One of the most important facts all investors should know about investing is that dividend-paying stocks far outperform non-dividend-paying stocks over the long term. It is for this reason that all long-term investors should own at least one dividend-paying stock, and depending on your age and investment goals, maybe a diversified portfolio full of them. With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at three of the top dividend-paying stocks that you should consider investing in today.

1. Shaw Communications Inc.: 4.1% yield

Shaw Communications Inc. (TSX:SJR.B)(NYSE:SJR) is one of the largest telecommunications and media companies in Canada, and it currently pays a monthly dividend of $0.09875 per share, or $1.185 per share annually, which gives its stock a very high 4.1% yield. The company also has an impressive track record of raising its dividend, with an active streak of 12 consecutive years of increases, and this shows that it is dedicated to maximizing shareholder returns.

2. Toronto-Dominion Bank: 3.8% yield

Toronto-Dominion Bank (TSX:TD)(NYSE:TD) is Canada’s second-largest bank in terms of total assets, and it pays a quarterly dividend of $0.51 per share, or $2.04 per share annually, giving its stock a generous 3.8% yield at current levels. Like Shaw Communications, TD Bank has been actively increasing its dividend, with a total of nine increases in the last four years, and its consistent free cash flow generation could support another increase in fiscal 2015.

3. Cineplex Inc.: 3% yield

Cineplex Inc. (TSX:CGX) is the largest owner and operator of movie theatres in Canada, and it pays a monthly dividend of $0.125 per share, or $1.50 per share annually, and this gives its stock a 3% yield at today’s levels. Cineplex has the lowest dividend yield of the three companies named in this article, but it too has actively raised its annual payment, with its streak currently sitting at four consecutive years, and I think it will announce another increase in the very near future.

Which of these top dividend stocks belong in your portfolio?

Shaw Communications, Toronto-Dominion Bank, and Cineplex represent three of the best dividend investment opportunities in the market today. Foolish investors should take a closer look and consider initiating long-term positions in one or more of them.

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Fool contributor Joseph Solitro has no position in any stocks mentioned.