To err is human, and we all know that. When working with large amounts of data, the human eye is not very capable of identifying small differences or similarities between data items.

Thankfully, data processing software such as Google Sheets can pick up details that even the keenest human eye might miss.

As such, tasks like comparing columns, finding differences, and pointing out similarities get done easily, at lightning speeds, and without errors.

Read this Google Sheets compare two columns tutorial to learn everything you need to know.

Table of Contents

For each of the above topics, we will be using the following data sample, consisting of two columns – ingredients for *Cake*, and ingredients for *Cookies*:

## How to Compare Two Columns for Exact Row Matches

The simplest way to compare two columns is to find exact row matches. All this calls for is just a row-by-row comparison.

Google sheets just need to see which rows have the same values and which ones have different values and display the result in a third, blank column.

In our example, we are simply going to create a new column for the results, and display a TRUE if the pair of items in the same row match and a FALSE if they don’t.

The formula you would use for a comparison like this is:

=A2=B2

The above formula compares data in row 2 of both columns to see if they match. If they do, then you get a TRUE result. If not, you get a FALSE result.

Here are the steps to follow:

- In the second row of column C (in cell C2), insert the formula: =A2=B2
- Press the return key.
- Double click the fill handle to copy the same formula to the rest of the cells in column C.

You should now see the results of each comparison in column C.

## Compare Two Columns and Show Meaningful Text

The above method works great if you’re the only one who will be working with the data.

But, a third-person going through your worksheet might not understand what exactly you’re implying by the words “TRUE” and “FALSE”.

So it makes sense to give a more descriptive result in column C. For example, you could use the word “*Matching*” for row items that match and “*Not matching*” for row items that don’t match.

If you want to get a more descriptive result, you can use a simple IF formula to return the text “*Match*” when the values are the same and “*Mismatch*” when the values are different.

For this, assuming you were working in cell C2 of our example, you would use the following formula:

=IF(A2=B2,"Matching","Not Matching")

The above formula uses an IF function to compare values in A2 and B2. If the condition “A2=B2” is TRUE, it returns the text “*Matching*”. If not, it returns the text FALSE.

Here are the steps to follow:

- In the second row of column C (in cell C2), insert the formula: =IF(A2=B2,”Matching”,”Not Matching”)
- Press the return key.
- Double click the fill handle to copy the same formula to the rest of the cells in column C.

You should now see the results of each comparison as “*Matching*” or “*Not Matching*” in column C.

## Compare Two Columns and Show Meaningful Text From Numerical Values

Just like in the above example, you could use an IF statement on numerical data. You could use any operator or formula you’d like to show results for as a logical expression. For example, you could use a formula like:

=IF(C2<B2,"Yes","No")

To compare if the data in C2 is less than the numbers in B2.

In the below example, we used this formula to compare whether a new supermarket is cheaper than an older one.

## Compare Two Columns and Highlight Matching Rows

If instead of displaying results in a *separate *column, you would rather have rows with matching data *highlighted*, then you can perform *Conditional Formatting*.

*Conditional formatting* is a great technique that lets you format cells based on a condition.

Here’s how you can use Conditional formatting to highlight matching rows in Google Sheets:

- Click the
*Format*menu from the menu bar. - Select the ‘
*Conditional Formatting*’ option. - This will open the ‘
*Conditional format rules*’ sidebar on the right of the window. - In the input box under “
*Apply to range*”, type in the range of cells you want to compare. In our example, we can type A2:B12. - Next, in the
*Format rules*section, under “*Format cells if*”, click on the dropdown arrow. - From the dropdown menu that appears, select “
*Custom formula is*”. - You will see an input box below the dropdown list. Type your custom formula there: “=$A2=$B2”.
- Under
*“Formatting style*”, click on the*Fill Color*button. - Select the color you want to use, in order to highlight matching cells/rows. We selected
*“light cornflower blue 1*”. - Finally click the
*Done*button, to let*Conditional formatting*do its work.

You should now see all matching cells/rows highlighted in your selected color.

**Note**: In case you want to do the opposite, i.e. to highlight only the cells/rows that don’t match, change the formula in step 7 to: =$A2<>$B2

## Using Google Sheets Conditional Formatting to Compare Two Columns and Find Matching Data

So far, the techniques we discussed mainly found out if cells in the *same *row were matching.

