SEARCH Formula


Let’s start with an easy-to-understand definition of the Excel SEARCH formula. SEARCH is one of Excel’s advanced functions for data analysis. It helps locate the position of a specific text string within another text string.


Why is the SEARCH formula important? Well, it assists in locating text inside a cell. If you’re dealing with voluminous data in Excel, it saves you time by quickly finding text. In short, it’s one of the most common Excel formulas used for data analysis.


Now, let’s discuss the syntax, the actual way to write the formula. In Excel, SEARCH follows this pattern:

=SEARCH(find_text, within_text, [start_num])


The SEARCH formula takes three parameters:

  1. Find_text: The text you want to find.
  2. Within_text: The text or cell reference within which to search for ‘find_text’.
  3. Start_num: (optional) The position in the ‘within_text’ where the search will start.


What does the SEARCH function return? It returns the starting position of the first text string from the first character of the second text string. If the text string is not found, it gives an error.

Usage Notes

When using the SEARCH formula in Excel, remember that it is case-insensitive and allows wildcard characters (like “*” and “?”).


The SEARCH formula is available across all Excel versions. Therefore, no matter which Excel version you’re using, you can create formulas with SEARCH for your data analysis needs.

Example #1

Let’s go through an example to understand the application of SEARCH.

Suppose we have a sentence in cell A1: “I love using Excel for data analysis.”

We want to find the position of the word “Excel” in this sentence.

Here’s the formula:

=SEARCH("Excel", A1)

This formula returns 14, the position where “Excel” starts in the sentence.

Example #2

Let’s consider another example with the optional start_num parameter.

If we use the same sentence, but start the search from the 10th character, the formula will look like this:

=SEARCH("Excel", A1, 10)

This will still return 14 because “Excel” starts at the 14th character, after the 10th position.

Example #3

We can also use the SEARCH function with wildcard characters. Consider the following example:

=SEARCH("E*cel", A1)

This formula will return 6, indicating the position of “love,” which is ending with “e”

Example #4

What if we look for a text string that does not exist in our cell? The SEARCH function will return an error.

=SEARCH("Word", A1)

This formula returns an error because “Word” does not exist in cell A1.

Example #5

Let’s try to locate the second occurrence of a text string using the SEARCH formula.

=SEARCH("a", A1, SEARCH("a", A1)+1)

This formula will return 27, the position of the second “a” in the sentence.

Tips and Tricks

Here’s a tip: combine SEARCH with other Excel functions for data analysis, like IF, ISERROR, or LEN. These combinations can solve complex problems.


SEARCH only works with text strings and can’t handle arrays. Also, it will return an error if the text is not found or if the start_num is less than 1.

Common Errors and Solutions

If you get a #VALUE! error, check if your ‘find_text’ exists in ‘within_text’ and that ‘start_num’ is not less than 1. If you get a #NAME? error, make sure all your function names and cell references are spelled correctly.

Best Practices

For best practices, always check your text strings and remember that SEARCH is case-insensitive. Moreover, don’t forget that SEARCH allows the use of wildcard characters.

List of Related Functions

Excel provides various related functions like FIND, REPLACE, SUBSTITUTE, LEFT, RIGHT, MID, etc. All these functions help manipulate and locate text strings.

Frequently Used with the Formulas

SEARCH is frequently used with other formulas such as IF, ISERROR, ISNUMBER, MID, LEFT, RIGHT, etc., to create custom Excel formulas and perform advanced Excel functions for data analysis.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the difference between SEARCH and FIND in Excel?

While both SEARCH and FIND locate the position of a text string, SEARCH is case-insensitive and allows wildcard characters. FIND is case-sensitive and does not accept wildcards.

Q. Can SEARCH handle arrays?

No, the SEARCH formula can’t handle arrays. It only works with text strings.

Q. What does SEARCH return if it doesn’t find the text string?

If SEARCH doesn’t find the text string, it will return a #VALUE! error.

Q. Can we use wildcard characters with SEARCH?

Yes, wildcard characters (“*” and “?”) can be used with the SEARCH function.

Q. Can we start searching from a specific character?

Yes, with the optional ‘start_num’ parameter, you can start searching from a specific character in the ‘within_text’.

Now you are equipped with the knowledge of the SEARCH function in Excel. You can apply this powerful tool for your data analysis needs. Always remember to pair it with other functions for greater efficiency. Happy analyzing!

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