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Duplicate Control with Salesforce’s Free Tools 

TL;DR: This post delves into Salesforce's native tools for handling duplicate records, showcasing Matching Rules and Duplicate Rules with step-by-step examples. While these tools offer a robust foundation, limitations suggest that larger organizations with intricate data requirements may find additional value in third-party deduplication solutions for a more comprehensive approach.

Duplicate Control with Salesforces Free Tools

Even in the most pristine Salesforce setups, duplicates lurk. Let’s examine how Salesforce itself can help you manage this tricky part of data management.  To begin, let’s discuss duplicate rule and matching rules. In Salesforce, Duplicate Rules and Matching Rules are both used to manage and identify duplicate records. However, they serve different purposes.

Duplicate Rules are used to prevent the creation of duplicate records by setting up criteria and actions that control whether a new record can be saved based on identified duplicates. On the other hand, Matching Rules define the criteria used to compare records and identify potential duplicates within Salesforce.

Matching rules

A Matching Rule is utilized to compare records and identify duplicates. It can be specified within a duplicate rule or job to compare records within the same object (e.g., leads) or across different objects. For instance, it could compare leads to detect duplicate contacts. Typically, a matching rule comprises an equation that dictates how fields in two records are compared. The criteria set on these fields determine the breadth of what constitutes a match.

Efficiency in the matching process is achieved through indexing and algorithms. Once activated, a matching rule applies one or more match keys to existing records. This means the rule only identifies duplicates among records sharing the same match key. Any records lacking a shared match key are not considered duplicates, and the matching algorithms do not analyze them. This indexing enhances performance, resulting in a more refined set of matching candidates.

Creating Your Own Matching Rule

Objective: Identify duplicates based on email similarity.


  • Go to Setup.
  • Navigate to Matching Rules. Here, you can define how duplicates will be identified, for instance, by comparing leads with contacts.
Salesforce Mathcing rules 1
  • Once you’ve dialed the basics of your rule, click the Matching Rules drop-down menu and select 'Create New Matching Rule'.

  • Now you can tune your Matching Rule criteria (e.g., match records if the email field is identical, or use Fuzzy Matching). You can see some different examples of Matching Methods and Fields for our Matching Rule below. In one instance, we chose ‘Fuzzy Matching’ which can be used to find slight discrepancies such as typos. Or you can choose ‘Exact Match’ to only catch 100% matches.
Salesforce Matching criteria
Salesforce Matching rule email

Duplicate Rules

Salesforce allows the creation of duplicate rules. Although these have limitations, they can be effective without extra expenses, aiding in preventing duplicates. For instance, duplicate rules can be used to notify sales representatives when they're creating or modifying a record to prevent the entry of duplicate data. You can set measures to either alert them about existing duplicates or prohibit the creation of such records entirely, regardless of their access permissions.

The Duplicate Rule works in conjunction with the Matching Rule. The Matching Rule defines what constitutes a duplicate (like matching emails), and the Duplicate Rule determines what action to take when a duplicate is detected (like alerting the user or blocking the creation of the duplicate record).

Creating Your Own Duplicate Rule

Objective: Prevent creation of a new contact if one with the same email already exists.


  • Go to Setup in Salesforce.
  • Navigate to 'Duplicate Rules'.
  • As in the previous example, click 'New Rule' and select the 'Contact' object.
  • Define the rule's criteria (e.g., block the creation of a contact if the email matches an existing contact).
Salesforce Duplicate Rules 1
  • Now, the last step is simply to activate the rule.

Additional Salesforce Duplicate Management Methods

Besides duplicate rules and matching rules Salesforce provides other methods for managing duplicate data inside of your organization. Let’s check those out:

Manage Duplicates One at a Time

Activate duplicate rules and the potential duplicates component to control the creation of duplicate accounts, contacts, and leads by sales reps.

Grant permission for sales reps to merge duplicate leads, business and person accounts, and contacts individually.

Manage Duplicates Globally

Run duplicate jobs to find duplicates across the entire Salesforce org.

Share job results using reports and merge duplicates using duplicate record sets.

Track progress in reducing duplicate records based on completed jobs.

Account Exact Name Rule

Prevents the creation of multiple Accounts with the same name

Account Name Fuzzy Match

Flags potential duplicates where account names differ slightly using fuzzy matching

While this is an overview of what’s possible using Salesforce native methods to tackle duplicates and would certainly be handy for a very small organization, there are some limitations that will make duplicate management using native Salesforce features only challenging:

Limits of Salesforce Data Management Using Standard Features:

  • Maximum Number of Duplicate Rules: Salesforce allows only 5 active duplicate rules per object. So, you can have 5 rules for contacts, 5 for accounts, etc., but not more.
  • Maximum Number of Duplicate Record Sets: When the total number of duplicates in all completed jobs reaches 1,000,000, you can’t run new jobs. To run a job, delete the results of one or more jobs until the number of duplicate record items falls below 1,000,000.
  • Batch Size Limit for Duplicate Record Jobs: When running batch jobs to identify duplicates, you might be limited to processing 10,000 records per batch. This means for a database of 1 million records, you would need to run 100 separate batch jobs.
  • 3 Merges per Request: In a single merge request with Salesforce Classic, you are limited to merging up to 3 records at a time. So, if you have 5 duplicate records, you'll need to perform the merge operation in multiple steps.
  • API Call Limits: Salesforce imposes a daily limit on API calls, which varies by edition. For example, the limit might be 15,000 API calls per day for the Developer edition. Using these calls for duplicate management means fewer calls are available for other integrations.
  • Field Matching Limitations: Some custom field types, like rich text fields, might not be usable in duplicate rule criteria. So, if you want to match duplicates based on a custom rich text field, you won't be able to do so directly.
  • Maximum Number of Matching Rules: You can add up to three matching rules in each duplicate rule, with one active matching rule per object. When you use multiple duplicate rules, you can include up to five active matching rules per object.
  • Limited Automation for Complex Scenarios: If you have a complex deduplication need, like merging records based on a combination of email address similarity and recent activity, this might require custom Apex code or third-party tools, as Salesforce’s standard rules may not suffice.
  • Performance Impact: Implementing multiple complex duplicate rules might slow down record creation and updates. For example, if every time a record is created or updated, it triggers multiple duplicate checks across large data sets, this can significantly impact performance.
  • Reporting Limitations: Standard Salesforce reports might not provide detailed insights into duplicate data, like the number of duplicates created per month or the effectiveness of deduplication efforts. Advanced reporting might require exporting data to an external system.

In conclusion, Salesforce's native duplication management capabilities offer a robust foundation for maintaining data integrity and improving data quality. These features, including the ability to create custom duplicate rules and merge records, can be powerful tools in the hands of administrators and users. However, as we've seen, there are limitations. The restrictions on the number of rules, batch sizes, field matching limitations, and API call limits can pose challenges, particularly for larger organizations with complex data environments.

Remember, the goal is to maintain a clean, accurate, and useful database that supports your business processes and decision-making. Whether this is best achieved through Salesforce's native capabilities or through an external application, the focus should always be on the strategic needs of your organization and the value derived from your CRM investment.

In the next chapter, our focus shifts to the practical application of two powerful tools at your disposal: Salesforce Data Loader and Import Wizard. These free and versatile utilities serve as indispensable allies in your quest for seamless data integration and manipulation. Whether you're tasked with migrating large volumes of information or performing routine data updates, these tools empower you to wield control with precision. So, buckle up and get ready for the next section of this guide.

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