But what if you want to compare two columns and find out which values of column A are *repeating *in column B, irrespective of which row it’s in?

That would make more sense for our sample data too wouldn’t it? You might want to know which ingredients of a *cake *are also used in baking *cookies*.

Here’s how you can use* Conditional formatting *to highlight duplicate data:

- Click the
*Format*menu from the menu bar. - Select the ‘
*Conditional Formatting*’ option. - This will open the ‘
*Conditional format rules*’ sidebar on the right of the window. - In the input box under
*“Apply to range*”, type in the range of cells you want to apply the formatting on. In our example, we want to see the highlights of column B only. So we type: B2:B12. - Next, in the
*Format rules*section, under “*Format cells if*”, click on the dropdown arrow. - From the dropdown menu that appears, select “
*Custom formula is*”. - You will see an input box below the dropdown list. Type your custom formula there: =COUNTIF($A$2:$A$9,B2)>0
- Under “
*Formatting style*”, click on the Fill Color button ( ). - Select the color you want to use, in order to highlight matching cells/rows. We selected “light cornflower blue 1”.
- Finally click the
*Done*button, to let*Conditional formatting*do its work.

You should now see all cells (ingredients) of column B (cookies) that are also present in column A (cake) highlighted in your selected color.

**Explanation of the Formula**

In this problem, we wanted to know which ingredients of column B also had an occurrence in column A.

In other words, we wanted to highlight only those items of column B that have 1 or more occurrences in cells A2 to A9.

In the formula:

=COUNTIF($A$2:$A$9,B2)>0

The COUNTIF function counts the number of times the value in B2 occurs in the cell range A2:A9.

If this count is more than 0, it means a duplicate of the B2 value exists in column A. It could exist once, twice or more times. In either case, as long as the count is more than 0, the function returns a TRUE.

When the function returns a TRUE value, our conditional formatting gets to work and highlights cell B2.

This is repeated for all cells starting from B2 to B12.

## Finding the Google Sheets Difference Between Two Columns

Now, what happens when you want to do the opposite? What if you want to find the ingredients of *Cookies *that are *not* present in the *Cake*? In this case, you would only have to make a slight change to the formula used in step 7 of the previous method.

The *Custom formula* used in the *Conditional format rule* sidebar should now be:

=COUNTIF($A$2:$A$9,B2)=0

This is because you now want to see if the element of column B has 0 occurrences in column A.

This will give you the result as shown below:

These were some of the ways in which you can use Google Sheets to **compare two columns**. We used a smaller sample to help you understand the concepts.

But the methods discussed in this tutorial can be really powerful when used with larger datasets, especially if you’re using it for analytical processing.

We encourage you to apply and experiment with these methods and hope you found the explanations helpful.

## Compare Columns Using a VLOOKUP Formula

You can also compare columns in Google Sheets using the VLOOKUP function which operates with the following syntax:

=VLOOKUP(`search_key,`

`range, index,`

[`is_sorted`

])

To use this formula, you’d need to specify a cell to compare as the **search_key**, the column **range** you want to search for matches in, and the index column number in the range ie f your range includes columns A, B, and C and you want the data from B to be the used as the results you’d type **2** as it’s the second column. Then you can define whether you want an exact or approximate comparison by using TRUE or FALSE operators. FALSE means that the data must be an exact match

In the example below we used:

**B2**as the search_key**$C$2:$C$5**as the comparison_column_range**1**as the index- And
**FALSE**so we only return exact matches

Notice that the values that don’t match return an #N/A error as there are no available matches in the specified range.

## How to Compare Two Columns In Google Sheets Using MATCH

The MATCH function works similarly to VLOOKUP. The difference is that the results will show the row position of the match in the array_column. The syntax for the MATCH function is:

=MATCH(lookup_value, lookup_array, [match_type])

**lookup_value**is the value you want to compare**lookup_array**is the array to search for matches**match_type**indicates whether or not to use exact matches. Type 0 for exact matches or 1 for partial matches.

