Many problems with the quality of address data can be eliminated by simply qualifying (checking) an address before adding it to your database. Standardizing things like abbreviations and formatting during data entry can save a lot of headaches in the future. In the past, solutions for standardizing addresses during data entry have been very expensive. SmartyStreets is looking to change this, and to make data entry address verification affordable, for even the smallest company.
The first problem we run across when standardizing addresses is that people have been trained to write them in many different ways. In fact, if five people were to type the same address into your website, it is likely that you would get five completely different formats. Take this address for example:
Person 1: 100 North Main Street, Suite 203, New York, New York 10023
Person 2: 100 No. Main St. #203, NY NY 10023
Person 3: 100 Main Street #203, New York City, NY 10023
Person 4: 100 N Main 203, New York, New York 10023
Person 5: 100 N. Main St. Suite 203, New York, NY 10023
Each of those five people entered the address in a way that is completely logical and understandable to human eyes, but the computer will categorize each of these in the database as a unique address. So, you need to find a way to take these five addresses and condense them into just one of standardized format.
The United States Postal Service has set guidelines for address standardization in a document entitled Publication 28. These standards include rules for abbreviation, ordering, punctuation, and more. For example, the USPS prefers that all punctuation, other than the hyphen in the +4 Code, be omitted in the delivery address block. Also, STE is preferred to Suite or # and ST is preferred to spelling out the word Street. The document itself is over 130 pages long, and includes rules on everything from unusual addressing situations (such as the Salt Lake City Syndrome grid addresses) to business word abbreviations.
Using the example address used previously, you might standardize the address according the USPS rules, and save it to your database in the following format:
100 N Main St Ste 203
New York NY 10023-1234
Applying the standards set forth by the USPS to your address data during their initial entry is an excellent way to improve the quality of your lists. Not only is it easier to remove duplicate data from your lists, but it will also save you trouble in the future. But how do you go about actually applying the USPS standards to your list without spending months programming and implementing a solution?
The simplest answer to this question is to use one of SmartyStreets' APIs. In particular, the SmartyStreets US Street Address API allows businesses to easily standardize their address lists without the hassles and overheads that exists with other solutions on the market. In fact, the SmartyStreets APIs can standardize and scrub any address: USPS or international.
And, the best thing is that all of the SmartyStreets APIs are available for free live testing. Simply set up a free testing account and you can start scrubbing to the data which is already in your database and get it standardized. If you find that you need more lookups for additional testing, just contact our support department and they'll be happy to assist you.