Dividends are more than just pocket change. A steadily rising yield is often a great indicator of corporate improvement. That, in turn, might be more enriching than the bigger quarterly checks.

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

C.R. Bard (NYSE:BCR) hiked its quarterly dividend by a penny, to $0.14 a share. This marks the 35th consecutive year in which the medical devices maker has increased its distribution.

Mirroring Bard's advance, Programmer's Paradise (NASDAQ:PROG) is also upping its quarterly rate from $0.13 to $0.14 a share. The seller of technical software and hardware wasn't even around 35 years ago when Bard first ratcheted up its yield, but it's not as if Programmer's Paradise is a spring chicken -- it's got two dozen years' experience.

Jackson Hewitt (NYSE:JTX) was another hiker. This one deserves a little more elaboration, because until recently, the company was a distant second to H&R Block (NYSE:HRB) in the tax-preparation business. In terms of size, it still is. However, as Block has stumbled for a number of reasons, culminating in the humiliating admission that it couldn't even get its own taxes right, Jackson Hewitt continues to grow at a healthy clip. The company closed out the seasonally significant April quarter with double-digit percentage gains in the number of returns prepared, and it was able to generate more revenue from the average filing.

Historically, Block has been a high yielder. New investors are getting a 2.2% return in dividends. Perhaps that's why Jackson Hewitt went for an impressive 50% uptick in its quarterly payout rate. Jackson Hewitt shareholders are now being treated to a $0.12 payout every three months, which translates into a competitive 1.6% yield.

Then we have Target (NYSE:TGT). Like Jackson Hewitt, here we have a distant second-place finisher in its industry -- but it's gaining on the top dog by growing faster. Target's new dividend isn't as ambitious (climbing 20%, from $0.10 to $0.12 a share every quarter), but it does help it close the yield gap with leading rival Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) in the discount-department-store space. That, of course, is the real target.

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's liking these days? Go ahead and give his newsletter service a shot with a 30-day trial subscription. Who knows? Maybe the next thing that will get hiked will be your interest.

Wal-Mart is aMotley Fool Inside Valuerecommendation.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz pays attention to yield signs. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.The Fool has a disclosure policy. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.