Although investors try to account for more than just the size of the dividend, sometimes those higher yields still lure us in.
In reality, the hard truth is that it's usually the lower-paying (but growing) dividend stocks that deserve our attention.
Today's three stocks serve as a striking example of this idea…
Fertilized Cash Flow
Which got me thinking, what other companies will benefit if the housing recovery continues?
Looking outside my house at my green, weed-free lawn, it occurred to me: Scotts Miracle-Gro (SMG).
And my hunch wasn't off the mark…
Last month, Scotts Miracle-Gro reported better-than-expected earnings of $2.46 per share.
Better still, last August, the company increased the dividend 35% to $0.4375 per share for a current dividend yield of 3.27%.
The increase wasn't isolated, either. Over the last five years, the company has driven up dividends an annual average of 28.47%.
And with a low dividend payout ratio of 56%, that dividend still has room to grow…
Summer may be over, and parts of the country are beginning to think about snow, but I expect Scotts Miracle-Gro's dividend to stay green and growing for the foreseeable future.
Helmerich & Payne (HP), already one of the largest domestic land drillers, has been increasing market share thanks to its bread-and-butter product, the FlexRig.
These rigs are very good for drilling horizontal wells, which is being done more frequently in the quest for new energy sources.
In fact, horizontal wells account for more than half of the wells drilled in North America.
And Helmerich & Payne prices its services competitively and squeezes the most profit out of each well. In effect, this has helped the company grow its market share, stock price and dividend.
More than tripling since the worst of the financial crisis, the stock has paid dividends for decades, as well.
And not at a flat rate, either. Thanks to a dividend increase this past June from $0.15 per share to $0.50 per share, the current yield checks in at a healthy 3.1%.
The recent payout lift also contributes to the stock's impressive five-year average dividend growth rate of 58%.
I expect Helmerich & Payne to maintain its dominant and growing position in the United States drilling business - and its dividend, to boot.
Because the quest for energy is unending, Helmerich & Payne is a great stock to own for the long haul.
Speaking of Energy…
When the conversation turns to energy, the topic of natural gas is never left out. That's fine by me, because there's no shortage of natural gas companies that offer attractive yields.
Take Golar LNG (GLNG), for example.
It has a current yield of 4.7%, which looks pretty good. On that basis alone, many investors out there would dive right in.
But factor in a five-year average dividend growth rate of more than 12%, and the stock becomes even more attractive, despite having been a dividend payer for a mere six years.
Alas, the concern here is the company's sensitivity to the price of natural gas and the resultant volatility.
The stock traded for less than $3 in 2009 and for nearly $50 in 2012 - but it's back down to about $37 today. That's a lot of ups and downs. Too much for most income investors.
And, not helping matters, earnings have been disappointing. Golar has come in below estimates in four of the past eight quarters…
Bottom line: Given the company's volatile price history, disappointing earnings and a yield that could easily be wiped out in a single bad trading day, I'd stay away from this one for now.