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He answered an interesting question that’s been tested several times by several people but this is the first official mention I can recall.
….wanted to know if Google will follow links on a page using the “noindex” attribute in the “robots” meta tag. To answer this question, Googlebot will follow links on a page which uses the meta “noindex” tag, but that page will not appear in our search results…
What does that mean for you? Well if you’ve got nosy competitors wandering around your link profile as some like to do you can still feed links to a site but keep that page out of the index and away from prying eyes (besides of course through navigation and other lesser search engines). It’s an old trick now but a good one to keep in the arsenal, specially for initial feeder links.
I originally hinted at this in my Don’t Use Robots.txt to Control Indexing post.
A follow up question I’d have is whether or not pages that are not indexed and blocked from being so have to conform to webmaster guidelines or does the site pay a price for having non-conforming pages that are not indexed? I’ll leave it to the reader to think of the loopholes that exist for either possible answer to that question.