the headers in the ranges – $A1, $B1, etc. That way if a line in inserted below the header and before the first row of data, the formulas still work. I also want to ensure that the formulas still work if rows are inserted above the table’s header. This causes more complications in the SUMPRODUCT version, in the **(ROW($A$1:$A$33)-(ROW($A$1)-1))** part. If you know the table will always start in Row 1 then it can be simplified to **ROW($A$1:$A$33)-1**. The MATCH version doesn’t have this issue.

Below the first pair of formulas are two more pairs, showing the results if no match is found, and if multiple matches are found. When there’s no match, the INDEX formula result in “NA” in both cases.

If there’s more than one match the SUMPRODUCT version adds together the matched rows. This results in 41 in row 12. Since 41 is outside the ColumnToIndex range, the result is #REF!. The MATCH version returns the first match. Obviously some kind of check for duplicates is good, such as the conditional formatting used here to highlight rows 20 and 21 of the data.

This being Excel, there are other ways to skin this cat. Here’s a post by JP Pinto, with his explanation of these two approaches, plus a LOOKUP version. (There’s a small error in the SUMPRODUCT version which is addressed in the comments.)

So which do I prefer now? Well, even though the MATCH version is simpler in most respects, I tend to avoid array formulas when possible, mainly because I too often forget that they are array formulas, do some editing, don’t hit **Ctrl-Shft-Enter** and have a moment, or several, of disorientation staring at the #N/A result. So I’ll probably stick with INDEX/SUMPRODUCT.

What do you think?