This article was updated on November 20, 2017 and was originally published on October 15, 2016.

The smartest investors in the world aren't wrong. Dividend investing works, which is fantastic news for investors of all ages and incomes who are saving for retirement. However, constructing a portfolio of the best dividend stocks on the market doesn't happen on its own.

So how can you find, buy, and grow your wealth with the top dividend stocks on the market today? Constructing a portfolio of great dividend stocks requires understanding a few key investing basics, including a stock's current dividend yield, dividend growth track record, payout ratio, and more.

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Dividend investing overview

Successful dividend investing isn't necessarily about identifying any single characteristic in a stock. Rather, investors should focus on finding stocks that consistently grow cash distributions in a sustainable way over the long term, and reinvesting those payments. Finding stocks that combine these traits with a high dividend yield can create potent compounding machines that have been proven to outperform the market if consistently applied over the long term. 

The table below shows five of the top dividend stocks on the market today, which I define as companies with dividend yields over 2.5% -- at least 30% higher than the S&P 500's yield -- and track records of more than 25 years of consecutive annual dividend increases: 

Company Name Dividend Yield No. of Consecutive Annual Dividend Increases
Procter & Gamble 3% 60 years
Consolidated Edison 3.1% 42 years
Coca-Cola Company 3.2% 54 years
T. Rowe Price 2.2% 30 years
McDonald's 2.4% 40 years

Data sources: Dividend.com and Google Finance.

However, this only speaks to a few of the most important aspects of selecting the best dividend stocks for your portfolio, so let's dive deeper into a few of the dividend stocks that seem particularly compelling for investors today.

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Procter & Gamble's track record of dividend excellence

Few companies have established a more impressive dividend history than Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG). Before delving further into why long-term dividend investors love P&G, here are its three most crucial dividend statistics:

Company Name

Dividend Yield

Years of Consecutive Increases

Payout Ratio

Procter & Gamble

3%

60

72%

Data sources: Dividend.com and Yahoo! Finance. 

Even if you don't realize it, chances are you encounter at least one brand owned by Procter & Gamble on a daily basis. The company owns 66 consumer products spread across consumer staples categories including home cleaning, laundry, and personal care products. Even more impressive, 22 of P&G's brands each contributed more than $1 billion in sales to the company in 2016. 

The company's products tend to enjoy fairly stable demand regardless of the current health of the economy, which is a major reason Procter & Gamble has produced such a steady history of increasing dividend payments.

The company has faced headwinds, particularly the strengthening of the U.S. dollar in recent years. But it has moved aggressively to cut costs and reinvest those savings into new organic growth initiatives. Analysts are now calling for the green shoots from P&G's turnaround efforts to begin to manifest themselves in coming quarters. Either way, though, a company with P&G's staying power makes it one of the best opportunities for long-term dividend investors on the market today.

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T. Rowe Price: a low-profile dividend giant

Mutual fund management T. Rowe Price's (NASDAQ:TROW) offers a rock-solid dividend, as you can see below:

Company Name

Dividend Yield

Years of Consecutive Increases

Payout Ratio

T. Rowe Price

2.2%

30

37%

Data sources: Dividend.com and Yahoo! Finance. 

With $947 billion in assets under management (AUM), T. Rowe Price remains one of the best asset managers in the world. An impressive 80% of T. Rowe Price's mutual funds beat their 10-year Lipper Averages, a popular performance benchmark for mutual funds, as of early 2017. 

Performances like this should help T. Rowe attract new customers over the long term, though the company's quarter-to-quarter performance tends to fluctuate with the stock market for a few reasons. T. Rowe Price generates its revenue from the fees it collects from the various funds it manages. Bull markets bring fat times for T. Rowe as rising asset prices increase its AUM and, thus, the fees it collects. However, uncertain markets or bear markets can have the opposite effect, though it bears noting that the stock market's long-run upward bias favors growth generally bodes well for the company and its investors.

Either way, T. Rowe Price manages its business with the utmost conservatism -- it carries zero long-term debt on its balance sheet -- which leaves the company ample cash flow to return to shareholders via buybacks and dividends. Over the past several years, T. Rowe Price has reduced its shares outstanding by roughly 5%. What's more, the company's demonstrated commitment to growing its annual dividend payments makes it another fantastic option for investors interested in building an exceptional long-term dividend portfolio.

Andrew Tonner has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.