Dividend-paying companies are an oasis in the desert of underperforming stocks. They offer solid payouts today and the promise of capital gains tomorrow. According to a study by Ibbotson, reinvested dividends made up about 40% of total stock returns from 1926 to 2006. In fact, dividend investing is so appealing that super-investor Warren Buffett has made it a significant component of his portfolio.

When searching for great dividend stocks, it makes a lot of sense to start with companies that have been playing the dividend game the longest. Standard & Poor's has culled the dividend winners from the also-rans in a list it calls the "Dividend Aristocrats."

Recently, S&P announced its Dividend Aristocrats for 2011, which included adding three companies and deleting three others. Here are the latest changes:

Dividend Aristocrats additions

Company

Yield

5-Year Dividend Growth Rate

Ecolab (NYSE: ECL)

1.4%

12.1%

McCormick (NYSE: MKC)

2.5%

10.5%

Hormel (NYSE: HRL)

2.1%

10.1%

Dividend Aristocrats deletions

Company

Yield

5-Year Dividend Growth Rate

Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY)

5.6%

5.6%

Integrys Energy Group (NYSE: TEG)

5.6%

4.1%

SUPERVALU (NYSE: SVU)

4%

(6.8%)

The Dividend Aristocrats aren't formal recommendations -- just ideas for your own further research. Still, they could give you a great start toward finding companies capable of paying rising dividends for a quarter-century or more. You can see the top yielders among Dividend Aristocrats here.

Looking for more investable stocks? My fellow Fools have put together a free report detailing 13 of their favorite high-yield stock ideas.

Jim Royal, Ph.D., does not own shares of any company mentioned. McCormick is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of SUPERVALU. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.