In the below example we are pretending to compare two children’s favorite animals with the following formula:

=MATCH(A1,$B$1:$B$5,0)

As you can see instead of showing TRUE for matches, it gives a numerical value depending on where it is in the range. For example, C1 says 5 as the value as Elephants is the fifth value in the range of column A.

## Google Sheets Compare Two Columns FAQ

### How Do I Compare Two Columns In Google Sheets?

There are quite a few functions that can compare columns in Google Sheets. The most sensible ways include:

- VLOOKUP
- COUNTIF
- IF
- MATCH
- Conditional Formatting

### How Do I Compare Two Columns in Google Sheets and Highlight Duplicates? / Can Google Sheets Compare Two Columns With Conditional Formatting?

You can highlight duplicates in columns on Google Sheets by using conditional formatting. To do so:

- Highlight the columns you want to compare
- Navigate to
**Formatting > Conditional formatting** - Set the Format cells menu item to
**Custom formula is** - Use absolute references for the column names and use the =sign between the first two rows of the columns you want to compare. For example, to compare columns A and B from row 2 down, you could type
**=$A2=$B2** - Click
**Done**

### How Do I Use the MATCH Function in Google Sheets?

Google Sheets can match two columns to find values in columns that have the same or similar values. The syntax is:

=MATCH(lookup_value, lookup_array, [match_type])

You add the value or cell reference you’re looking to match as the **lookup_value**, use absolute references to define the **lookup_array** (where to search), and type 0 to search for exact matches or 1 to look for partial matches. For example, to search if the value in C1 is in column D between rows 5 and 10, you could use the following formula:

=MATCH(C1,$D$5:$D$10, 0)

## Wrapping Up Comparing Columns In Google Sheets

As you can see, there are a ton of different ways that you can compare your data across columns in Google Sheets. If you found this Google Sheets compare two columns guide useful, there’s plenty more to learn.

**Check out some of our related guides here:**

- How to Split Cell in Google Sheets (into separate columns)
- How to Find Unique Values in Google Sheets (2 Easy Methods)
- How to Use the Not Equal Google Sheets Symbol [Easy]
- How To Remove Duplicates In Google Sheets (3 Easy Ways)
- How to Number Rows in Google Sheets (Add Serial Numbers)
- REGEXMATCH Function in Google Sheets
- How to VLOOKUP Multiple Criteria in Google Sheets
- How to Compare Two Sheets in Google Sheets

## 9 thoughts on “A Simple Google Sheets Compare Two Columns Guide for 2023”

Looking for a formula that would highlight duplicates. Specifically, I would need to compare the cells of an entire column (N) against all cells in the previous columns (A-M) and only highlight the duplicates from column N and the sister cells (if possible). I do not want the formula to compare columns A-M against each other for duplicates. I was using this formula, but found that each cell is being compared to all other cells and highlighting all dupes. Taking too much time to process. Any help would be awesome! Thanks!

=COUNTIF($A$2:N6000,Indirect(Address(Row(),Column(),)))>1

Try using this guide instead https://spreadsheetpoint.com/highlight-duplicates-google-sheets/

This shows how to format the cells but how do we get the number of rows matching and how do we then determine how closely matched the two data sets are?

Hi! I’m trying to create a color coded google sheet in order to track student grades.

If I had to describe the google sheet basic set up, students names are in the first column, next column has score (0-50), and then the second column has the following week’s scores, again (0-50).

I used your formula for comparing 2 cells on the same row, but different columns, and modified it to color a cell green if the value in it is greater than the value in the cell before it on the same row (so from =$A2=$B2 to =$A2>$B2). I then added 2 other conditional format formulas, to show a different color that cell is lower than the adjacent cell before it (=$A2$B2 on row 5 (=$A2>$B2 instead of =$A5>$B5).

Is there any extra step, or change I can make to the formula so that it populates correctly for each row, without me having to write 3 different formulas for every single cell?

Thanks for your help!

Thank you so much.

Very easy to understand and helped me a lot.

Thanks so much for this!

Hi, what if I want to use Google Sheets Conditional Formatting to compare columns in two different sheet, what will the =countif formula be? Thank you.

This is very helpful and comprehensive.

Fantastic!