There are few people on the planet who haven’t heard of Google. Still the most popular search engine in the world, there’s no doubt that they’ve created some amazing tools that, personally, I can’t imagine living without.
Sometimes Google is identified as a potential address auto-complete supplier for website forms, and we’re asked to explain why we’re better. There are many differences when you compare PCA Predict Address Validation to Google’s API but most often we hear about these common myths.
1. Google data is universal and complete
Because of the rate at which they update their data, Google has some obvious blind spots. McGrath Pond Road in Belgrade, ME is an example of an entire road that can’t be found using Google’s address search (correct at time of writing).
The global coverage presented by Google maps doesn’t necessarily produce good quality address. For example, 233 S Wacker Drive, Chicago – the address for Willis Tower, 2nd largest building in the US. Google will find it, but only gives an address for the entire building, whereas there are actually over 300 unique suite and floor addresses here. Which one of these addresses should the delivery company leave the parcel with? This problem is replicated across more than 30 million addresses in offices and apartment blocks; simply finding the overall building address isn’t detailed enough for deliveries.
PCA Predict receive address data direct from official address sources (USPS, Canada Post, Royal Mail, etc.). We publish updates and changes to our service every day to make sure you have the most up to date records available.
2. Google validates addresses for delivery
Google maps is primarily a geolocation service, designed to plot places on their maps, not designed as an address validator. Ultimately, this means that Google is able to plot locations that are not valid, mailable addresses.
For example, Google maps will happily locate ‘5 Witwer Trail, Mesquite, Nevada, United States’.
But it’s quite obvious that no mail would ever be delivered to this address, there are no buildings. So while Google can give a relatively good estimation of where an address would be on a map, they can’t tell you what the address is, or format it correctly.
PCA Predict will only ever retrieve valid delivery addresses.
3. Google is unique in offering auto-suggest results for addresses
Not true. There are many other providers of addressing services where you can begin typing and matching addresses are found.
PCA Predict’s own address validation product, powered by our Capture+ technology, allows users to search on any part of an address and copes with misspellings and typos (like extra spaces or missing characters). The data returned is verified against delivery point data from official sources such as USPS, Canada Post and Royal Mail in the UK. We can even detect a user’s location and bias the list of matching results to those nearest – it’s possible to configure the setting to set a specific location bias or filter out business/residential properties to suit the needs of your organisation.
4. Google has the best fuzzy matching in the business
As masters of search, you’d expect Google’s fuzzy matching capabilities to be matchless. It is pretty good but surprisingly a single space (added or removed) can dead end an address search. For example, looking for ‘park view terrace’ in my hometown will find the location but ‘Parkview Terrace’ will not. Similarly, ‘green hill london road’ works but ‘greenhill london road’ does not.
These are reasonable inputs to handle for your users – if they can’t find their address it becomes a point of friction in your form. PCA Predict Fuzzy matching handles over 6 kinds of input errors.
5. It’s completely free
Depends on your usage and the type of application. It can be free if you have a public site and only need to verify low volumes of addresses. There is a Premium Plan for customers who require an SLA and who expect to process large volumes; each autocomplete API request consumes 0.1 credits. It’s also worth noting that you only get access to technical support when you’re a paying customer. Information correct at time of writing – it could all change.
Basically, if an accurate, mailable address is important to the efficiency of your processes then Google will not deliver the goods (excuse the pun). With any potential solution though, it’s always a good idea to test and test again – measuring the impact along all stages of the customer journey.
Try a demo of PCA Predict’s Address Verification online, and compare to Google’s Place Autocomplete demo.