What is address validation / verification?

Address Validation / Verification Example

Address validation (or verification) is the process of checking a mailing address against an authoritative address database. If the address matches an address in the official database, the address "validates", meaning it's real. Non-matching addresses are marked "invalid", meaning they don't exist or aren't registered with the official database.

Address validation is provided by Smarty via single address, bulk address and address validation APIs for both the United States and International addresses.

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In this article, we'll cover:

USPS address validation

In the United States, the authoritative database for address lookups is the USPS. Performing USPS address validation is as easy as finding a provider that uses the USPS address database. While the USPS database features over 160 million addresses there are still millions of valid addresses where USPS does not deliver and don't include in their data. Fortunately for you, Smarty starts with the USPS database and adds addresses from several authoritative private and public sources. You can start validating addresses now by using our single address verification tool or address validation APIs.

Most countries around the world have their own respective databases against which addresses can be validated. Though address formats vary from nation to nation, the basic process is generally the same: Check to see if the address is on file. If it is, the address is valid. If it is not, the address is invalid.

Video: Address validation - Step by step

Address validation can be a little more complicated than what we described in the first paragraph of this article. Before an address can be validated, there's a lot that has to be done to prepare it for the validation process. And, there are some reasons why a real address might not validate. To understand the details of the validation process, it's best to start at the beginning.

Address parsing and standardization

Before an address can be validated, it often has to go through some cleanup first, which usually involves parsing and standardization.

Address Parsing is the process of breaking down an address into its constituent parts such as city, state, and ZIP Code. Different versions of parsing have different levels of accuracy—and different levels of functionality.

Address Standardization is the process of formatting a mailing address so that it matches the standard address format specified by the governing postal authority. Once an address has been properly parsed, it can be standardized. In the United States, CASS-certified providers standardize an address by formatting it to USPS standards, filling in missing data, and checking for spelling errors—so that the address will look like the ones that are in the USPS address database. The standardizing process can include correcting misspelled words, filling in gaps in the data (such as missing ZIP Codes, street suffixes, and so on) and abbreviating notifications to match the official database formats. For example, in the US, "Street" becomes "St", "Avenue" becomes "Ave", and so on. States or provinces also receive proper abbreviations.

Once the address is properly formatted, it's validated by looking for its twin in the official address database. If there's a match, the address is valid. If not, it's invalid.

Why real addresses may not be valid addresses

Just because an address didn't validate, however, doesn't mean the address is not real. There are multiple reasons an address might come up as invalid. Here are a few:

  • Imaginary address: The address is fake, hypothetical, no longer exists, or does not yet exist. Making up a number for a house on your street would have this effect, as would using the address of a building torn down six months ago.
  • Incorrect address: Sometimes the entered address is so poorly spelled/formatted that it cannot be accurately corrected. Or the wrong information is given, such as incorrect street name or house number.
  • Address not occupied: Perhaps a building is new or vacant. Either way, if no one's there to receive mail, the address won't be listed in the official mailing address database. Therefore, it won't validate.
  • Address not registered: New buildings, new occupants, occupants that don't want/need to receive mail—all are examples of an address not being registered yet/anymore with the USPS. If they are not registered, they're not in the system. And, if an address is not in the system, it is considered invalid.

Address data append

Address validation providers often complement their validation services with appended data and features. Address data appending can range from providing the census information and climate statistics of the area the addresses come from, to providing the geocode coordinates of the address. Here at Smarty, for example, we focus primarily on address validation and geocodes, both US and international. Then we supplement that focus with features designed to make our system easier to use.

For example, we offer batch processing in two formats for anyone eager to process large quantities all at once. Our service is also fast enough to make you question your own sanity. Our address matching engine can handle standardizing and validating even the most ugly of addresses. We support API integration, and a host of web plug-ins. We also offer ZIP+4 accuracy, ZIP Code classification, time zone information, FIPS Codes, and much more data about the address. Over 55 data points to be precise.

Address validation service providers

You may have stumbled into this article simply curious about the topic. But odds are, you came searching with a purpose. If you need address validation, go ahead and try it right now for free. If you need more help, we'd be happy to help, that is, we're just so helpful that we can't help it. Go ahead and call us (it's nice to do business with a human being every now and again, isn't it?), or chat with us if you're suffering from laryngitis. Or if you're feeling proactive, you can take care of things yourself with a free account at the pricing page if you need to get started at ludicrous speed.