Raise your dividend, and you'll lift up your shareholders as well. Dividend hikes often indicate a company with improving fundamentals (provided the company can afford those hikes). That's why healthier yields are often the by-product of a strengthening business.

Let's take a closer look at four of the companies that inched their payouts higher this past week.

We'll start with Cedar Fair (NYSE:FUN). The regional amusement park operator isn't giving its investors the same kind of ups and downs that one would find at its flagship roller coaster park, Cedar Point. The company hiked its quarterly distribution by a penny to $0.47 a unit. The company has inched its payout higher for 19 straight years; this is actually the 13th time that the company has issued a hike over the past 10 years.

Cedar Fair was singled out to Motley Fool Income Investor subscribers last year. Despite flat attendance gains at its two largest parks -- Cedar Point in Ohio and Knott's Berry Farm in California -- the company has been a shrewd operator. In less capable hands, I would worry about the company's plan to lower admission prices at both of those parks and start selling cotton candy sticks for a mere quarter. This will be an interesting season, as we see whether Cedar Fair produces the kind of steady return that will allow 20 years of hikes by this time next year.

Higher payouts? Motley Fool Inside Value pick Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL) is soaking in them. The company behind supermarket staples such as Irish Spring, Softsoap, Murphy's Oil Soap -- and Colgate and Palmolive, of course -- is boosting its quarterly distribution by 10%, to $0.32 a share. The company is also announcing an aggressive share repurchase program that may find Colgate-Palmolive buying back as many as 30 million of the company's 515 million shares outstanding.

optionsXpress (NASDAQ:OXPS) was another hiker. The online brokerage and trading platform is boosting its quarterly distribution from $0.04 to $0.05 per share. The company is good for it. This past quarter, the options specialist saw its profits soar 81% on a 56% surge in revenues. Companies growing this quickly rarely pay dividends, so let's not make light of the mere 0.7% yield that the shares currently sport.

Finally, we have W.R. Berkley (NYSE:BER). The property casualty insurer capped off a solid fourth-quarter showing by announcing a three-for-two stock split and a 20% uptick in its dividend rate. That amounts to a quarterly distribution of $0.06 per share on a pre-split basis.

Subscribers to our Income Investor newsletter can appreciate companies that send more and more money to their investors. Analyst Mathew Emmert has often singled out companies that are committed to growing their distributions, with market-thumping results.

Want to see what Mathew likes these days? Go ahead and give his newsletter service a shot with a 30-day trial subscription. Who knows? Maybe the next thing to get hiked will be your interest.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz pays attention to yield signs and owns shares in Cedar Fair. The Fool has a disclosure policy. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.