US Zip codes are a form of postal code specifically used within America to assist the United States Postal Service (USPS) when it comes to delivering and routing mail around the country. Just like standard postal codes, Zip codes are used around the country by people who want to send mail to individuals across state lines, and within local areas. Additionally, a zip code can be very useful when it comes to figuring out where a business is located.

Today, if you don’t have a zip code for a company or a person, and you need to find one so that you can send a specific piece of mail, or use your GPS system effectively, you can simply use a Zip code lookup system online to find the person or people you’re searching for. To help you come to terms with what zip codes really mean in the world of business and residence today, we’re going to take a closer look at the details behind the standard Zip code lookup.

What is a Zip Code?

Before you start using a zip code lookup, it’s worth making sure that you understand what zip codes are. The term ZIP means zone improvement plan. In 1963, the first five-digit format for zip codes was introduced, and later, the government extended those codes to add another four digits after a dash to form something known as a ZIP+4 code. The further four digits were designed to help USPS group mail more efficiently for delivery purposes.

Originally, zip codes were designed specifically for the USPS group, but many other shipping groups, including FedEx and UPS now use them to help calculate the cost and time associated with shipping a package. There are various types of Zip code that you can look for in a zip code lookup too. For instance, you might search for a unique single address, a PO box only zip code, a military zip code, or just a standard zip code.

What’s the Anatomy of a Zip Code?

In general, the first digit of a zip code is used to represent a group of states in the US. The map of the first digit of codes available online shows that codes have been carefully assigned all the way from the north eastern coast through to the western coast. The first three digits of the code will determine the mail processing facility for the area, which is also known as the sec or sectional area.

The sec area is used to process and sort mail. Any post that contains the first three digits will be delivered to the same sectional center where it can be sorted according to the final two digits, which determines where the post should be sent to different local post offices. Importantly, these sec centers are not open to the public, and most of the sorting conducted is done overnight.

Another thing that’s worth noting is that in a standard zip code posting format, the four final digits after the dash aren’t necessary, but they can help the post office to sort through mail at times. Usually, the  Zip+4 code corresponds to a specific group of apartments, a city block, or an individual receiver of high volume mail.

Understanding the Placement of ZIP Codes:

Interestingly, while ZIP codes generally seem to be geographic, they weren’t intended to be so when they were first introduced. Instead, they were simply a strategy designed for grouping mail so that that USPS could deliver it more efficiently around the world. Certain ZIP codes might span various states to make sure that mail routing and delivery is as efficient as possible. However, in most cases, addresses that are located near to each other are grouped in the same code, which suggests that ZIP codes might have specific boundaries.

Some Zip codes will have nothing to do with any geographic area. For instance, a single code can be used for all the mail given to the US Navy. Additionally, there’s no clear shape drawn around Zip code boundaries, because these numbers are specifically assigned to points of delivery, and not necessarily the spaces that exist between two points of delivery.

If you use a map when conducting your Zip code lookup, or you simply want to find out more about the state of the US postal system, you’ll find that not everywhere throughout America is assigned with a ZIP code. In fact, there are many remote and rural areas throughout the company that haven’t been equipped with enough addresses to make a mail route or a ZIP code necessary.

Using a ZIP Code Lookup:

The complex nature of Zip codes is what makes ZIP code lookup websites so popular in todays world. Remember that ZIP codes were specifically designed to make delivering mail easier, and they weren’t intended to correspond with existing boundaries around the world in the form of cities, states, and even counties throughout the US.

In other words, while it’s tempting to assume that somewhere with a ZIP code that’s similar or close to your own code might be nearby, that’s not necessarily the case. Instead, you may find that your search for an address takes you to a ZIP code that’s very far away. The positive news is that if you need to find a ZIP code, you shouldn’t have too much trouble using a ZIP code lookup. All you need to do is enter the city you’re searching for, the address of the street, and the name of the resident or business if you have it.

Importantly, if you search for a company and you don’t get the results you had expected, you can always try the ZIP code lookup search again without using the company name to see if you get better results. Sometimes, a company name can be spelled differently to what you would expect, which can affect your results.

You can also try looking for results with multiple ZIP code lookup websites to see whether the results you get change from one location to another. This could be a sign that you need to do additional research to get the right results.